A Beaver (Babson) and a Bear (Brown) meet and start a dating app—Skippit. But it’s a really cool and a timely one that eliminates “catfishing.” Here’s what the founders, Marc and Winnie, have to say about their venture.
What was, and how did you overcome, your first start-up roadblock?
W: This is one of our best stories. Back in the spring, we mistakenly filed for a Delaware LLC with LegalZoom when we should have filed a Delaware C Corp. We had already paid three hundred bucks for the LLC, and it would have been $800 more to convert the company to a C Corp, funds we didn’t have. Marc and I said to hell with it and decided to cold email the CEO of LegalZoom, John Suh, to ask for help with the fees. We pulled the young aspiring entrepreneurs’ card and were fortunate to get a kind response from him saying he would waive all of the conversion fees. The rest is history.
Has your age been a help or hindrance in pursuing meetings?
M: Being able to leverage the ruse of being an innocent entrepreneur helps to get in the door at a ton of places. It was a huge help. Being a “teenager” gave us a ton of leeway in getting in touch with people through unconventional methods—LinkedIn, cold email, etc.
What “ah ha” moment have you experienced in San Francisco?
M: We pitched Skippit to a stranger that turned out to be Daniel Macklin, founder of SoFi, who then gave us his business card and told us to follow-up in August. He was the keynote speaker at an accelerator program, and I caught him in the lobby of our building.
What lesson learned will you share with your fellow Z entrepreneurs?
W: This summer I have come to understand the power of the network. We’ve been leveraging both of our networks and are always meeting new people in San Francisco. You never know what kind of relationship can come from an introduction. We have been fortunate enough to have met some of our great advisors (including Jonathan!) through the Brown and Babson networks.
How has participating in a summer incubator program benefitted your team and the company?
W: The mentorship at the incubator has been the most valuable part. Our director, Elliot Adams, along with our mentor, Tanya Soman, who is a partner at 500 Startups have given us so much guidance. They’ve given us the honest dos and don’ts of Silicon Valley, which has been so helpful in navigating relationships.
More difficult: meeting investors, being on time, or dealing with fog/traffic?
W: Living in SF is tough! We tried to save money by using Jump bikes Uber Express Pool. Fortunately, we have been lucky with the weather this summer, but I still was unprepared when I arrived. I didn’t overthink the weather because I just assumed I would be in beautiful California and the warmest piece of clothing I brought with me was a denim jacket…big mistake.
M: Balancing the ecosystem at night was kind of spooky. I got mugged by a homeless gentleman on the Embarcadero at 9:00 PM coming back from a Giants game. He stopped me on my bike and stole it right off of me. Could have beaten me. The bike did not have a tracker on it—not sure if FordGoBike is going to charge me yet…
You return to campus (separate campuses) the fall, what steps are you taking to run the business and graduate?
W: Our schools are about an hour apart, and while that is not that far, we’ll working remotely. I live by Babson, so I will also be able to go up there as often as I can. Marketing and getting users on the platform is undoubtedly the most important thing for us in the fall, and we’re uniquely positioned in the Boston area with its market 150k college students at different schools to do that. We’ll be rolling out our brand ambassador program in the Boston area to start with Harvard, BC, BU, Northeastern, and MIT. We’re excited to get back to school on the east coast and see where this goes with the response of the Boston college student market. After getting validation in the fall in Boston, we could be heading toward a “real” seed round, which will likely require one or both of us to take time off of school.
Class or professor that prepared you for your entrepreneurial journey?
W: I have to say, Barrett Hazeltine. When we first came up with the idea for Skippit, we met with Professor Hazeltine, and he connected us to Brown alumni who have freely offered their expertise. I think he has inspired everyone in the Brown entrepreneurial community in some way. Since beginning this entrepreneurial journey, I have learned that you get a lot more out of just interacting with people than you can from sitting in class. The actual “doing” out here in SF is unlike anything I have learned from a formal undergrad business education thus far, and I’d even say it is much more valuable. So I cannot say that any specific class has prepared me for this because I find that I am drawing from everything I’ve learned both in and out of school. Uncertainty surrounded me in SF, but it has made me stronger as a person. Moving to a brand new city as an 18-year-old girl working on a startup isn’t for everyone. I have given up a lot to be here and have grown thicker skin this summer.
Best food on campus and in the Bay Area?
W: I eat Chipotle everywhere I go… in Providence and the Bay. Marc and I love Onigilly in SF; it is right by our office in the Financial District. They serve warm, freshly made Japanese Rice Balls with 15 different options for fillings.
M: There is a small shop called the Working Girl that has incredible salads and bacon-egg-cheeses for decent prices; the gentleman that works their looks like Mark Cuban.