Meet The Most Disruptive MBA Startups Of 2019


MBA Program: Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, Cornell University

Industry: ED Tech / HR Tech

Founding Student Names: Earl Roach III, Donnie Hampton, Christian Laftchiev

Brief Description of Solution: Purro is an AI-driven, multi-sided software platform that helps students launch fulfilling careers in business and help employers find and retain diverse talents. Students are led through a self-analysis focused on skills, interests, and values. From there, Purro provides career path recommendations, aggregates resources that students should utilize, and prepares them with self-paced career development activities.

Employers’ are empowered to attract top diverse talent by showcasing career path opportunities through Purro, which enables employers to receive curated prospect lists of candidates who fit what employers are looking for.

Funding Dollars: $8,000 to date – the company will be seeking funding opportunities late fall 2019

What led you to launch this venture? The motivation to launch Purro came from our own lived experiences combined with the evidence we gathered from working with over 325+ students across 20 universities in the US. Earl is a former educator who saw the challenges his students faced first-hand as a teacher in rural Arkansas. Christian is a first-generation American who earned a full ride to Princeton and was courageous enough to leave a Ph.D. program after realizing it was not his path. Donnie is a first-generation college student whose father was once in prison. Motivated by our own experiences, we started Purro because we are passionate and excited about helping students launch fulfilling careers.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with this venture? Though we have had the opportunity to work with over 325 students across 20 universities, there is one story in particular that stands out. This past spring, our team launched a small MVP test working with a former Cornell student wanting to switch careers. Her confidence was rather low and her initial goal was to move from an office manager role to another office manager role. We believed she could do more. After walking through our prototyped platform in a three-week period, her confidence was up, and her goals had shifted. In less than a month after working through our prototype, she had landed a new job working as an F&PA analyst; we couldn’t have been more thrilled for her.

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? Before business school, we believed many myths about entrepreneurship (e.g. don’t share your idea because others may steal it). Through endless brainstorming sessions, we realized that the MBA was the perfect time to launch a business. Johnson has provided us invaluable learning opportunities, from receiving faculty support to work on our venture as class projects to getting the nod to participate in Cornell’s student accelerator program eLab.

eLab focuses on starting real companies that have the potential to grow and provide employment and economic benefit to the 15 teams. eLab gave us deep experiential learning in starting and growing a business. The instructors also serve as coaches, guides, mentors, teachers, and assistants to the teams in the program. They frequently coordinate the involvement of several high-profile mentors from the startup and venture capital community.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn, author, and venture capital partner at Greylock Partners, was a big inspiration. The name Purro comes from the concept of Find your Purpose, become your own Hero. Reid is big on helping people become the heroes in their life story. This concept inspired us to empower others with the tools to explore and grow to become their own hero. Another key lesson Reid frequently encourages entrepreneurs to follow is to get in front of customers quickly, even when you’re embarrassed by your product. We have taken his advice head-on, which has helped us evolve to better understand the needs of our customers.

Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? The entrepreneurship class New Venture Studio (formerly known as Entrepreneurship and Business Ownership) taught us the fundamentals for starting a business by following the lean model canvas approach developed by Steve Blank. As aspiring entrepreneurs, we were able to make a lot of mistakes in a safe environment, helping our team grow as we pivoted our business idea multiple times. Through the countless lessons learned, the biggest lesson gained from the experience is that real entrepreneurship is about solving problems, not selling ideas.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? Our long-term to help over 500 million people find their fulfilling careers through an ecosystem of products.

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