2022 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: TrovBase, New York University (Stern)


New York University, Stern School of Business

Industry: Data Management

Founding Student Name(s): Sam Jordan, NYU Stern Andre Koo Tech MBA Class of 22

Brief Description of Solution: TrovBase is a data management platform for researchers that makes high quality data collection, management, and analysis intuitive. Our interface guides researchers through best practices so they build cleaner, more standardized datasets. This means users can spend less time cleaning, mitigating collaboration frictions, and dealing with data management logistics. Since we enforce consistent project data, we enable researchers to quickly analyze their data like a professional data scientist would, with code that enables others to reproduce their work.

Funding Dollars: $130K

What led you to launch this venture? As the Open Science Movement focused more on replication, we were troubled by the implication that many landmark scientific studies could not be relied upon, as indicated by failure to replicate results. One major cause of the replication crisis is bad data management, which makes it hard to audit research pipelines. A recent survey found 60% of researchers reported zero formal training in data management. The lack of training in data management and absence of standards leads to time loss, frustration, and inaccurate conclusions (~32% of retracted publications are due to data management errors). This is not only costly for a researcher’s time and reputation, it is also expensive for their institutions. The US spends $23B/year attempting to reproduce irreproducible preclinical research.

We wanted to build a tool that acts as methodological insurance. We take care of validation and give researchers the confidence that their data is accurate and that they are doing analysis like an expert data scientist.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? We recently launched TrovBase at a large R1 research institution in their social science department. The successful launch provided evidence that we are solving the right problem for the right people.

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? We participated in the NYU Entrepreneurs’ Challenge, hosted by NYU Stern’s Berkley Center for Entrepreneurship, which is part-accelerator and part venture competition. Before starting the Challenge, TrovBase was not much more than an idea of how to solve our own frustrations around data integrity. The Challenge provided us with the structure and mentorship we needed to progress from idea to implementation and sales. We were thrilled to be recognized as the competition winner.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? Cliché perhaps, but much of my philosophy that guides TrovBase was inspired by Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs frequently reminded his team and investors that Apple products should be built for “mere mortals.” Jobs wanted to bring the full power of what experts could do on a computer to anyone. He did this through an intuitive design that anyone could understand so that they could do powerful things without technical expertise. This is what we want to do at TrovBase. We want to bring the full power of what is currently possible using the industry standard tooling that experts use to collect, manage, and analyze data. We want to make those powerful things more accessible to all.

Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? I took “How to Start a Startup” with Professor Jihoon Rim, the former CEO of Kakao. In that class, we learned both the tactical and the philosophical aspects of starting a startup. One of the biggest lessons I learned from Rim is that MVP (minimum viable product) is not a product, it’s a process. Founders must continually test the core function to achieve a high degree of product market fit.

What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Professor Deepak Hegde, founding director of Endless Frontier Labs at NYU Stern and director of the Berkley Center for Entrepreneurship, was extremely helpful in shaping our early plans. Hegde taught me to approach the startup like a scientist, which is through data-driven hypothesis testing. This, along with teaching me how to weigh trade-offs when choosing our initial target market and how to approach the go-to market based on our choice of customer, ensured that we had a product that people wanted.

How has your local startup ecosystem contributed to your venture’s development and success? I found the best, most supportive community though Twitter of all places. I stumbled into what can loosely be called the NYC abundance community and started attending Sunday dinners at “The Fractal House,” a gathering place for the community. The community is largely composed of builders and founders, who provided me with advice, support, encouragement and valuable connections.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? We believe TrovBase can be the gold standard platform for high quality hosted data. Research conducted using TrovBase as the data management pipeline will be trusted, reproducible, and easy to build upon. TrovBase will enhance the speed and improve the quality of scientific production – just as git improved speed and data integrity and github facilitated collaboration for developers.


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