RateMyInvestor Founder Series: Episode 1 with Adam Alpert (Pangeamart)
1. How did you first get started in the world of entrepreneurship?
It all started when I was 12. That’s when I received a video camera for my birthday. I obsessed over it, and what it could do.
That video camera empowered me to take an idea and turn it into something that others could be positively impacted by. That was powerful. And that same gratification I got from making a video, I get from starting a company.
Filmmaking is inherently an entrepreneurial process. Filmmaking requires team work, the ability to adapt, and the drive to create something new.
I wouldn’t be the entrepreneur I am today without first being a filmmaker.
2. Tell us about your current company and the inspiration behind it.
When I matriculated to Brown, I used my video skill-sets to start freelancing.
I found that freelancing was an awesome way to align my passions with my job, while enabling me to meet some really cool new people.
However, as a college student I didn’t quite have the credentials to join most freelance marketplaces, nor did I have the support needed to figure out where to start. The best I had was word-of-mouth which was very limiting. I wanted an easy way to market my abilities locally in a way that helped me build my reputation and make some spending money.
I had a friend, Isaac, who had a simple, yet elegant, solution. Give college students the ability to offer any skill or service to their local community. As open-ended as craigslist, but with total transparency and accountability. We couldn’t find anything like it that targeted Gen Z, and offered a product we thought was ethical (other marketplaces charge upward of 35% on each transaction, and agencies are far worse. It felt like extortion at a certain point).
And so, we got to work building Pangea.app, a unified freelance marketplace for college student providers.
My housemate, John, was an applied math concentrator at Brown, and he joined our team to build the whole thing in-house. Since then we’ve graduated, rented a house here in Providence, and been working full-time on the venture. We bootstrapped an MVP, got it on the app store, and ran a limited beta test this past semester.
We’ve hired some super talented people from Brown, RISD, and Johnson and Wales to help us rebuild the product this summer, as well as execute on a more assertive launch this Fall.
3. Tell us about a time where you received a no from an investor.
I remember when one advisor said he was not ready to invest. We were sitting in a coffee shop in Wayland Square one morning giving him a robust update on our progress. He thought we had an awesome team, and had demonstrated remarkable persistence in bringing our venture to life. We had launched a product, hit several milestones, and spent the previous 6 months building a relationship with him. But when we asked if he would invest, he said not yet. My pride in our accomplishments was a bit bruised. But he explained….
“People invest in results.”
He wanted significant real world validation. He wanted us to *show* him that people wanted our product. He wanted to see the data not of sign-ups, but rather people using the product; and coming back and using it again, and again, and again.
Which brings us to today….
We are building now, so that we can demonstrate the traction we need to prove our idea is viable in September and October. When we walk into an investor meeting we want to be armed with quantitative evidence that supports our beliefs.
As such, we are on a quest to drive measurable results; so that our advisor who said no can be confident that not only do we have an A team, but also an A idea.
4. What is something you’ve learned while building your startup that you wish someone had told you before you began?
If you can’t measure outcomes, you will have no idea if you are failing or succeeding.
5. Sometimes, running a startup can feel like a constant grind. How do you find a balance between your professional and personal life?
I make time to take time.
I can’t take care of the venture if I don’t take care of myself; that’s one of the most important lessons I learned during my time with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).
While I am in the office most days at 8am, and there until late in the evening; if I did that every single day my productivity and perspective would dwindle. As such I make time for the things I care about: my family, my friends, and bluegrass music. I literally block out time on my calendar for these things.
If I’m not intentionally and constructively taking time for myself, I am in the office.
However, even when I’m with friends, family, or on some adventure; I’m always thinking about Pangea.app.
I’m obsessed to the point it infiltrates my dreams on a nightly basis. Some of it is healthy, some of it is exhausting. But it’s those thoughts that help me figure out what to do when I am back at my desk.
6. How did you get your first investor check? And what advice would you give to first-time founders looking to fundraise?
I kept this one guy up-to-date with our progress, who is also deeply involved with helping college students. The pitch was simple. Help us (recent college grads) hire several undergrads (helping them get experience) to build a product for the college market. Our use of funds was directly aligned with what he cared about; and his experience in the domain was valuable beyond the capital he invested. The investment was almost just a means to solidify his continued involvement from an advisor perspective.
My advice would be find an investor you vibe with, and is someone who brings value to the table beyond a check. Oh, and keep people in the loop (but don’t bother them).
7. What is your favorite blog/newsletter and why?
I subscribe to several inside.com newsletters. It allows be to follow several beats simultaneously in ithat each is an aggregate of significant news in the space as told by legitimate sources. They do a great job giving a synopsis in a way that allows me to digest a lot of information quickly.
8. How can our readers get in touch with you? (twitter, email, etc.)
Shoot me an email or add me on Facebook/LinkedIn. Just shoot me a message about who you are. I’d love to hear what you’re working on, and if I can help.