Introduce yourself! Tell us about where you go to school, where you have worked in the past and where you are this summer? (If it’s a small company, tell us what they do)
I am Paraj Mathur, a senior at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA. I am a business and computer science double major and I passionate about problem solving and startups. In the past, I have spent my summers at the Summer Business Scholars program at the University of Chicago Booth Graduate School of Business, consulting at PwC Consulting, and at various startups like Jetinsight and RoomStory.
This summer, I started my own tech startup – SimplyStow. We are building a peer to peer online marketplace for storage. We hated the entire self-storage experience and so our mission at SimplyStow is to make storage delightful and hassle-free.
SimplyStow – www.simplystow.com
Twitter – https://twitter.com/SimplyStow
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/simplystow/
Anchor Podcast – https://anchor.fm/simply-startup
Product Hunt Upcoming Page – https://www.producthunt.com/upcoming/simplystow
How did we start?
We are college students and moving out of our dorms at the end of semester, meant that we had to look for self-storage. After multiple bad experiences, we decided it was time to bring self-storage into the 21st century. We started as a GroupMe group, matching people with extra space with people looking for storage. When our groupme became too popular we know we had to build a dedicated product.
How did we prepare to be startup founders and entrepreneurs?
Our team is very diverse with unique experiences and backgrounds. As the CEO, I utilized my business education to craft a business model, and go-to-market strategy. In addition, I was responsible for the product and VC fundraising. My partner handles all our outreach – customers, marketing, and PR.
We spent a lot of time learning. We talked with a lot of experienced entrepreneurs, professionals, and venture capital veterans. In addition, we had the opportunity to be a part of Y-Combinator’s Startup School. There we got an amazing opportunity to learn from a global network of founders and YC alumni. Finally, we read a lot. In the early days, we were reading 2 books a week, each. We realized that we had to overcome our inexperience with a relentless pursuit of knowledge and agile adaptability.
What are some of the big challenges we faced?
A big challenge for startup founders in college, is time management. Between classes, extra-curricular activities, and spending time with friends, your company might tend to take a back seat.
Therefore it is of the utmost importance to continually evaluate and optimize your schedule. We found that my constantly optimizing and improving our scheduling, our productivity increased manifold, which allowed us to achieve a lot more, faster.
Second, it is hard to raise money with a young founding team from a non-target school.
However, people are always willing to give advice. Make up for your lack of experience by learning from some of the industry’s leaders.
Finally, culture is a big challenge. We have spent consciously spent time discussing our personal and company values and aligning our goals as a company.
What kind of work culture are you trying to build?
We are trying to build a culture centered around excellence and customer delight. We are trying to disrupt an industry which has internalized terrible customer experiences. However, through every action, we want to create delight for the customer. We are making our customers a big part in our decision making process.
Most memorable moment –
When we tested our alpha on the first day of external testing. It was scary. It was the first time any of our customers would use the product. We had chosen five of them and when it was time to hand them the product, we were so paranoid. ‘What if they hate it’, ‘What if it is nothing like they wanted’
However, we had deliberately involved the customer in our product development process to ensure our product exceeds expectations. Our testers, loved the product and gave us some key feedback. It was a great learning experience for us running our first usability test.
Unique Moment –
A big moment for us was when we launched on Product Hunt Upcoming. Product Hunt is the top website for startup/product discovery and it was an opportunity for us to showcase our work in front of the top early adopters and influencers.
Now, a Product Hunt Launch is a big deal for early stage companies and products. We had to create a detailed marketing and social media push 24 hours prior to our launch and create a well-oiled machinery to push our product all day. It was exhausting, yet really fulfilling.