President and CEO, Common Media Inc., age 31
Noah Smith was on track to possibly be a part of some landmark artificial-intelligence application — think Apple’s Siri, the intelligent personal assistant and knowledge-navigator application. But his Tufts University computer-science graduate program advisor for machine learning and artificial intelligence passed away during his second year.
“I didn’t know where to go because he and his research were the reasons I’d come to Tufts,” Smith recalled. “There wasn’t a place for that work in the department after he was gone.”
However, there was the Tufts Business Plan Competition, and Smith and a deskmate decided to enter their recipe-bookmarking website called Common Kitchen. The site allows users to collect recipes from anywhere online as one master data source, facilitating future searches by category.
While they didn’t win the competition, they did win enough money to start a company, but soon realized they didn’t have the marketing savvy to do their great idea justice. That’s when the other door — one that enabled the partners to utilize their web-development skills to help other businesses achieve their goals — opened.
A connection with the editor of La Cucina Italiana’s American magazine started their web portfolio off with a bang, and by 2007, Common Media opened as a best-in-class integration partner with branding and communications agencies to deliver the technical component of websites.
“I used to say that I had an excellent business plan for a business that I didn’t have, and had no plan for the business I did have,” Smith said, laughing. “It’s the classic entrepreneurial story.”
Since 2008, Smith has been the lead software architect on more than 60 web projects, including work for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and higher-education projects with MIT, Harvard, and Yale. Smith chose to bring his business from Boston back to Western Mass., where he’s grown the firm to 14 employees.
Smith divides what little spare time he has between his family — wife, Rachel Beaupre, and 24-month-old son, Elliot — and several hobbies, including fishing and sailing. He has also served on the board of the Hartsbrook School, his alma mater, currently volunteering on the finance committee.
— Elizabeth Taras