2023 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: TruLeague, Babson College (Olin)

TruLeague

Babson College, F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business

Industry: Enterprise Software – Higher Education

Founding Student Name(s): Lakshya Daga

Brief Description of Solution: TruLeague’s solution is two-fold, designed to benefit both educational institutions and prospective students in the increasingly competitive landscape of higher education recruitment. With each admission cycle, the battle for the best-fit students intensifies, making it crucial for institutions to find new ways to stand out and connect with prospective enrollees. To tackle this challenge, we’ve developed a unique platform that serves as a bridge between prospective students and the current student body. TruLeague facilitates direct interactions between these two groups, enabling prospective students to gain differentiated insights and engage in authentic conversations with those who are already a part of the institution. By fostering these genuine dialogues, our platform not only provides valuable information to prospective students, but also equips educational institutions with real-time statistics about the interests, concerns, and preferences of their potential future students. This data is instrumental in helping institutions improve their outreach and recruitment strategies, ensuring that they remain competitive in the ever evolving and competitive higher education landscape.

Funding Dollars: TruLeague is currently bootstrapped, we’ve made an investment north of $70,000 on the product and team.

What led you to launch this venture? As an international student, I personally experienced the challenge of connecting with current students and alumni both before and after applying to Babson. It became evident that there is a widespread need for a solution that enables prospective students worldwide to seek guidance from those who have “been there, done that.” To validate this concept, we connected students directly with each other on our platform from reputed schools such as Boston University and Johns Hopkins. The value we saw in the power of student-to-student interactions was immense. Ultimately, we evolved the business model to include the school administrators as stakeholders in the TruLeague platform, ensuring that prospective students would never have to pay for our service. The outcome has been a mutually beneficial solution – a win-win scenario for institutions and students around the world.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? We’ve established partnerships with several institutions in New England, and as a result, we’ve assisted hundreds of prospective higher education students in making informed decisions about their future and have helped them settle comfortably into their new school.

The TruLeague team we’ve managed to build has been an accomplishment itself. As we’ve progressed on our journey, we’ve welcomed individuals to our team who have faced similar struggles during their own higher education application processes. The addition of these experienced team members has significantly contributed to our collective vision, helping us achieve our milestones and reach our goals.

Thanks to our customer-centric approach, our product has undergone significant improvements guided by user feedback. As a result, the platform has become more user-friendly and beneficial for both students and institutions, allowing them to fully realize the value of our offerings.

What has been the most significant challenge you’ve faced in creating your company and how did you solve it? As an international student, I’ve had to overcome numerous obstacles while building and growing the company on a student visa. Here, a strong and solution-oriented mindset has been key.

One of the major challenges we’ve encountered was the complexity of the buying process within educational institutions. To address this challenge, we leveraged the guidance of strong advisors within the ecosystem, nurtured lasting relationships with the right people, and relied on the strength of our product to ensure that we see our initiatives through to success.

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? The skills and experiences I gained throughout Babson’s program have been immeasurably valuable in my journey to build TruLeague. What stands out the most are the soft skills I honed during my time in the program. The emphasis on teamwork, problem-solving, and the power of effective listening for customer acquisition has made a world of difference in my entrepreneurial endeavors. These skills have not only empowered me to tackle challenges effectively but have also played a pivotal role in connecting with and acquiring customers, which is vital for any startup. I believe that the strong foundation of soft skills provided by the program has been a cornerstone of my success, and I am appreciative of the knowledge and experiences I gained.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? David Ostrovsky, my co-president of the Babson Acceleration Club, has been an important inspiration to me. David’s journey, as the founder of an AI-powered fashion company, has been a source of motivation and important insights for me. His leadership skills, time management abilities, and commitment to data-driven decision-making have had a profound impact on my own approach to entrepreneurship, pushing me forward in my pursuit of success.

Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? The MBA class that has had the most significant impact on building my startup is “New Venture Creation.” This course provided me with a comprehensive understanding of entrepreneurship and equipped me with essential frameworks to navigate the path to success in the startup world. The key takeaway from this class was the importance of a well-structured foundation and the ability to adapt and pivot as needed to respond to the dynamic challenges of entrepreneurship.

Another class that greatly influenced my startup journey was “Leading Innovation: Chimps Monkeys Gorillas.” This course, taught by Professor Jay Rao, is a highly sought after class at Babson, and delved into the strategies and insights surrounding innovation, disruption, and competition. More specifically, it focused on how smaller companies (monkeys) can successfully compete with and even outperform medium and large-sized corporations (gorillas). I learned the importance of creating a culture of innovation and disruption to thrive in the market. The most important lesson from this class was the recognition that innovation knows no size constraints, and that strategy and culture are what set successful companies apart in the business landscape.

What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Professors Jay Rao and Andrew Zacharakis have had a significant impact on my entrepreneurial plans. Their courses were insightful, but the mentorship I received from them during the early stages of my venture has been invaluable. Their guidance has shaped my approach to problem-solving, team-building, fundraising, and strategic operations. Among many other things, these conversations provided me with deep insights into account-based marketing in B2B sales, which has been crucial for my venture plans. I continue to keep in touch with them, and their influence remains a crucial resource in my entrepreneurial journey.

How has your local startup ecosystem contributed to your venture’s development and success? The local startup ecosystem has played a pivotal role in the development and success of my venture. At Babson College, I’ve been actively engaged in every possible activity related to entrepreneurship. The Butler Launch Pad at Babson has been a godsend. Cindy Klein Marmer, Alexandra Dunk, Sue Nealon, and their exceptional team have constantly provided useful resources to support our venture in different stages. The summer venture program at Babson and the B.E.T.A Challenge refined our engine, The Business Model.

The broader Boston startup scene has offered a wealth of opportunities for growth. I’ve been deeply involved in the ecosystem for nearly two years, attending numerous startup events such as Startup Boston and HubSpot inbound. Additionally, I’ve been an active participant in various forums like Venture Café and CIC in Cambridge, both as a mentee and mentor. These interactions with the dynamic startup community in Boston has allowed me to gain meaningful insights, build connections, and access mentorship that has directly contributed to TruLeague’s development and success.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? Our long-term goal with our startup is to maintain a relentless focus on customer feedback as we evolve our product. We aspire to scale our presence and establish a prominent position within the higher education market in the US. With time, we aim to expand our reach into both Asia and Europe, extending our services to prospective students worldwide.

Our ultimate objective is to empower prospective students with unique, first-hand experiences through trusted student ambassadors, enabling them to make confident and well-informed decisions about their educational future. We believe that by continuing to refine our product and expand our geographical footprint, we can provide immense support to students around the globe, ensuring they have access to the best resources to make the right choices for their education and career path.

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