During my 2012 Ready, FIRE! Aim entrepreneurship course at NYU, I told my class that, rather than donating my teaching salary back to NYU, I would use it to fund a business started in the class. The final selection of the winner was a very difficult decision that came down to two businesses. The terms of the investment were simple: don’t waste my money and don’t waste my time. The students who won were outstanding and quickly got down to building their business. They would not draw my money until they were confident that they had a business they wanted to pursue and where they felt that they could succeed. After several months, they decided that they could not build what they envisioned and they disbanded before taking my money.
It would have been incredibly easy for them to take the money, screw around and fail. They viewed the commitment of taking an investor’s money so seriously that they refused when they felt that they could not live up to the obligation. These students are incredibly talented and will be superstars in the industry one day. I was once told that the definition of integrity is doing the right thing when nobody is looking. These students did the right thing and I will always write a check for their future businesses because I know I can trust them.
But now it gives me a chance to award the prize again to a business that has been making incredible progress since the original concept left my class a year ago. I am awarding my investment to Hublished, a community for businesses and professionals to share and discover webinars and other business content. Content marketing is becoming an increasingly important market and Hublished has an interesting approach. Ben Borodach founded the company and Ryan Kuhel from my class used the business as his project. Ben had two other co-founders from Rutgers (a great inter-university collaboration!), Nis Frome and Yair Aviner who really made this team outstanding. The product has been in development for 12 months and will soon go into Beta. Since the class ended, they have kept focus and have kept growing their business despite setbacks and obstacles. Already they have raised $130,000 from angel investors and have established partnerships with Rutgers and the IP law firm Fish and Richardson who are using the platform. It’s early, but Ben and his team can build something great. In addition to winning my teaching salary, I will torture them as a member of their advisory board. I am really excited to see how this company grows.
As for the salary from my 2013 class, I have not invested it yet. There are two companies with whom I have discussed a funding, but I want to see how they both progress down the path of viability. I hope they can demonstrate the same drive, focus and tenacity as Hublished has!