Author Archive for raabeej1

Adam Pisoni – Dropout to Success Story

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Adam Pisoni dropped out of high school junior year because he “felt he wasn’t learning”. He enrolled directly into a local college, and within the first year knew he wanted to start his own business. After a few temporary projects, he moved to Los Angeles and launched Cnation at 19 years old. After investing his life into his company, it grew to 2 million dollars in sales with over 30 employees. However, with the dot com collapse in the early 2000’s, his online business crumbled. Pisoni was devastated, and moved to California. After working in a snowboard shop for a few years, he reentered the e-commerce business and eventually joined David Sacks, a well-connected founder of a variety of internet sites and early employer at PayPal, at his company Geni. Pisoni felt that Sacks valued him as an employee because of his ideation, and did not judge him for being a high school dropout. Eventually, Sacks had the idea for Yammer, a social media platform to facilitate communication within a company, and asked Pisoni to be its co-founder and CTO. After years of persistence, careful business moves, and steady growth, Yammer was acquired by Microsoft in a deal for 1.2 billion dollars.

Adam Pisoni’s story is especially inspiring, because it highlights his journey from relatively little to the fulfillment of his dreams of success. In his interview, Pisoni said that there was always the rational fear of failure, as well as the irrational fear of success as he ran his various businesses. He stressed the importance of making smart business moves based on careful thought and hypothesis testing, rather than always using the “go get em” attitude common to many entrepreneurs. His story also proves that individuals can do whatever they wish to achieve, provided they persist through and plan for failures, even if they may be a high school dropout.


Caroline Cook — MyYearbook

Catherine Cook

Catherine Cook and her siblings were star academics. Her older brother Geoff graduated from Harvard and sold his first business by the age of 24, which inspired her to start her own while still in high school. She was looking through her yearbook, and she realized the shortcomings of a hard copy yearbook, and the potential benefits if it was taken online. She and her younger brother, Dave, created an online yearbook site containing some aspects of a social media platform with the intent of connecting friends as well as people who don’t yet know one another. At first, MyYearbook was launched and advertised in their hometown of New Hope, Pennsylvania. After the site took off, Geoff Cook stepped in and invested a quarter of a million, becoming MyYearbook’s CEO. A year later, they had a million users and began seeking investments for major upscaling. Investors then gave them nearly 4.1 million in investments, and their business became a nationwide phenomenon, and one of the country’s 25 most trafficked websites. Last year, they merged with Quepasa in a 100 million dollar deal, and now hope to bring their company worldwide.

Catherine Cook’s story is inspiring, because she created the most prolific online yearbook site in the country while still attending school. In her interview, she said her grades slipped dramatically because she was spending so much time managing MyYearbook. She nearly lost credit in some of her classes she missed school so much. Luckily the school went easy on her and she could continue to juggle both until she graduated. This story shows the level of devotion to your idea that is necessary for success, as well as the speed at which an idea can go from a dream to a million dollar reality.

John Zimmer and Logan Green – Lyft

John Zimmer and Logan Green launched a company in 2007 called Zimride, which aimed at connecting people wishing to carpool with those that owned cars and were willing to drive. By 2012, Zimride closed carpooling network had been used by thousands of users, as well as 150 participating universities and companies. However, John Zimmer felt that the business still felt like it had a long way to go. To him, the goal was to connect people in such a way that would provide a full alternative to car ownership. At the time, Uber only was applied to a higher-class customer base, but Zimmer felt that he could create a product that can connect everyone. In 2012, Zimmer’s team then developed a mobile app that would revolutionize the way people and drivers can connect with one another and would increase the frequency of ride sharing. Lyft was founded shortly afterward, and the company is now worth 11 billion, and is providing a ride sharing alternative to Uber to customers around the world.

The story of Lyft started out as a side project for John Zimmer and his partner Logan Green. Neither took a salary for the first few years of Zimride, both slept in their “apartment-office”, eating microwaveable meals while building their company. Zimmer had a vision for his idea, and kept working to bring that vision to fruition. Even with a competitor as notorious as Uber, Zimmer created a business that can compete and stand on its own, bringing ride-sharing into the mainstream.

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Nick D’Aloisio — Summly

Nick D’Aloisio hasn’t even turned 18, and is already a millionaire. At age 12, D’Aloisio taught himself to code after the release of Apple’s App Store. After making a series of apps such as Facemood and SongStumblr, he thought of the idea for an app that can revise and trim down full size articles and pages of text into less than 500 word summaries after studying for a history exam. It would distill down this text into more manageable summaries for use on smartphone screens as well. He called this app Trimit, and it quickly caught the eye of a Hong-Kong venture capital firm, which invested a quarter million in the idea. This attracted a number of other investors, and after improving the app and working with content publishers such as the Wall Street Journal, he released the Summly app which has now surpassed 1 million downloads. Shortly thereafter, he sold his smartphone news app to Yahoo for a reported $30-million.

Nick’s story is an inspiring one, because it shows that even a kid can be successful by learning the skills necessary to create an idea and then making an innovative product. When interviewed about advice for those thinking of starting a business or launching their own app, he said “just do it”. He created a successful business worth millions and is now working for Yahoo, all while still attending school during the day.

Mark Winograd—NuLabel

Mark Winograd and two fellow graduates of Brown University, Ben Lux and Mike Woods, founded NuLabel in 2009 out of a capstone project that looked to eliminate the need for “always-sticky” glue on shipping labels, following the advice of a professor who worked at a label company. NuLabel produces activatable adhesive labels that are only sticky when you want them to be, eliminating the need for wasteful backing paper. The labels are dry to the touch before being activated using a water based spray. This product can save both small and large businesses significant amounts of extra cost, waste, hassle and production delays. It is estimated that every million traditional labels produces over a ton of backing paper waste. NuLabel eliminates this waste entirely, while delivering a more efficient version of the ubiquitous shipping label that drives our modern world. Mark Winograd’s idea of NuLabel shows that a multi-million dollar idea can originate out of an already so well established product such as the shipping label. It also shows how an already well established product can be further simplified and made into a new business idea that disrupts the industry.


Gabe Blanchet and Jamie Byron—Grove Ecosystem

the grove ecosystem launches a kickstarter for its indoor garden a27a4805

Gabe Blanchet and Jamie Byron were roommates and seniors at MIT. Both were concerned about one of the most threatening problems that we as humans face on this earth today; global food unsustainability. As this was frequently on his mind, Jamie decided to build a DIY aquaponics prototype in the room he shared with Gabe, capturing the attention of many visitors of their room. This prototype would eventually become the idea for a brand called Grove Labs. Grove Labs is a company that produces nearly self-sustaining indoor aquaponics gardens in your home. One such product is the Grove Ecosystem, capable of growing substantial yields of vegetables and herbs, frequently up to a salad per day. The entire fertilization, filtration, hydration, and feeding system is contained within the area of a single bookshelf, utilizing an aquarium of fish and LED lights to allow the plants to grow. Since its inception, Grove Ecosystem has raised nearly half a million on Kickstarter.

Gabe and Jamie’s story is interesting, because it shows how something unique can be created out of passion for a particular subject. In this case, they felt strongly about food sustainability, and brainstormed a product that can answer many of the problems in this subject by creating a self-sustaining home ecosystem. In addition, I appreciate their innovation with this product, as they have taken two concepts (the home and the garden) which are inherently separate and distinct, and merged them into something greater that they are passionate about.



Fever Smart – Colin Hill, Aaron Goldstein

In 2012, Colin Hill was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma right as he was about to start college at the University of Pennsylvania. Hill had to undergo extensive chemotherapy treatments, leaving him susceptible to life threatening infections, and a constant need to monitor his temperature to detect these infections as soon as possible. He would check his temperature consistently throughout the day, but at night, this became difficult. One night before he went to bed he had a normal temperature reading, but hours later he woke up with a dangerously high fever and was sent to the emergency room to treat the infection that he did not detect during the night.

He and other U Penn students, William Duckworth, Aaron Goldstein, and Becca Goldstein, began thinking of a solution to this problem. They developed Fever Smart, a smart device that constantly monitors the wearer’s body temperature, sends alerts to a smartphone/tablet/etc. via Bluetooth, as well as uploads the data to the cloud for access anywhere in the world. The device is only 32 mm long and is worn comfortably under the armpit. Although the hospital applications of Fever Smart are wide ranging, Fever Smart is marketed toward parents who want a way to effectively monitor their child’s temperature all throughout the night or when they are not present. Within months, they had a working prototype as well as FDA approval on the device. After an Indiegogo campaign for manufacturing funds raised 75% of its $40,000 goal in the first 24 hours, and then exceeded their goal with $65,000 raised, they launched Fever Smart in January of 2015.

Colin Hill and his group of entrepreneurs identified a significant problem through his own medical experiences, and the insight that those experiences gave them allowed them to formulate an innovative solution. None of the students had any medical background, and yet created a product that was a winner of Entrepreneur Magazine 2014, and can be utilized in the entirety of the medical field to improve healthcare. Fever Smart is just another example of a good idea coming from your personal experiences.