2023 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: Reservoir, Georgetown University (McDonough)


Georgetown University, McDonough School of Business

Industry: Identity and Access Management

Founding Student Name(s): James Azar

Brief Description of Solution: Reservoir is an identity and credential management platform. Reservoir’s Credential Cloud redefines the authentication process, streamlining the way businesses, academic institutions, and other entities recognize, verify, and trust an individual’s qualifications.

Funding Dollars: Raising our first $1M round

What led you to launch this venture? When I applied to business school, I spent hundreds of dollars for a third-party to verify I earned an undergraduate engineering degree. Aside from this economic challenge, the process bothered me in a fundamental way – why was someone else the authority on what I had accomplished in life and not me? This led me to analyze the background check/pre-employment screening market, its key players, and the services they provide.

I discovered that our data is spread across a collection of third-parties, data brokers, and aggregators. These companies have become the source of truth on who we are and what we have accomplished. They hoard our data and make it vulnerable to manipulation. And they gate-keep it from the parties who rely on it most, making it inaccurate and expensive to access.

Reservoir is bringing to market a new platform that will disrupt these aggregators and establish a new single source of truth. It’s called Reservoir Credential Cloud. As part of this new business network, academic institutions, large and medium-sized businesses, and other organizations will have the capability to issue digital credentials directly to the individual. Think Apple Pay, but for your credentials. Every participant on this network – including the individual – benefits from the efficiency, solving the challenges of access, accuracy, and cost.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? There have been a handful of accomplishments since launch – raising capital, winning Georgetown’s marquee Leonsis Family Entrepreneurship Prize pitch competition, etc. But none has been more rewarding than the initial demand we’re seeing from clients in Higher Education. This industry is facing a massive brand and data problem, and our unique approach to solving these challenges is resonating with the right stakeholders.

What has been the most significant challenge you’ve faced in creating your company and how did you solve it? Fundraising in today’s economic climate has been challenging. The cost of capital is high, and the stakes are higher. Early-stage investors are looking for more traction before considering an investment. Fortunately, we’ve been able to build great momentum and demand from investors. We’re excited to bring our solution to market this coming Spring.

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? My coursework at Georgetown McDonough played a meaningful role in guiding the direction for my startup, especially when it comes to market analysis. I had the unique opportunity to spend the last two years studying in the same market we’re breaking into first. The network I built during my studies also provided invaluable connections and mentorship. Applying the knowledge gained in my enterprise software experience, coupled with the confidence instilled by the program, has been instrumental in successfully launching and navigating my startup through its early stages.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? My entrepreneurial journey is inspired by my family. My grandparents started a dress business in South Philadelphia in the early 1940s. My mother, aunts, and uncles all went on to start and operate their own successful businesses. Serving customers is in my family’s DNA.

Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? Economics of Strategic Behavior or Organizational Design Strategy. These courses got to the root of how and why businesses formulate strategic decisions around their people and their operations. The biggest lesson I learned from these courses has been how to utilize strategies adopted by the Fortune 500 and apply them to my early-stage startup.

What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? It would be difficult to point to just one individual because so many folks across Georgetown McDonough have contributed to our early success. Deans, professors, administrators, members of the entrepreneurship department, and alumni have all contributed in their unique ways – everything from helping to shape our market strategy to becoming our first client.

How has your local startup ecosystem contributed to your venture’s development and success? Instead of pursuing a traditional MBA summer internship, I had the unique opportunity to participate in Georgetown’s 2022 Summer Launch Incubator. This program allowed me to focus full-time on my venture, transforming early ideas into strategy and gaining traction with early clients. It also helped me to build a great group of advisors who I still work with today!

What is your long-term goal with your startup? The internet is largely based on an honor system. Applying for a job, posting work history on LinkedIn, or updating your resume – it’s all on an honor system. Our mission is to bring more authentic interactions to the internet.

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