Over the last 6 weeks my startup, Value, has been competing in the Husky Start Up Challenge (HSC) at Northeastern University.
What is Value?
It is a easy-to-use and fun application that uses a Tinder style approach to help you find new friends based on your interests, core values, and political ideologies.
We analyzed the market and saw that there were platforms for your current friends (Facebook), platforms for your Business connections (LinkedIn), and a plethora of platforms to meet someone to date (Tinder, Bumble, etc.). There was however no platform that helped you find the most basic thing of all — people who share your interests.
Having both lived in two different states (MA + NH) and two different countries (U.S.A + Israel) in my early twenties, I knew the difficulty of meeting friends in new places, especially when we are all so busy all the time. We collected some data and it turned out that more than 97% of people wanted to meet more individuals who shared their interests.
So, back to HSC….
Last night was Demo Day, which is the final event of the HSC in which 10 startups are chosen and then have two minutes to pitch their company in front of four judges — (2 VC’s & 2 Startup Founders) — and an audience of around 200 people. Before the pitch we tabled for about an hour with the other ventures. In my honest opinion it went amazing. People were coming up and seemed interested in the idea. We got asked about revenue models, profitability, and a bunch of other questions that I was going to talk about in my pitch. By the end of the tabling session I felt super confident and ready to go pitch in front of the audience, considering I had just done my pitch about 200 times to different people. Even better, we were told that we were going to go first. We took our seats in the auditorium and the event began.
It started by having the team running the Entrepreneurship Club present the event, followed by a short speech from a professor who co-runs the center for entrepreneurship at Northeastern. In his short speech he mentioned how two Northeastern Startups were just purchased for $200 and $300 Million dollars. In these ten minutes of waiting I definitely felt my nerves kick in a little. I kept telling myself to not view this as a competition but more like a fun way to tell people about our product. Then all of a sudden Value was announced and it was our turn to shine.
I got up there — and ate shit.
Now by eating shit I don’t mean that I tripped up the stairs, but what I do mean is that I did a bad job of delivering my pitch. There were several reasons for this — for example I practiced pitching with the presentation slides in front of me, but at Demo Day they were behind me which caused me to keep turning around. Once I tripped up for the first time, it felt like an avalanche.
Now look, I am going to be honest with you- it really sucked. I felt like I had singlehandedly failed my team. We were counting on raising capital at this event and had failed at that task. Worse, my parents were there and I had failed in front of them. After the event we didn’t go and have celebratory beers or anything. I walked around my campus for over an hour, alone and in the rain, while I was waiting for the train home. I kept replaying the whole day and the weeks leading up to the event attempting to analyzing how we as a team, and I as an individual, could have done better. It was definitely not how I had imagined this event in the weeks running up to Demo Day (I imagined it more of a celebration and my team walking away with a big check).
As I sit writing this 15 hours later, I feel much better. Sure, it sucks that we don’t have money to begin development right away. But one of the things that I learned while serving in the Israeli Defense Forces applies just as well to entrepreneurship — and that is to adapt + overcome… which is exactly what we will do in this situation. The HSC was amazing. I learned so much in the last 6 weeks from successful startup founders, from further developing my knowledge of how to conduct market research, to developing a high quality pitch deck, and everything in between. (Stay tuned to my next piece to find out who they were).
I am NOT going to let this keep either me or Value down. Already, we have thought of how we could have done better and next time we will. Life is about growing and learning from your mistakes — which is exactly what we will do.
We did not fail, but hit a speed bump.
The life of an entrepreneur…goes on.
Stay tuned to my next piece that will follow the progression of Value as it went from being a political dating app called SwipeRight (unfortunately Tinder beat us to that name) to a platform that connects people based on interests with a goal of helping making friends a little bit easier.