This startup is aiming to improve alumni engagement by connecting alumni with current students, and therefore also setting students up for success after graduation.
Eghosa (Iggy) Aihie is the Co-Founder and Head of Business for Alumnify. Their aim is to improve alumni engagement by connecting alumni with current students, and therefore also setting students up for success after graduation.
Beyond creating lifelong connections for alumni and students, he has some great business insight to share with entrepreneurs.
Q: Please tell us a little bit about your company – what is Alumnify all about?
Alumnify is an alumni engagement platform that helps organizations keep their alumni involved. Our platform gives both students and clubs the ability to raise money from university alumni and other supporters through university affiliated networks. Alumni and supporters can help fund one-time campaigns, give subscription donations, and engage with other alumni and current students at their alma maters. Our key focus is to help students and alumni bridge the graduation gap and get into communication with one another.
Q: Please tell us a little bit about your background and how you started your company?
My background is in business development and accounting. In 2011, after my sophomore year in college, I did an internship with Ernst & Young in San Francisco. During that summer, I had the opportunity to work on auditing projects with different tech companies in Silicon Valley. The experience was great, but I knew deep down in my heart that I wanted to pursue finance and auditing for my own tech company. The following fall, I linked up with a college colleague and now co-founder AJ Agrawal. At the time, AJ had been launching a social media platform for Universities called CampusPull. I took some of the skills I learned during the internship and jumped on, working on business development. After much customer feedback, we came up with Alumnify in August of this year.
Q: What are some of the projects you are working on right now?
We have been making the transaction from our original idea, Greekpull, which was an exclusive crowdfunding platform for Fraternities and Sororities. On the development side we have been working on building the first version of the Alumnify platform that we are planning to launch at the end of January 2014. Additionally, we have been setting up meetings with universities to become a part of our beta test.
Q: What are your plans for the future, how do you plan to grow this company?
Our plan for the near future is to work as closely as possible with our early adopters. It’s imperative we collect data and get as much feed back as possible. The beta phase is the best time to figure out what is working and what we can improve on. Overall this will allow us to build a platform that will be a solution for the lack of alumni engagement nationwide. We plan to grow our company by getting consistent feedback from our customers and recruiting dedicated, innovative talent. In the last two months, we have added four passionate and hardworking individuals to the team. Since then, the company has been rapidly moving forward.
Q: What were the top 3 mistakes you made starting your business and what did you learn from it?
The top 3 mistakes we made when starting our business included starting a business without customer validation, starting a business without any domain expertise, and not preparing ourselves for things to go wrong. After spending a substantial amount of time and money on development for a product we never used, we realized having a cool idea doesn’t always make a good or great business. Therefore, you must base your product/service on the needs and wants of your customers. It is most important to make the effort to speak with clients face-to-face in order to found out what they value.
Next, without some expertise in the industry, many entrepreneurs become limited and reliant on outsourcing like we where during our early stages. My partner and I would get extremely frustrated when developers we contracted with wouldn’t deliver a product that we had imagined and expected. If you want something done you need to do it yourself. My partner joined a coding boot camp in Silicon Valley where he learned to code and can now properly assess and evaluate programmers’ coding as opposed to assuming everything is fine. There have been many situations when we were certain something great was going to happen but doesn’t workout the way we planned. It’s important not to get emotions involved and hope for the best but prepare for the worst.
Q: Please share some advice for new tech entrepreneurs, someone who’s just starting out.
The best advice I can give to new tech entrepreneurs is to build and develop a mindset of not giving up and establish mentor relationships with successful individuals in your market or field. The life of entrepreneurs is very unstable, as we have learned from experience. One day you are having a call with an investor that is ready to write you a check the next he/she backs out and you have to sleep in the office to save money. Nothing is guaranteed, but through all the adversity it is important to remain positive and keep on striving for success. If being an entrepreneur were easy everyone would be one.
My next piece of advice is to find people who have successfully achieved what you hope to, and build a mentor relationship with them. As entrepreneurs, there are tons of moments when you don’t have the answers or don’t know what to do next. Mentors are great when dealing with bumps during your journey; they were once in your situation and can advise you on how to move forward and overcome obstacles.
Q: What was the best business advice you have ever received and who gave you this advice?
My college football coach, Jerome Pathon, gave me the best business advice: “Always visualize yourself achieving your goals.” He constantly stressed the importance of applying visualization exercise with all of your goals. From making a touchdown catch to seeing yourself dominating a pitch presentation and receiving an investment for your company. Visualization is the next foundation becoming more detailed orientated when visualizing seeing every step it took to get there. Then repeating each step in your head. This train of thought starts to evolve unconsciously because that is the only thing your brain sees and knows.
Q: What are the top 3 online tools and resources you’re currently using to grow your company?
The three online tools and resources I use to help grow our company are LinkedIn, Asana, and Stanford E-corner.
LinkedIn is the bread and butter for creating mentor relationship that I mentioned earlier. Everyone you could possibly want to reach out to in the business world is just a click away. Even if you don’t know the individual personally, it doesn’t hurt trying to connect with them; you never know how/if they can use their experience to help with problems you are facing.
Asana is also a great tool when working on a startup with multiple people; communication within the team is key! It’s hard to take advantage of time when everyone on your team isn’t on the same page. Asana allows you to organize task and assignments within the team keeping everyone updated and realizable.
Stanford E-corner is great to watch when taking a break from your business. E-corner is a series of recorded presentations on some of the top tech entrepreneurs in the world from Mark Zuckerburg to Jack Dorsey. You may not have the opportunity to build a mentor relationship with these individuals, but it’s great to take notes on their experiences and what they did to be successful.
Q: What’s your definition of success?
My definition of success is making dreams into realities and helping many people along the way. Everyone dreams and when we do, we usually dream about what we want to achieve or accomplish. For the most part, there is a big gap between our dreams and our realities. The journey of closing that gap and making your dream a reality demonstrates success in my eyes. For me, the ability to make at least one person’s life easier means what we have accomplished is great and the hard work we have put in was worth it.
Q: What are three books you recommend entrepreneurs to read?
I recommend reading the book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People“. This book helps you become more effective in all aspects of life. It helps reevaluate the way one looks at situations effectively.
Next is “The Outliers“. This is a great book about the journey and struggles of a success.
Last but not least is “Your Network is your Net Worth” by Porter Gale. Oprah Winfrey quotes the book saying, “surround yourself with people that will lift you higher”. This is an especially valuable tool in today’s networking world. This book teaches you the ins and outs on how to network and establish relationships based on your interests and goals.
Q: What is your favorite entrepreneurship quote?
My favorite entrepreneur quote comes from Henry Ford, which states,
“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.. As a person you have the choice to do or accomplish anything you want. At the same time if you tell yourself you can’t you are right because you want make an effort to make it happen”.
The reason I cherish this quote so much is because as simple as it may be, you have the choice to do and be anything you want. Always remember that you control your own destiny. Think positive, work hard, and it can be done, no matter how much of a challenge it seemed initially.
Q: How can our community get in touch with you?