LOW RISK GIVEN THEIR TOLERANCE
We both felt our risk was fairly low relative to our tolerances, and thought we would retain similar career options even if the business didn’t take off. Additionally, the momentum we were carrying had us excited, and early signs from partners and potential investors were positive.
Regarding capital: one of the best thing about the New Venture Challenge and the MBA experience overall was the exposure to venture funds early and often. At the seed stage, they’re betting on you as a founder as much as the market or the product, so having these relationships was key.
After raising an $850,000 seed round from Hyde Park Angels, Hyde Park Venture Partners, Pritzker VC, Origin Ventures, OCA Ventures, and General Catalyst’s Rough Draft Ventures, we set out building a team and transforming TransparentCareer into a platform that could serve any type of professional career.
WAS IT WORTH IT? AND SOME ADVICE FOR ASPIRING MBA FOUNDERS
Yes, it has absolutely been worth it. But the long answer is much more nuanced.
We’re proud of what we’ve built, and gained a ton from the experience of building a company right after school. We earned (through blood sweat and tears) a skillset you’d never attain in the context of an MBA program. We built an amazing team of top developers and salespeople from absolutely nothing – we still can’t believe they wanted to work with us.
But we’ve also gained an appreciation for just how hard basically everything is when you’re a no-name startup. Starting niche was the key to our initial success, but no one outside the MBA community knew us when we opened our site beyond B-school students. Monetization is always difficult in network businesses; and ours is subject to long sales cycles and a healthy dose of customer inertia.
Here’s some advice to aspiring MBA entrepreneurs based on our experience:
Ideas are a dime a dozen, execution is everything. The usual line – it’s cliche at this point, I know. But I can’t think of a piece of advice that has rung more true for us.
Making assumptions can be a dangerous trap. It’s easy to say “if we do X then Y will happen” and be logical, but ultimately incorrect. In startups, especially in the beginning, making assumptions is part of the game, but it can be easy to forget that they are just that – assumptions – and not something you’ve proven true. In every decision you make recognize what assumptions you’re making and try to validate them as quickly as possible.
Use your .edu email address like a weapon. You’re at b-school for the network. Use it. It works. Our first 500 users came from Booth. Our next 5,000 came from grassroots efforts, reaching out to other MBA students from our school email addresses. Our first customer – and 60% of our current customers – were referred by other Boothies.
You can win with hustle in the beginning. But have a long-term plan. Most successful entrepreneurs we’ve talked with have reiterated this – when you’re in seed stage, hustle can make all the difference. But have an eye to the future – whether it’s building your business through resale, partners, content marketing, referrals, whatever. You can’t out-hustle everyone forever.
Click here to download the pitchdeck (financial details redacted) we used to raise our first $850,000. It’s not the best – trust us, we know – but hopefully it shows that you can do it without a pretty PowerPoint.
If you’re interested in the startup route, you can use our startup filters to learn which companies are hiring MBAs, and how much compensation they earn by company stage (seed, Series A, etc.)
DON’T MISS: THESE BOOTHIES CREATED A GLASSDOOR FOR MBAS