Startup Mind: Playing the Role of UnderDog

So yesterday I had had the opportunity to talk about IntelliGrad in front of some venture capitalists (‘VCs’). These are guys who have lots of money and use it to start companies that they hope to sell, thereby adding more money to their current millions. Now don’t get me wrong – some VCs are amazing and truly are heroes, others, well, they’re just not that cool.

So why did I agree to present? Well, I am in no way interested in selling IntelliGrad. However, I thought the experience of talking about our company and getting some exposure and feedback was a great idea.

So I had 5 minutes to present“ I did what any good MBA student would do“ I created a PowerPoint. When I arrived I learned that two of the Venture Capitalists in attendance had ownership or connection to two companies operating in our space. The biggest of them was Blackboard who you may know offers course management software. Blackboard in my opinion“ I am a user of it for all my classes“ is boring, dull, complicated, etc

Anyway at the conclusion of my presentation this ‘unnamed’ VC looks at me and says ‘Nice presentation Sam but you are NAIVE., you will have a hard time succeeding because this space is owned by major competitors.’ Well, we’ll see about that! Now Blackboard may go out and try and copy all of the cool features I mentioned in the presentation, but the bottom line is that IntelliGrad offers something that is completely unique. They may go and try to copy us, but they won’t succeed.

The key difference is that Blackboard is focused on the process“ how to get from point A to point B. They are also more concerned with helping administrators and teachers for creating efficiently run classes during the school year. Great. Blackboard, like offers their social network as 1 of like 15 offerings (consulting services, job boards, alumni home pages, etc ). IntelliGrad focuses exclusively on networking and community engagement.

Furthermore, IntelliGrad is about user experience. We actually care about looks, design, ease of use, and most importantly YOU“ the user. We constantly ask for feedback (I am doing so now ) so that we can create a product that will really help students and alumni to achieve their dreams.

Anyway after the presentation, despite ‘Mr. Blackboards’ nasty comments we got a ton of praise ‘Your product sounds so cool’, ‘You guys are doing something great’“ I didn’t bother to try and justify my product to Mr. Blackboard. Instead, when we are really helping graduates succeed and IntelliGrad is being used by many schools“ Mr. Blackboard might re-think exactly who was really the ‘naive person’ last night.



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