Our guests today are both 2nd year MBA students at Darden who founded their start-up at the beginning of their MBA program. We’ll learn more in a minute, but a little background first. Maximilian Huc graduated from Princeton in 2013 with a BA in sociology. Outside of class, he started his first start-up called My Grade Zone Points, and has basically been a serial entrepreneur. Sam Boochever graduated from Cornell in 2011 with a bachelors in applied economics and management. He worked for Allscripts for several years and then started his own company in March 2015. In Oct. 2015, shortly after starting at Darden, Max and Sam co-founded 1Degree. Welcome, Max and Sam!
What is 1Degree App? [1:40]
It allows people to connect one-on-one with celebrities, athletes, etc – we call them “influencers” – that influence their lives. This doesn’t exist in the market today, where most celebrity-fan interaction is one-sided (such as Instagram, etc). We’re trying to take it a step further and allow people to connect with their favorite influencer.
The way it works is that people follow the influencer. The influencer offers the option of bidding on a two-minute, face-to-face video chat. People bid on the conversation. The celebrities can either keep the money or donate it to their favorite charity. Afterward, the celeb has the option to follow up with the auction winner after the chat.
What’s the backstory? [3:55]
We were paired as roommates when we got to Darden. We ran across the story about an individual who paid the rapper Meek Mill $2000 to take a selfie with him. We thought it was amazing how much people were willing to go out of their way to access the people who influence their lives, and the idea was born.
How’s it going? Are the influencers volunteering/participating? [5:00]
It’s going well! We’ve had influencers reach out to us even before the app was in the app store. We’re getting interest from various industries – entrepreneurship, fashion, sports. And it’s international.
Can you give an example of someone who’s participated? [6:40]
Robby Hayes, the runner up on the Bachelorette last year, offered a conversation. Our Darden classmates were bidding and were really excited – it was cool to see people who’d watched the show together every week having fun with it.
Are people doing it for fun, connections, star worship, advice… ? [7:45]
All the above! It cuts across demographics and industries.
What about the motivations of the influencers? Are they mainly looking to build their social media presence, raise money for charity, reach out to fans, or are there other reasons? [8:25]
Again, all of the above. It depends on their industry. Some people use it to humanize the fan relationship.
We’re hosting a pitch event at SXSW where people can use the platform to pitch, so it really depends on the influencer.
Did you know you wanted to start a business when you arrived at Darden? [10:30]
Sam: I applied to business school wanting to do healthcare consulting, but I realized I wanted to work for myself, and when I met Max and we developed the idea for this company, it took off.
Max: I always had an entrepreneurial itch. I knew I wanted to be part of a startup eventually. I came to Darden to see what the corporate world had to offer – but when we had this idea it clicked. I wouldn’t say I went to b-school to create a startup. Putting two entrepreneurial minds in close proximity, we kicked ideas around.
You wrote an article in Forbes about the pros and cons of starting a business during b-school. What are the pros and cons? [14:40]
Sam: We realized we were having a different experience in b-school than our classmates – forgoing the recruiting and a lot of social and extracurricular events in favor of working on the startup. The cons are: the time needed to work on the business. MBA recruiting starts the minute you step on campus, and forgoing that process takes a leap of faith. There’s a trade-off – choosing what to do with your time.
Max: And the pros are: the network. We got a ton of intros from our professors to potential investors, customers, etc. And we got extensive feedback on our business plan from very smart people.
Another pro is having the freedom to work a business plan – we could travel on weekends. The school schedule gave more flexibility. It helped us get to where we’re at.
Are you glad you started the company during b-school? [18:51]
Absolutely, and it’s our full-time plan on graduation.
And are you glad you’re getting the MBA? [19:20]
Absolutely. I’ve made lifelong friends, created a network, and met my business partner.
Has Darden met your expectations? [20:15]
Sam: I came to Darden specifically because of the case method. It’s absolutely met my expectations. The teachers go so far out of their way to help.
The thing that surprised me is the community. I know everyone’s name, everyone offers to help.
Max: I’ve had a very similar experience. Our classmates really champion each other. Even during recruiting, when people are competing, you see people want the best for each other.
What could be improved? [22:55]
Sam: Darden really listens to its students when we come to them with suggestions for improvement. We went to them and asked to get entrepreneurship started earlier in the MBA process. Now they’re working on programs to get entrepreneurial programs started before the curriculum starts – as soon as students arrive on campus.
What is the impact of Darden’s location? [24:40]
Max: It’s a very tight-knit community. You don’t get lost in the hustle and bustle of a big city. And that also lets you bond with your classmates. You get to know everyone, which is not necessarily the case at bigger programs in bigger cities.
Sam: Charlottesville is a growing hub of investment, but since it’s smaller, we could get meetings with everyone. And it’s beautiful!
What will you miss? [27:15]
Sam: My classmates.
Max: The same. And our professors, who we’ve built good relationships with.
Looking back to when you applied, what was the hardest part of the application process? [28:55]
Sam: The essays. A lot of them are pretty similar – writing about yourself – but writing introspectively is challenging. I interviewed my friends about who they thought I was, and that was helpful – it’s a tip I would recommend.
Max: It’s difficult to summarize yourself in a 500 word essay – your motivations, accomplishments, faults – and to set yourself apart from other students. I went through a ton of iterations!
Sam: Start early! It’s not something you can do a week before the application is due. Consultants are great, they can give you an outside look.
What was the most memorable interview question you were asked? [32:30]
Sam: “What would you do if you don’t get into b-school?”
I was so in the zone of answering questions about my b-school goals that it put me on my heels.
Max: It wasn’t in my Darden interview, but I was asked “What is your biggest fault?” They wanted me to show introspection.
What are your tips for MBA applicants, especially those considering an entrepreneurial career? [35:30]
1. Go to classes. It’s the best way to understand the personality of a school, and you’ll be shocked how quickly you decide whether you like the school.
2. Talk to people. Students are candid. They’re not on the payroll and they’ll tell you about their experience.
Max: If your goal is to start a business at b-school, then do a lot of thinking beforehand about why you want to do that, as opposed to just starting the company and then going to b-school later (or just forgoing it altogether). The reason I say that is the opportunity cost of not taking advantage of all b-school can offer (recruiting, activities) – it doesn’t always make sense. In our case, it happened to work. So I would say, give it a lot of thought.
Any last insights? [38:00]
Max: It’s really hard to create a business while getting an MBA. I wouldn’t take it back.
Sam: I agree. It’s difficult and emotionally challenging. Everyone knows us as the 1Degree guys – both when things are going well and when they’re going badly. It wouldn’t be possible to do this on my own.
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