From Creating an Idea to Leading a Company, Madison Rifkin Is Following Her Entrepreneurial Dreams
Madison Rifkin’s entrepreneurial journey began in middle school, where she came up with the idea to design a bike with a lock built into its frame.
Since then, she’s created a design for her product, earned a patent, and worked with big name brands. But in 2020, when the pandemic hit, she pivoted her company, Mount, in a different direction.
Three years later, the Northeastern University graduate is now the CEO of Mount, a growing recreational rental company. It connects tourists through a software platform that allows them to rent equipment, as well as purchase experiences and knowledge of the local communities they visit.
The biggest secret of the micro-mobility industry, Rifkin says, is knowing that people who use scooters are not always commuters. So she put a bunch outside rental properties to test the tourist market.
It wasn’t that Airbnb hosts needed scooters, Rikin says. They needed a software platform that could turn anything into a rentable amenity. That’s what Mount is providing.
Headquartered in New York, the company now has 10 employees and a marketplace of over 40,000 experiences that include rentable equipment, tours and local knowledge that elevates a vacation. There are over 230,000 travelers in the ecosystem, and the company is working on growing short-term rental accommodations.
“In five years, the goal is to get everyone traveling with just a backpack and then renting everything at that destination,” Rifkin says. “That’s where we’re going.”
Rifkin recently was honored with a 2023 Women Who Empower Innovator Awards as the Young Undergraduate Alumnae first-place winner.
Mark Bernfeld, a Northeastern faculty mentor and investor in Mount, first met Rifkin when she was a first-year student at Northeastern. During an event on the Boston campus, Bernfeld remembers Rifkin pitching her initial idea for the company to a room full of mostly old men.
“I thought she was amazing,” Bernfeld says. “She was so brave, strong, powerful.”
When Bernfeld is deciding to invest in companies, he said he always looks for passionate entrepreneurs. And Rifkin was “wonderfully passionate since day 1.”
During Rifkin’s time at Northeastern from 2016 and 2021, she studied entrepreneurship and quickly became involved in everything from clubs to innovator groups.
However, the entrepreneurial bug hit her before she set foot on campus. Living in Colorado, an outdoorsy state, Rifkin used to bike to school all the time. But she’d often leave home without her bike lock.
“My memory is so bad that I would forget the lock,” Rifkin says.
So she set out to find a solution—one that didn’t include being less forgetful.
“To me, I was always a problem solver,” she says.
Rifkin began to question why someone had never built a lock into the bike’s frame. This prompted her to create her own design, which she entered into her middle school’s invention contest.
The prototype earned her a fully funded patent.
When deciding where to attend college, Rifkin considered schools closer to home. When she asked her high school guidance counselor about Northeastern, the counselor said it probably wouldn’t be a good fit because that’s where people go to become CEOs.
“I was like, ‘Hi, that’s what I want to do.’ You don’t know my ambitions,” Rifkin says. “I was sold.”
Throughout her time at Northeastern, her idea for a company evolved as she learned more about entrepreneurship and the market.
“There’s a ton of bike locks out there, and trying to force someone to use a new one was trying very hard to do something that no one had a real problem for,” Rifkin says. “So, I became a scooter lock company.”
Rifkin began to work with Bird and Lime, both electric bike and scooter companies, when they were still in their infancy.
“Then COVID hit, and everything came crashing down,” Rifkin says.
It also gave her the time to reinvent her company to focus on recreational rentals.
But, Mount still didn’t have a product-market fit and was having difficulty finding funding. Rifkin says she probably pitched about 200 venture capitalists and everyone turned her down.
“I was like, that’s fine. I’ll just keep coming back, and you will one day say yes,” Rifkin says.
Instead, she self-funded the company with money she earned during her Northeastern co-ops and prize money she won at competitions.
Right after Rikin graduated in 2021, she attended a startup accelerator in Hawaii. At the end of the program, she returned to Northeastern and pitched it at the university’s RISE Expo.
In a few weeks after that pitch, the company had raised over a million dollars.
“Northeastern has been very helpful to me,” Rifkin says.
Bernfeld says Rifkin is an example of how women can be successful in business.
“I encourage young women to look up to Maddie as living what they could live,” he says.
“Maddie has been wonderfully passionate since day one. She’s so brave, strong, and powerful. I encourage young women to look up to her as living what they could live.”
—Mark Bernfeld, Northeastern faculty member and Mount investor