Venturely Co-Founder Gino Ferrand On His Social Network For College Entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurship as a major in college is a fairly new field. But, it’s quickly becoming one of the most popular area of studies on campuses across the US (and beyond), and Venturely is hooking budding entrepreneurs up with its “all things startup” social network to help students on their way to business-owning success.
We caught up with Gino Ferrand to talk about Venturely’s adventure, how he wants to be remembered in this world, and why bootstrappers should “fail early.”
Tell us a little more about Venturely.
Venturely is a social network dedicated exclusively to college entrepreneurship providing college students with networking, collaboration tools, startup jobs and internships, funding, resources, and much more. We have built a platform that brings together … the college entrepreneurship ecosystem [online]. In less than two months of launching our beta, we’ve had hundreds of students start following us and joining Venturely, which makes for an exciting summer of beta and new features.
Venturely’s mission is to provide students with relevant entrepreneurial resources that are specific to helping students succeed in the entrepreneurship world.
We are bridging the gap between venture capital and college startups (in a time when VCs are really interested in new college ideas), and we are developing an exclusive community where college students can truly further their entrepreneurial careers. Venturely is free and open to all college students. From the idea stage, to fully developed and operating businesses, all college startups are welcome and encouraged to join. The network is currently filling up with angel investors, VCs, incubators, and college entrepreneurs from all over the nation who are anxious to network and build startups.
What’s a typical day at Venturely look like?
This is a hard question to start off with because I don’t think I can come up with a “typical” day at Venturely. My best friend from high school, Yannick Schindler, and I started working on Venturely and developing the idea back when we were juniors in college. Recently, at the end of May, we both graduated from our schools. He attended The Colorado College in Colorado Springs, and I went to the University of San Diego.
A typical day, back when we were still students, was comprised of several hours of Skype, constant texting, and doing much of our development through online collaboration tools. It wasn’t conventional. I don’t think many startups have “conventional” work days or environments, but it truly feels like just now we are starting to live more of the normal startup life. I have moved to the Bay Area for the summer, and am working full time on Venturely from here. Yannick, is in Boston doing some networking and outreach for Venturely. So, we continue to build Venturely without being in the same office, but we have a lot more time.
How do you motivate yourself?
This is another tough one. We’ve spent many late nights working on developing Venturely, but when you are building something on your own, you realize you’re never going to be satisfied or finished. I think what really motivates us is talking to college entrepreneurs who find our idea helpful and the platform we have developed a beneficial tool.
Every time we are confronted by a college student who shares with us how Venturely is exactly the type of resource that has been missing from the college entrepreneurship scene, we feel incredibly satisfied and motivated to do even more. It motivates us to be [doing this interview], and to be given a chance by sources like KillerStartups to show what we’ve built to better the college entrepreneurship scene.
Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?
I don’t know how great this tip is, but at this point we live by it, and it’s to be resourceful. We are not one of those startups with multi-million dollar VC backing, so we have to make the most out of every single one of our resources. I did read and agree with something I read not too long ago that said something like this:
“To successfully bootstrap a startup, you must fail early.”
Since reading this I’ve really understood our mistakes to simply be opportunities to tailor Venturely to be what college entrepreneurs ultimately want it to be. It’s good to execute well, and get a product or prototype out there, and get early feedback and guidance. I think it’s easy to fail when you invest too much money and time into what you think is the perfect idea, and then it turns out you didn’t hit a homerun your first time. You have to be nimble.
In practice however, I would suggest exploring the comparative advantages of your team. Crowdsourcing on the web has allowed for lean startups to quickly and easily outsource menial yet crucial tasks which frees up the valuable time of the core team to focus on the main mission of the venture. We use a variety of web services to outsource work so that both Yannick and I can exploit our comparative advantage in developing the actual application and creating a strategy for its execution while not becoming tied up in day-to-day data entry for example.
We want to know about where you spend your day! What’s on your desk right now?
Two monitors. Two empty plastic water bottles. My phone (right next to the computer). Actually, this is funny, immediately to my right there is a picture of my dog wearing these things my girlfriend’s mom purchased called Doggles. A $100 in Free Advertising Google Ads card/coupon. My headphones. A lot of random paperwork and an award we received from a venture vetting competition at USD… I also have a Skype window open with my partner Yannick which is open throughout most of the day so we remain in contact. The most recent edition of Entrepreneur Magazine.
What entrepreneur do you admire?
Steve Jobs. I know this must be the most common answer you get, but can you blame me? His tenacity, and the confidence he always had in his vision, make him the epitome of an entrepreneur.
If you were given inside access to 2 Internet companies to invest in, which ones would you pick?
Scan and Pinterest. Pinterest for all the hype and high valuations companies like that are receiving, and Scan because I truly think the future of the Internet will be largely mobile. Scan seems to have a great team put together and a solution with few limitations. We’re really excited about Scan. They were one of the very first startups to join Venturely.
How would you like to be remembered?
As the guy who sent in the picture of the dog with the Doggles, and as a good friend and a good person by my family. I don’t think about being remembered for any of my entrepreneurial or professional accomplishments. I hope my own accomplishments fulfill me, and benefit society, but I certainly hope that’s not what I am remembered by. We do hope however that Venturely will be remembered as the application that moves collegiate entrepreneurship forward and integrates it with the national startup community.
What apps/sites/software do you use every day and can’t work without?
Skype. Freedcamp. Dropbox. Photoshop
Can you share what got your latest “WOW” moment was?
Lately, we’ve been constantly “WOWed” with the response we’ve received from incubators expressing their appreciation for Venturely. It was our plan all long to have the platform be beneficial for incubators trying to find the next big college startup idea, but we never expected to have such a great response this quickly. A couple months before graduating, we were also finalists at the Venture Vetting Competition at the University of San Diego. That was a big WOW!
My partner and co-founder, Yannick, is German, so I know he won’t be too excited with me mentioning this, BUT, aside from work and Venturely, my latest WOW moment was seeing Italy beat Germany (favorites to win) in the Euro soccer cup. It surprised many.
What kind of company would you start if someone gave you $1 million to launch a startup?
If I had to pick a different idea than what we are doing with Venturely, I would still pick something that had great interaction with a lot of people. Offering something beneficial to people, or that is useful to a large number of users fascinates me.
I like building things, and thinking about users interacting. I think mobile will keep growing extremely rapidly. At the end of the day, I keep coming back to finding ways to harness the creativity on campuses. As a recent graduate I witnessed the entrepreneurial ambition present at colleges and I think it is a force to be reckoned with. College students are great out-of-the-box thinkers which I think is a prerequisite to being a great entrepreneur. Young students are not afraid of challenging the status quo or dreaming up the wildest and most creative venture ideas.
A lot of people have big ideas. What gave you the confidence to actually put your life on hold and realize yours?
It’s always easier when you are venturing into something with your best friend. It makes it easier when you know you are supporting each other, and when you are constantly thinking of new ideas to implement, or why something worked (or didn’t), it’s great to have a partner to discuss things with (and stay sane).
I think what gives us the confidence is seeing that hard work in entrepreneurship is paying off. You read about successes all the time, and although those are the outliers most of the time, it still motivates one to work on something that could reach something so much higher than the typical career path. Then again, it might fail completely, but I think there’d be a lot more regrets if we hadn’t done this together, and later on wondered what it could have accomplished for college entrepreneurship.
No regrets. A lot of mistakes, which we have learned from extensively, and come to really appreciate. This goes with the quote I mentioned earlier: it is great to fail early. When bringing something to market you want to fail quickly and get over those hurdles rapidly. There really is no way to develop a perfect application in the first iteration and so you want to be entering a cycle of testing, feedback, and correction as soon as possible. Such a process involves mistakes and failures but committing these mistakes early allows you to develop a product that will ultimately be successful.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs struggling to get their business off the ground?
To keep working hard and persisting. If they are college students, to join Venturely, where we can help each other.
I also think it is important to be very critical of the service or product you are developing. When brainstorming new features, my partner and I often get carried away with lofty ideas of what we could add to Venturely to make it better. However, the best ideas, and in my opinion the most fruitful exercise we undertake, is trying to punch holes in the features we come up with. We aren’t afraid to debate for days or weeks about certain features so that when we come to an agreement or compromise we know that the feature has already been vetted thoroughly and has a larger chance of being something our users truly demand.
Can you share some numbers with us?
We’ve been live with our open Beta for close to two months now. We are still pre revenue, and a little too early in the process to feel comfortable with our numbers. Right now, we have a team of 4.
Where can our readers contact you?
Thanks, Gino! If you’re an Entrepreneurial Studies major, or just a student with the startup itch, Venturely has just given you a pretty awesome study guide.