This proprietary algorithm uses different metrics, and crunch data of more 30,000 companies to help you find the best startups in the country.
Payal Divakaran (bottom left) is the co-founder of SpotRocket, an online platform that helps you find the best and hottest startups in the country. Their proprietary algorithm uses different metrics, and crunch data of more 30,000 companies to bring you the best possible results.
Join us as she shares the story of her new startup, and also, some of the top mistakes she made along the way.
Q: Please tell us a little bit about your company – what is SpotRocket all about?
SpotRocket ranks 10,000+ private companies across the US to find the top-performing startups. Our algorithm uses data that investors currently use to gauge startup performance (investor pedigree, funding, web traffic, growth and more). Login is free and simple using a .edu email, Facebook, or Linkedin. The goal is to help students, in particular, to discover high-potential startups and provide them the information and resources that will help in their job search process such as company profile pages, links to the company’s website, and links to the company’s AngelList (startup job board) page.
Q: Please tell us a little bit about your background and how you started your company?
The company was started by 6 Harvard Business School students who are in their first years of the full-time MBA program. As part of the first year curriculum, students are required to work on an entrepreneurial venture to learn about and experience the lean startup model. The team had brainstormed for several weeks and come up with 2 ideas that they were very excited about. The group started on a path of building a wedding planning application for newly engaged couples. After thinking through the customer acquisition challenges of this venture, the team pivoted to the other idea, which was to provide startup rankings to students, a target market that no one was currently catering to. The startup was inspired by Sheryl Sandberg’s advice to Harvard MBAs in 2012: “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat, just get on.” SpotRocket helps users “spot the rocketships.”
Q: What are some of the projects you are working on right now?
Currently, we are working on getting feedback from our initial users to improve the website and its functionality. We just added in filters to help users better segment the companies they might be interested in. The companies can now be filtered by industry, funding, location, age, and employee size. Our next big project is to add functionality that allows users to share their discoveries with their friends and networks – we hope to create features over the next 2 weeks that will help increase the viral nature of the website and expand the user base.
Q: What are your plans for the future, how do you plan to grow this company?
Our user excitement has been beyond our expectations! We launched on April 15th and within 5 days of launch, we have had 442 user logins representing 99 different universities across the nation. Our goal is to expand this user base as quickly as possible. 1,000 student users is an important milestone for us because it is not only a target we set for ourselves, but we believe it will show a critical mass of students that will get startups, career services centers, and other students to evaluate our offering. We plan to grow the company by expanding into premium paid services for these constituents.
Q: What were the top 3 mistakes you made starting your business and what did you learn from it?
#1 mistake: given the time constraints of our course, we rushed into picking with of our top two ideas we wanted to pursue. We learned that the idea is not as important as is the ability to execute on the idea. The idea that we pivoted to has the arms and legs it needs to work within our contraints whereas the first one did not.
#2 mistake: This is not so much a mistake as something we are learning on an ongoing basis: how to pitch the startup and its value proposition. We continue to tighten up our language so that it is clear what the solution is, who it is serving, and why it matters. It is essential for the team to be on the same page about this message, and we feel we have done a good job of that.
#3 mistake: Sometimes our team can get caught up in all of the work, deadlines, and meetings that we forget to have fun! We learned that our team functions and delivers much better when we have levity, so make sure to add this to our routine. For example, we play a game at the end of every team meeting to leave things on a fun note.
Q: Please share some advice for new entrepreneurs, someone who’s just starting out.
The team construct can make a huge difference in the outcome of a new venture. We formed our team on the basis of complementary skills: a person with background in investing, marketing, coding, engineering, consulting, and accounting. This has proven to be very valuable as each of the co-founders has an important contribution and we have the skills we need for success once we come together as a team. We are also friends, which is really fun! I would encourage entrepreneurs to think carefully about who their co-founders are and whether they are poised with the skills needed to succeed.
Q: What was the best business advice you have ever received and who gave you this advice?
I learned something from a few years of being in growth private equity and sourcing investment opportunities: there are many scale companies pursuing the same idea in the same space, so in starting a company it’s not necessarily about whether it is a unique idea or not. The long-term and big scale winners are going to be those that execute and innovate best on the idea, unique or not. That mindset was really helpful to our team in deciding to launch this idea and having our eye on execution.
Q: What are the top 3 online tools and resources you’re currently using to grow your company?
Facebook ads for reach,
MailChimp for customer communication,
and Google analytics for our own analysis.
Q: What’s your definition of success?
We all wanted to build something we are proud of and that provided a real benefit to someone else. In that sense, we believe we have been successful so far. Looking ahead, success would entail us finding viable ways to start monetizing the user base.
Q: What are three books you recommend entrepreneurs to read?
Q: What is your favorite entrepreneurship quote?
Sheryl Sandberg’s quote is applicable to entrepreneurs and pursuing their ideas also:
“If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat, just get on.” – Sheryl Sandberg [Tweet this]
Q: How can our community get in touch with you?