I'm a business guy who got an MBA and now I'm a software entrepreneur - AMA

eskimoroll's picture
Rank: Baboon | 161

Quick background on me... I went to a state school as an undergrad with a supply chain management/business degree and then spent 8 years working for Fortune 500 CPG firms in various roles (analyst, internal consultant, manager, etc.) I then decided that I wanted a career change so I got my MBA (HBS). I spent the two years at school working on my company with a classmate of mine and then joined TechStars (startup accelerator) upon graduation.

We've recently released a mobile app on the iPhone that helps you find emails and files across your cloud in a visual way. It's called FindIt and we've been fortunate to get positive coverage in everything from TechCrunch to Mashable to PandoDaily.

I'd be happy to answer any questions people might have about the transition from business school to startup life or specifics around the company and what we're building.

Comments (55)

Aug 5, 2013

Thank you for the AMA

1. What roles are you two serving? Are you doing the actual coding?
2. How are you currently handling the student loan debt from HBS? How about in the future as your startup will probably not bring any revenue for a while?

Aug 5, 2013

My cofounder is our CEO and is leading our fundraising efforts. I'm the COO and I lead Product. We have a third co-founder who is our CTO. He manages our development and we have some contract developers as well to help out with the iOS and Android development.

As for student loan debt (which we have a lot of), we'll have to start paying that back this Oct/Nov. We may request a forbearance to push back payments for a bit. The plan though is to raise some funding from outside investors since it will be quite some time before we have revenue.

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Aug 5, 2013

Congrats on the coverage and success so far. And thanks for the AMA.

How did you come upon the idea? In my experience academic environments immerse people in systems/frameworks/processes to develop the idea and subsequent business. Conversely, most entrepreneurs will talk about a far more organic process.

Aug 5, 2013

Thanks treetotree! We actually went through several different ideas before ending up on the one that eventually evolved into FindIt (lots of changes along the way). For us, rather than using any particular framework for thinking up ideas, we focused on pain points that we experienced in our professional lives that were meaningful to us. You have to really care about the problem you're solving otherwise it's just another job.

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Aug 5, 2013

Do you guys have a website where we can learn more about it?

It sounds cool, don't use cloud as much as I should. Some other questions:

How did you come up with the idea?

How did you and your partner get together on it?

You said it's received good reviews, but how many people actually use it regularly (or even how many have downloaded it)?

How do you plan on expanding your business (or are you just focused on this now)? It seems like a cool idea, but these days it doesn't seem like one app can make a company.

Aug 5, 2013

I'm too new around here (although I've been lurking for 4 years now) to post links but our website is getfindit (dot) com.

A Google Search for "FindIt App" will probably pull up the TechCrunch article and in the App Store, you can search "FindIt" to get to our app.

Aug 5, 2013

Right now we support Gmail, Dropbox, and Google Drive so if you use any of those services, it does a great job searching and accessing content on them.

My partner and I came up with the idea when looking at the pain points we experienced in our past careers. For him, it was transitioning roles and the struggles involved with passing on information to his successor. For me, I was a big data guy so it was managing information from multiple places. It was only after lots of customer interviews that we honed in on the more personal application of our search technology.

Without going into specific numbers, we have thousands of active users each (about 10% of them use the app daily and around 25% of them use it 2-3 times a week). I also handle all the customer service personally so it's been amazing to hear positive feedback from users around the world. Seriously, after getting some emails, it makes me happy all day.

Plan to expand to other data platforms (Exchange, Salesforce, etc.) and other access points (Android, tablets, etc.) in the near future.

Aug 5, 2013

What's the potential you seen in your product in terms of profitability? What's your target?

What's the end goal?... more apps? grow the app out to more than just an app?

Aug 5, 2013

See my response to D M for more color on growing FindIt. The end goal is to be the ubiquitous search solution for all your data. Of course that's monstrously aggressive and very few people end of changing the consumer landscape like that (e.g. Dropbox) but that's our goal and whether we succeed or fail at achieving that, it's going to be one hell of a ride.

Regarding making money, we'll charge for more enterprise oriented data platforms like Exchange and Salesforce. It's the classic pro-sumer freemium strategy. We're definitely product and user focused so our goal right now is to create a lot of value up front, nail the solution to a very specific problem, then find a way to make some money.

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Aug 5, 2013

Thanks, you may have a new customer tonight. I am going to recommend it to my girlfriend who uses multiple platforms and emails for her work, personal, and entrepreneur venture.

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Aug 5, 2013
yeahright:

Thanks, you may have a new customer tonight. I am going to recommend it to my girlfriend who uses multiple platforms and emails for her work, personal, and entrepreneur venture.

Cool thanks! We love getting new users to try out the app and give us feedback. We're working crazy fast and will be pushing out significant updates every other week so we definitely want to stay close to our users. If she has any questions or comments, tell her to reach out to me at alex(at)getfindit(dotcom).

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Aug 5, 2013

Just so we're clear, it took a 6 figure MBA for you to create an iPhone app? My high school classmate, who has the IQ of a frog and no other formal education other than high school, created a successful mobile weather app.

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Aug 5, 2013

How much of the product did you already have built before fundraising? I assume you primary costs are your own salaries and marketing expenses?

Aug 5, 2013
DCDepository:

Just so we're clear, it took a 6 figure MBA for you to create an iPhone app? My high school classmate, who has the IQ of a frog and no other formal education other than high school, created a successful mobile weather app.

-1

Aug 5, 2013
DCDepository:

Just so we're clear, it took a 6 figure MBA for you to create an iPhone app? My high school classmate, who has the IQ of a frog and no other formal education other than high school, created a successful mobile weather app.

Lol, that's awesome. No, the 6-figure MBA was a personal choice for me. I learned a lot from the experience and it gave me the opportunity to meet my cofounder. Anyone can make an iPhone app but our hope is that the things we learned over these past two years and the connections we've made will give us the best chance for success going forward as we grow the business.

Aug 5, 2013
JDimon:

How much of the product did you already have built before fundraising? I assume you primary costs are your own salaries and marketing expenses?

We actually haven't really fundraised thus far. We bootstrapped the business with our own money and some family money before taking some investment from the TechStars program. We had a web application built out before we joined the program and we built the iOS app over the course of the last month or so. Our costs will be mostly our salaries plus server costs.

Aug 5, 2013

This is a serious question - how do you plan on making money with the app given that it is free?

Is the plan to get a critical mass of users and offer some level of pro-user features that people can sign up for? Or are you hoping to get acquired by someone like Yahoo or whoever else is gobbling up smaller tech startups. Or is there something else altogether?

Aug 5, 2013
TheKing:

This is a serious question - how do you plan on making money with the app given that it is free?

Is the plan to get a critical mass of users and offer some level of pro-user features that people can sign up for? Or are you hoping to get acquired by someone like Yahoo or whoever else is gobbling up smaller tech startups. Or is there something else altogether?

The former. We hope people will be willing to pay for connectivity to Exchange, Salesforce, etc. as well as additional features we have in the pipeline. Right now our focus is on nailing the product and learning from our users.

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Aug 5, 2013

Do you believe investment banking provides you with a skill-set to become an entrepreneur?

Aug 5, 2013
kingoftheotherroad:

Do you believe investment banking provides you with a skill-set to become an entrepreneur?

No (although I'm sure your financial model will be beautiful). But frankly, most corporate type jobs tend to not provide you those skills. Entrepreneurship (as I've experienced thus far) has been much more of a learning-by-doing experience.

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Aug 5, 2013
eskimoroll:
kingoftheotherroad:

Do you believe investment banking provides you with a skill-set to become an entrepreneur?

No (although I'm sure your financial model will be beautiful). But frankly, most corporate type jobs tend to not provide you those skills. Entrepreneurship (as I've experienced thus far) has been much more of a learning-by-doing experience.

Knowing this, wouldn't you have been better served saving money spent on the MBA and just investing it in your startup? (Not trying to be a dick, genuinely curious).

Aug 5, 2013

Which techstars program do/did you attend? We interviewed with them but never heard back (and were rejected w/o an interview the next time we applied) so I guess they weren't very big fans!

How do you guys approach being non-technical founders of a tech company?

Any traction? No revenue, but around how many users do you have? All consumers or do you have enterprise clients signed up already?

Aug 5, 2013
valleybandar:

Knowing this, wouldn't you have been better served saving money spent on the MBA and just investing it in your startup? (Not trying to be a dick, genuinely curious).

Maybe - depends on the person. That's a decision that many of us (entrepreneurial MBAs) struggle with. Looking back at the relationships I made and the things I learned at HBS, I would not trade that away even knowing the cost I am now asked to bear. With an MBA comes optionality that lasts for much longer than this business will last. I'm sure with time, I will come to even more appreciate the many benefits of being part of the HBS network.

Aug 5, 2013
panther2k:

Which techstars program do/did you attend? We interviewed with them but never heard back (and were rejected w/o an interview the next time we applied) so I guess they weren't very big fans!

How do you guys approach being non-technical founders of a tech company?

Any traction? No revenue, but around how many users do you have? All consumers or do you have enterprise clients signed up already?

I'm part of TechStars Chicago. It fit our graduation schedule and it's one of the best things we've ever done for the business. We have benefited so much from the program.

We all have different roles to play. While I am not technical my formal training (besides some light programming in high schoo), I'm technical by nature. I've been obsessed with technology and product my entire life and paired with my process oriented background, it makes me a good fit for product management. My co-founder is an entrepreneur and salesperson by background and personality so he is great at managing relationships with investors/mentors and selling the vision for the company. We are fortunate to have a great technical talent as our co-founder and CTO and he is able to build what we imagine in a fast and scalable way.

We have thousands of users and some meaningful engagement data but we have also been live in the App Store only 2 weeks now. We have a long way to go. We aren't charging people so it's all technically individuals although most of our users are business professionals.

Aug 5, 2013
eskimoroll:
valleybandar:

Knowing this, wouldn't you have been better served saving money spent on the MBA and just investing it in your startup? (Not trying to be a dick, genuinely curious).

Maybe - depends on the person. That's a decision that many of us (entrepreneurial MBAs) struggle with. Looking back at the relationships I made and the things I learned at HBS, I would not trade that away even knowing the cost I am now asked to bear. With an MBA comes optionality that lasts for much longer than this business will last. I'm sure with time, I will come to even more appreciate the many benefits of being part of the HBS network.

If nothing else, it significantly improves your risk profile. Hopefully, findit works out but even if it fails or you decide startups aren't for you, hbs should give you access to some decent traditional career tracks.

In contrast, I was an analyst for two years at gs/jpm/ms and passed the cfa exams before quitting last year to do a startup. But who is going to hire a former banker with a few failed startups under his belt? No one, that's who. Maybe I could do software engineering at someone else's startup but I really have no other option but to keep playing the startup card until one hits or I die old, broke, and alone ;). I'm a risk-seeker so that reality is acceptable to me... worst-case scenario is that I go back to living out of my car and start fasting to save money while working on my Xth startup, which isn't *that* bad in the grand scheme of things. Of course, if you're not as radically ascetic as I am (i.e. you are a normal person), having the optionality/hedge of a H/S MBA could very well be worthwhile.

Anyways, best of luck with the company, I'll shut up now to avoid hijacking your AMA...

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Aug 5, 2013
panther2k:
eskimoroll:
valleybandar:

Knowing this, wouldn't you have been better served saving money spent on the MBA and just investing it in your startup? (Not trying to be a dick, genuinely curious).

Maybe - depends on the person. That's a decision that many of us (entrepreneurial MBAs) struggle with. Looking back at the relationships I made and the things I learned at HBS, I would not trade that away even knowing the cost I am now asked to bear. With an MBA comes optionality that lasts for much longer than this business will last. I'm sure with time, I will come to even more appreciate the many benefits of being part of the HBS network.

If nothing else, it significantly improves your risk profile. Hopefully, findit works out but even if it fails or you decide startups aren't for you, hbs should give you access to some decent traditional career tracks.

In contrast, I was an analyst for two years at gs/jpm/ms and passed the cfa exams before quitting last year to do a startup. But who is going to hire a former banker with a few failed startups under his belt? No one, that's who. Maybe I could do software engineering at someone else's startup but I really have no other option but to keep playing the startup card until one hits or I die old, broke, and alone ;). I'm a risk-seeker so that reality is acceptable to me... worst-case scenario is that I go back to living out of my car and start fasting to save money while working on my Xth startup, which isn't *that* bad in the grand scheme of things. Of course, if you're not as radically ascetic as I am, having the optionality/hedge of a H/S MBA could very well be worthwhile.

Anyways, best of luck with the company, I'll shut up now to avoid hijacking your AMA...

Was your plan always to take a dive into the startup world after banking?

Eskimo - what made you decide to try your hand at entrepreneurship after working all these years?

Aug 5, 2013

First off, thanks for posting your story here and best of luck with your venture.

A few quick questions:

(1) How did you find your CTO / technical co-founder? Did he attend HBS as well?
(2) How do you and your CEO interact with the CTO? Is it a situation where you and the CEO have the "ideas" and you just tell him to translate it into code or is it more collaborative? Is he "reporting" to you or the CEO or are you guys all more or less equals?
(3) How much of the actual coding is done in-house vs. contracted out? How big is your development team?
(4) How did you go about finding contract developers?
(5) Why did you pick Chicago as your hub? What other cities did you look at?

Aug 5, 2013

Any tips for a one man show to 'execute' an idea that's already out there? And by execute, I mean do it better than everyone else from a strategic point of view..with a limited budget.

alpha currency trader wanna-be

Aug 5, 2013

Hi, I am curious how your entire process went, from packaging and deploying the software. At what point did you realize that it was time to "ship your product"? I am currently working on starting my own hedge fund involving cutting edge technology with a software CTO co-founder as well, but we are still working on the bugs for the code and preparing for launch. We are not quite sure when the code will be complete, but it would be insightful if you can give me a timeline in terms of testing, deployment. Thanks!

Aug 5, 2013
moneymogul:

Eskimo - what made you decide to try your hand at entrepreneurship after working all these years?

It was always the plan. I dabbled in some entrepreneurial stuff but I actually really enjoyed corporate life. It was only when things were going too well in my corporate life that I realized that I was nearly at the point of no return. So that's when I used b-school as an opportunity to jump into startup life. When I told my dad that I was starting my own business, he wasn't surprised at all. He always figured that I'd become an entrepreneur like he had been.

Best Response
Aug 6, 2013
labanker:

First off, thanks for posting your story here and best of luck with your venture.

A few quick questions:

(1) How did you find your CTO / technical co-founder? Did he attend HBS as well?

(2) How do you and your CEO interact with the CTO? Is it a situation where you and the CEO have the "ideas" and you just tell him to translate it into code or is it more collaborative? Is he "reporting" to you or the CEO or are you guys all more or less equals?

(3) How much of the actual coding is done in-house vs. contracted out? How big is your development team?

(4) How did you go about finding contract developers?

(5) Why did you pick Chicago as your hub? What other cities did you look at?

1. CTO didn't attend HBS but rather he grew up down the street from my co-founder classmate. He had worked and was working for topnotch enterprise software companies when we convinced him that we were more interesting.
2. We are co-founders together so there is no reporting. We are definitely collaborative although he does tend to let the CEO and I lead strategy simply because we have more interests in doing so. We defer to him on technical stuff and he defers to us on business stuff.
3. The backend development was all done in-house by our CTO over the past year. We reached out to a couple contractors recently to help with the app development but these were friendly introductions from other people we knew.
4. Intros. We made sure these guys were vetted by other people before investing time and money with them.
5. TechStars Chicago was the only TechStars location that fit our timing post graduation. If that didn't work out, we would have moved directly to the San Francisco Bay Area. Still planning on doing so in Sep.

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Aug 6, 2013

Thanks for the info. Good stuff. +1

Aug 6, 2013
watersign:

Any tips for a one man show to 'execute' an idea that's already out there? And by execute, I mean do it better than everyone else from a strategic point of view..with a limited budget.

Every idea is already out there. You don't have to do it better than everyone else either. You just have to solve a very specific problem for a very specific customer (and hope there's enough of those customers for you to have a real business). It's a big world. I think Howard Stevenson says it best: "Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled."

Aug 6, 2013
mod11210:

Hi, I am curious how your entire process went, from packaging and deploying the software. At what point did you realize that it was time to "ship your product"? I am currently working on starting my own hedge fund involving cutting edge technology with a software CTO co-founder as well, but we are still working on the bugs for the code and preparing for launch. We are not quite sure when the code will be complete, but it would be insightful if you can give me a timeline in terms of testing, deployment. Thanks!

Well we've been building our backend and learning various things over the course of the past year. It was slow going since we were in school full-time as well. Once we got into TechStars and focused on the mobile opportunity, we designed (wireframed), tested, iterated the designs, tested, built, tested, fixed, and released our 1.0 app in about 3 weeks. We then put out a much better 1.1 app in another week. We are currently working on our 1.2 version which should be done in another week or so. We submitted our 1.0 app when it wasn't perfect so that we wouldn't fall into the trap of always working on something without submitting it for the market to give feedback on. You always should be a little bit embarrassed about what you're putting out there. If you wait until it's perfect, it's too late. We now try to push to production on a weekly basis and hopefully that will continue for the life of this company.

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Aug 6, 2013

This thread harkens back to this discussion last week:

http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/most-if-not-...

Aug 6, 2013
eskimoroll:
labanker:

5. TechStars Chicago was the only TechStars location that fit our timing post graduation. If that didn't work out, we would have moved directly to the San Francisco Bay Area. Still planning on doing so in Sep.

Thanks for stopping by?

Aug 6, 2013

I'm in the process of developing an e-comm site as well. Just wondering, how did you get news coverage? Cold e-mail ? Or were you just reached out to ? Also, what were some ways your team marketed/advertised your product?

Thanks for any insight!

Aug 6, 2013
longn:

I'm in the process of developing an e-comm site as well. Just wondering, how did you get news coverage? Cold e-mail ? Or were you just reached out to ? Also, what were some ways your team marketed/advertised your product?

Thanks for any insight!

We prepared a press kit in advance of our launch and sent it out to lots of news outlets. We were fortunate that what we were building hit a nerve so that some of the bigger name blogs were willing to talk with us and share FindIt with their readers. As for marketing and advertising, we're just starting to experiment with various channels. Long term, it's going to be based on the quality of our product and organic growth features that we're building in so we're still mostly product focused at this time.

Aug 6, 2013

Thanks for this.

What are the positives and negatives of being in an accelerator? I've heard some great stories and some horror stories.

Aug 6, 2013
krauser:

Thanks for this.

What are the positives and negatives of being in an accelerator? I've heard some great stories and some horror stories.

I can only speak about TechStars since it's the one and only accelerator that I've been a part of. Positives are that we get great mentorship, a cool working space, access to investors and entrepreneurs, resources (design help, PR support, etc.), and a network of really great founders. Negatives are that it's all consuming (no such thing as a personal life for 3 months), there are lots of scheduled things that at times feel like a distraction (programming, hundreds of mentor meetings, demo day pitch practice, etc.), and they get a pretty good chunk of your company for not a lot of money.

All things considered, I consider TechStars a great investment in the success of FindIt and whether we succeed or fail, I don't think I will ever look back and regret joining this program.

Aug 6, 2013
eskimoroll:
krauser:

Thanks for this.

What are the positives and negatives of being in an accelerator? I've heard some great stories and some horror stories.

I can only speak about TechStars since it's the one and only accelerator that I've been a part of. Positives are that we get great mentorship, a cool working space, access to investors and entrepreneurs, resources (design help, PR support, etc.), and a network of really great founders. Negatives are that it's all consuming (no such thing as a personal life for 3 months), there are lots of scheduled things that at times feel like a distraction (programming, hundreds of mentor meetings, demo day pitch practice, etc.), and they get a pretty good chunk of your company for not a lot of money.

All things considered, I consider TechStars a great investment in the success of FindIt and whether we succeed or fail, I don't think I will ever look back and regret joining this program.

How hard would it be for a co-founder like yourself to jump back into the corporate world if you so desired after a couple of years? Would a person without a pedigreed background (Harvard nd all) be SOL?

Assuming your app doesn't hit the big time or if revenue generation becomes difficult.

Aug 6, 2013
krauser:

How hard would it be for a co-founder like yourself to jump back into the corporate world if you so desired after a couple of years? Would a person without a pedigreed background (Harvard nd all) be SOL?

Assuming your app doesn't hit the big time or if revenue generation becomes difficult.

Pedigree or not, it depends on how productively you spent those last couple of years. Remember, even before HBS, I had a great corporate career that I'm proud of. That's what would make me marketable to large companies in the future much more than my most recent degree.

For me, I think the skills I'm developing as an entrepreneur will serve me well should I ever decide to go back into corporate world. You'll of course have to be ready to answer the inevitable interview questions about whether corporate life is right you after experiencing the dynamic environment of startup life.

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Aug 9, 2013

What do you think helped you get into HBS? Are you a URM (not to discount you or to offend you)? Thank you for doing this.

Aug 9, 2013

I have a question as well that I'd like to throw in the ring: How many times is this going to be featured on the top of the WSO front page?

Aug 9, 2013

@wallstreetoasis.com

Aug 9, 2013

@wallstreetoasis.com

Aug 10, 2013

I've working on my idea and done most of the work but now I am need of co-founder(s) but I am not sure how to get connected to. I tried co-founders lab and that does not seem to work for me. Do you have any suggestions about recruiting entrepreneurial and passionate co-founder(s)? I know who I am exactly looking for personality wise just don't know the way to find that person.

Aug 11, 2013

what type of co-founder are you looking for?
tech co-founder or a business type? what type of tech skills?

Aug 11, 2013

i prefer business/marketing/finance but open to tech background with software dev skills.

Aug 11, 2013
prospie:

I have a question as well that I'd like to throw in the ring: How many times is this going to be featured on the top of the WSO front page?

As long as people read and comment on this thread?

Aug 11, 2013

i have been doing something like you, except got funding from a different accelerator and my product got covered in notable tech industry media as well, however I am a rising junior in college majoring in psychology, lol, i do plan to get an mba from stanford or harvard just for fun once i got very rich by selling my company, lol

Aug 12, 2013
Kiron:

What do you think helped you get into HBS? Are you a URM (not to discount you or to offend you)? Thank you for doing this.

That's probably a topic that deserves a separate post in the MBA forum but no, I'm not an URM. I'm an asian-american male so definitely an over-represented minority. I had strong work experience, decent grades/scores, unique community service stuff, good recommendations, and I think I presented my story well... plus, there probably was a fair bit of luck involved.

Aug 12, 2013
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Aug 12, 2013