Pirates in Tucson chasing the start-up dream


Some members of the Pirate Mansion meet to share updates on their latest projects. (Photo courtesy of: The Pirate Mansion/Facebook)
Some members of the Pirate Mansion meet to share updates on their latest projects. (Photo courtesy of: The Pirate Mansion/Facebook)

One of Stephen Ost’s best ideas came when he was eating lunch alone.

The then-freshman wanted to find a solution. He recalls thinking, “Why am I eating alone right now? There’s got to be someone who’s also free.”

These days, he is now rarely alone.

Ost and seven of his peers live in the Pirate Mansion, an unassuming house on East Drachman Street, near the University of Arizona campus. The house is used as a collaborative living and working space for the young entrepreneurs who are predominantly UA graduates or students. All of its current members are men. Dan James, a local entrepreneur and investor, owns the property. Each member pays about $600 a month for rent.

“We want everybody to live together … so we can give that feedback. You get a whole different perspective on things,” said Ost, a 2013 computer science graduate. “It gives us access to pretty much everybody’s brains and who they know.”

Ost’s younger brother, Isaac, moved into the house in January. The general studies junior previously lived in the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity house but jumped at the opportunity for a new experience.

“It’s not about who has the biggest ego or idea,” Isaac Ost said. “He (Stephen) was the person who motivated me to put myself out there. It gives me a clear route and path to follow.”

Ost and fellow entrepreneur Nick Morin is working on eFit, an online platform in which students or employees can earn rewards for exercise. The ultimate goal for both men is to market their product to Fortune 500 companies, equipping employees with the opportunity to earn benefits such as discounted health care plans or gift cards.

“The idea of having a health and wellness platform is validated,” Ost said. “I met Nick and thought he was someone I wanted to work with.”

Morin, a junior from Seattle, has seamlessly transitioned since moving into the house this semester after living last year at The Retreat, an off-campus apartment complex. He is studying computer science and eSociety, a new academic degree program offered through the School of Information Resources and Library Science that focuses on innovations in communication and computational technology.

“It’s the connections I’m making. We’re all on the same page,” Morin said.

Aside from classes, his focus is on launching eFit into another stratosphere. He can name off partnerships that he has developed with organizations like Startup Tucson as if he were reciting lyrics from this week’s Top 40.

“My vision is to have a healthier corporate America,” Morin said.

Elliot Ledley also has a vision. Or maybe more appropriate, visions.

Ledley, a 2012 communications graduate, is one of the original pirates; he and his partners prefer not to use the term “founders.” His days typically start at 7 a.m. and end at 7 p.m., juggling time between his recently promoted full-time position as Tucson United Way’s marketing director with his newest startup, 2shoes.

2shoes is an app that aspires to be more than just a catchy name. Ledley recalls being a shy student in college, afraid to ask questions in his larger lecture-style classes. His app allows presenters (teachers, more often than not) and attendees (such as students) to create an account, obtain an event code, and send questions or give feedback for the speaker to see throughout the session.


Visit http://piratemansion.com to apply to live at The Pirate Mansion. The group meets at 6 p.m. Sundays at the mansion, 1421 E. Drachman St.

Contact the reporter at: tjm5@email.arizona.edu and follow him @tylerjmcdowell on Twitter.



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