Uncategorized

From Chandigarh to Silicon Valley: DU Welcomes Co-Founder of FuturEd to the Summer 2015 Class

May 27, 2015 -- The Times of India featured a profile on Sahil Dewan this week, an entrepreneur who will join the Draper University Summer 2015 class.  Sahil works in edu-tech. He co-founded FuturEd in 2012, a  comprehensive service to establish alumni networks for Indian learning institutions. FuturEd offers training, consulting, and network management for schools where a strong alumni community is not yet in place. Sahil strives to fill a gap he identifies in the Indian education system, where many institutions struggle to sustain interaction with alumni once they've graduated. He sees untapped fundraising opportunities for these institutions, and hopes that by facilitating stronger alumni networks he can facilitate stronger schools overall. Already, FuturEd works with a number of institutions, including the University Institute of Engineering and Technology, Panjab University, and the Indian School of Business.

Sahil seeks entrepreneurship know-how and potentially funding from his time at DU. He hopes to bring the spirit of Silicon Valley back to his home of Chandigarh, telling the Times, "If programs like Draper University can be conceptualized and launched in India, the startup ecosystem will start developing at the grassroots level and will not just be limited to the top startups working in the hot spaces in metro cities... We need experienced entrepreneurs and investors to bridge this climate for aspiring and young students, who are starting to get excited with the idea of entrepreneurship."

We're happy to welcome Sahil to our intensive program. Without a doubt, he'll return to Chandigarh with the resources and the acumen to create long-term value in the education sector. Read the Times article on FuturEd here.

 

DU Alum Plans to Shake Up the NYC Housing Market with HomeSwipe

May 26, 2015 -- Michael Lisovetsky, member of our 2014 summer class, was featured in Business Insider and ED News Daily this week for a startup idea that's set to rock the NYC housing market. Michael is co-founder of the app, HomeSwipe, dubbed "Tinder for apartment hunting." The app uses the swipe interface popularized by Tinder to connect house-hunters with realtors. Users can swipe through New York apartment listings based on their preferences and chat directly with realtors if they're interested in a property. Michael, 22, attended Draper University while studying business at NYU. At DU, Michael was introduced to a flurry of "Tinder for X" ideas, but he wasn't fully sold on the utility of the swipe platform. He asked friend-turned-business partner, Dean Soukeras, what the swipe model could facilitate besides dating. Soukeras, a seasoned NYC entrepreneur, promptly suggested "real-estate," and HomeSwipe was born.

Michael and Soukeras sought a tech whiz to build the app and sent out a blast on Facebook. They struck gold with a response from Jason Marmon, a talented teen coder who would eventually drop out of high school to focus on HomeSwipe full time. Once the partnership was formed, they needed seed financing. Naturally, Michael reached out to Tim Draper, who was so impressed with the HomeSwipe prototype he agreed to invest.

Michael (left) and Jason (right)

Tim urged Michael and his co-founders to raise their seed round to $500,000. They started strong, but plateaued at $400,000. The HomeSwipe team returned to Tim, who set them up with an introduction to Marc Benioff. This was the final push they needed. Benioff's interest was piqued, and he agreed to bump up their funding to the requisite amount.

Soukeras worked with New York City realtors to build a customer base for the app. In effect, it will charge realtors a small transaction fee to chat with interested parties. The app will begin exclusively in New York, but the team has plans to expand to Chicago. With the apartment hunting process in Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs notoriously difficult, there is already a huge demand for the app. Since it's gone live, HomeSwipe represents 85% of available NYC real estate, boasts 47,000 downloads, and is supported by 2,200 real estate agents.

Michael credits his success to DU. Not only was he granted the networking opportunities that got HomeSwipe off the ground, but also the team building skills that come with experiential learning. He told ED News Daily, "The $150k+ price tag on my education could’ve been funneled a lot more effectively towards practical learning, and Draper U is an excellent example of that. I learned more about myself and the world in the seven weeks at Draper U than the four years of university I drudged through.”

Michael is a great example of a student who took full advantage of DU's resources to launch a meaningful venture. The HomeSwipe team will hit Sand Hill Road this week to secure more investors, and with all the app's promise, success seems inevitable. Read more on these accomplished young founders, and the full story of HomeSwipe's evolution at  Business Insider.

Draper University Alum and Ex-Skyper Launches Virtual Whiteboard Tool Deekit

May 12, 2015 — Kaili Kleemeier, member of the Draper University Fall 2014 online class, just launched Deekit: a virtual whiteboard to aid remote teams with research and development. Kaili is a former operations manager at Skype, and she drew from her experience there to design Deekit. Kaili recalls the struggle to collaborate with coworkers in different offices. After the unsuccessful search for a virtual tool that would allow them a visual brainstorm session, Kaili and her cofounders created exactly that product.

Deekit is a virtual whiteboard with screen sharing capabilities where users can sketch, chat, and build models together all in real time. Deekit comes with sophisticated templates for projects like blueprints or flowcharts, and boards can be shared or saved for future reference. Kaili claims that the standout element of Deekit is its simplicity. Deekit is formulated for ease of use with intuitive features and straightforward tools.

The Deekit team hopes to revolutionize online education with the platform. With extensive interactive capabilities, Deekit allows students to participate in lectures rather than simply listen to them, and already they've had success using the tool to teach 7-10 year olds programming. Deekit has been in private beta for over a year, and launched publicly on the 7th of May. With over 350 users in 21 countries, they are sure to see rapid growth in a market where global collaboration is increasingly commonplace.

Read the TechCrunch profile on Deekit here, and an interview with the team on Wired UK, where Deekit was featured as startup of the week!

 

Women and Entrepreneurship: Thoughts on Closing the Startup Gender Gap

Women EntrepreneurNovember 24, 2014 – It’s an open secret that Silicon Valley, despite its success as an incubator of innovation, is not getting an A+ for its encouragement of women as entrepreneurs. A recent rash of bad press has hit the Valley, with prestigious companies like Google and Facebook taking a hit vis-a-vis their gender inequities. A recent Senate Report painted a rather grim picture of how far Silicon Valley needs to go to close the Startup Gap. One focus: access to venture capital and funding.

Is Education on Entrepreneurship the Answer?

Education is often positioned as the answer to discrimination, and it certainly is part of the solution. But the puzzling fact is that women now compete quite well, thank you very much, in the educational arena with many top schools like Harvard, Stanford, and UC Berkeley reporting sharp increases in their female populations (admittedly not as much in key areas like computer science, programming and other STEP areas).

But education isn’t an end in itself, and at Draper University our philosophy is very hands-on, very practical. Which brings us back to funding. Are women taught how to present to Venture Capitalists? Are women taught how to “pitch” their ideas for capital? This isn’t a skill widely taught in business and marketing programs across the country, and in fact, many women entrepreneurs may be out of college, or have majored in a subject that wasn’t business. Draper University is focused on addressing that gap: providing a gender equal, equal access, “crash course” in entrepreneurship, which includes the mysterious topic of how to pitch one’s ideas to venture capitalists. Practical training is certainly part of the solution to closing the female gender gap.

Famous Draper University Female Alumni Entrepreneurs

In fact, we at Draper University can proudly point to some very famous alumni. For example, there’s Surbhi Sarna, whose start up nVision Medical focuses on early detection of ovarian cancer.

Collete Davis of TechDrive, a startup focusing on the intersection of technology and transportation and Kerstin Karu, of BlastBuzz, which is a social media service to amplify "buzz." So we have quite a diversity in former alumni... But what's even more important is the future alumni, both male and female, that we are "growing" at Draper University. The first step towards closing the gender gap in entrepreneurship starts with education, especially education that is open to anyone - before, during, or after - their "formal" education. Practicality knows no sex, and the point is to teach women to pitch their ideas (among other things to learn) in such a way that their ideas gain equal footing with their male counterparts. Success in the marketplace, after all, should be gender neutral.