You founded a startup that provides a campus-based marketplace just for college students. What kind of technical skills did you have when you started, and what skills did you acquire to move Sklaza forward?
The technical skills that I’ve acquired during my time with Sklaza have been based around learning the process of idea to implementation, researching what the customer wants, and how to prioritize what’s important and what’s not.
You recently completed a national search for a technical partner. What skills and qualities were you looking for, and how did you conduct your search?
There were three main things I was searching for in a technical partner. The first was a general passion and curiosity of building online platforms such as Sklaza— I wanted to find someone who was a natural maker. Second, I needed to make sure that the potential partner would be someone with the right technical skills in order to grow the marketplace to more college students in the future. And lastly, since this search was for an equal partner, I needed to make sure that this was someone I could see myself being good friends with first, and a startup business partner second.
I ended up personally interviewing over 75 students from all around the nation, from top Computer Science programs to entrepreneurial programs. I ended up choosing an engineering student from Harvey Mudd, in Claremont, CA.
How did you frame the value proposition of being a partner in an early-stage, Maine-based startup?
I think the fact that Sklaza was a Maine-based startup was a really huge value proposition. Because Sklaza had grown on such a strong foundation of resources, support, and entrepreneurial energy in Maine, it was really easy for any potential partner to see that they were going to be joining a really strong team with an even stronger community around it .
In 2020, you competed in the Greenlight Maine Collegiate Challenge and secured grant funding through Maine Technology Institute (MTI). How do you balance the time required to apply, compete, and receive funding with the cash flow needs of your startup?
It definitely required a serious amount of time management and prioritization. Every day, I had to ask myself what the most important goal was going to be for that day, and based on that answer, I would make sure that I made more progress towards that goal. Because juggling multiple things gets really overwhelming really fast, I made the decision to focus on one thing at a time to make sure that I was staying productive.
Sklaza launched at Colby College in February 2020, serving over 800 users in just four months, and you planned to expand to additional campuses this fall. How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your growth strategy?
While we are staying aware of the COVID-19 pandemic, our team has really tried its best to not let it affect our goals for Fall 2020. If anything, it’s given us more time and motivation to really improve everything under the hood so that we can provide the best product for our users when school returns in the fall. While some colleges are remote for the fall, we plan on targeting schools that are fully in-person or doing a hybrid program.
Last modified: June 18, 2021