Last year, I embarked on a journey to further my knowledge of entrepreneurship and data science at Cornell Tech. I chose this program because of its emphasis on fostering innovation while preparing future technology leaders. So far, it exposed me to a diverse group of smart and driven like-minded tech enthusiasts who continuously inspire me to expand my horizons. Since its inception in 2012, Cornell Tech incubated several startups, including Airbud, an AI startup that recently raised $4 million in seed funding.
This sprint semester, the main task in the startup studio class is to develop and pitch a business venture. At the end of the program, the faculty will vote on their favorite startup, which the university will help grow both financially and resourcefully. Therefore, coming up with a compelling business idea can potentially kickstart a new career as a startup founder. To optimize my chances of creating a viable product, I have decided to focus on the PropTech industry, where I have the most experience.
During my undergrad years, I focused my studies on courses and activities that would guarantee a successful career in banking. I started my professional career as a trading analyst for a reputable security brokage firm. However, everything changed after just a few months on the job.
Following a software glitch that led to a loss of more than $450 million on the trading floor, I became skeptical about having a fulfilling career focusing on just finance and banking. So, I decided to pivot and increase my understanding of technology. At the end of the summer of 2013, three months after starting my dream career, I quit the job to work as a software consultant for a small financial services firm. Eventually, I landed a product management gig at the largest CMBS and CRE data provider. During my time as a product manager, I collaborated with lenders, investors, brokers, and regulators to build various cashflow analyses and risk assessment solutions. After six years of working in the FinTech industry in New York, I realized that I lacked some crucial skills in machine learning and business development, which sparked the interest in Cornell Tech.
My plan for this semester:
I have teamed up with another ORIE and an MBA student to explore potential business ventures. Our team’s name is Tankwa Town. Throughout this semester, we plan to interview different real estate market participants, including property owners/managers, renters, and CRE service providers, to learn more about the industry landscape. The goal is to identify recurring themes and problems that we can help solve by building products and features around them. The Cornell Tech faculty, made of proven tech innovators and investors (e.g., Josh Hartmann, Huseyin Topaloglu, Thatcher Bell, etc.), has been a valuable resource so far.
Last week we received our first feedback from David Tish, an investor at Box Group, an NYC based venture capital firm. Our initial pitch to him was a digital property management SaaS solution. The platform would help tenants and landlords streamline maintenance and repairs. Mr. Tish described the idea as a “graveyard of graveyards.” It had some potential, but a lot of people had tried and failed. Unless we find an attractive value proposition, we would probably end up like those who failed.
We appreciate all the feedback that we have received so far and will keep on iterating until we find an appealing value proposition. Team Tankwa Town will speak with various PropTech leaders in the coming months. I will provide updates whenever possible. Please, reach out (inbox or comment) if you have any insights for us. Any feedback would help!