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Students discuss their journey to running startups

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Student to Startup

Conner Beckwith from Candy Jar, Chino Lex from tapTrax, Alvin Ko from Candy Jar answer questions from the audiences during a panel discussion From Student to Startup at Startup Hall on Oct. 29th.

Five founders and CEOs of successful startup companies enlightened the UW community about their journies from college students to entrepreneurs at the UW Startup Hall’s event “From Student to Startup” on Thursday evening.

An audience of roughly 60 diligent note-takers came to the event to listen to the panel of speakers. 

All the startup companies that currently take residence in Startup Hall are run by post-grads, except for the communication management app, Tack.

Kevin Ye and his team are all current undergraduates at the UW and have made their journey from students to startup as close friends. Ye, a fraternity member, thought of Tack after being bombarded with social schedules and group messages. 

Tack is an app that allows teams or groups of people to manage tasks and checklists in order to keep group members accountable.

Tack is not the only startup formed by a group of best friends. Alvin Ko and Conner Beckwith of Candy Jar grew up together, but they still had advice for the audience about selecting a team. Candy Jar is an e-commerce platform for candy in which customers pick out individual-sized portions of their favorite candies and have them delivered to their door in small jars.

“The most important thing for a co-founder is someone who’s willing to learn,” Beckwith said. 

The other panelists agreed that having a partner who is willing to grow and learn is essential in developing your company’s team.

Funding is a topic of concern for students who want to handle the costs of school while simultaneously starting a company. Frugality is key and all of the CEO’s have sacrificed their own compensation for the sake of the company.

“Start your startup as a student when your overhead is low,” said Taylor Ward of Hubtag. 

Hubtag is a streaming gaming service that has gotten the attention of Microsoft and Electronic Arts. Ward received money from an investor while he was in college and has grown his idea into a product, which will be released to the public in December.

Ward went from gaming at a competitive level to growing his passion into something bigger.

A unique tip he gave the audience was the importance of creating a personal connection to your brand. He recommended people post about their team or pet, for example, to humanize themselves and their product in the eyes of consumers.  

The panelists highlighted the importance of networking as a way to attract customers. 

“Relationships early on will get you your first customers,” Ward said. “Even if your product isn’t there, let them know it will be there in six months.” 

The panel closed with the question of whether or not to go to college. Dropping out of school is a common trend for entrepreneurs who developed powerful companies very quickly. 

All of the panelists recommended finishing school, but advised the audience to not be afraid of taking a break to succeed with their company. 

“It’s not about the destination, it’s about the process,” Ye said. 

The social skills acquired in school seemed to be the most crucial aspect of a college education among the panelists. 

“Timing is everything and right now is the time to start your company,” said Chino Lex, the founder of tapTrax, an app that allows you to find new music based on personalized song suggestions. “Half the battle is telling yourself you can do it. You don’t have to be the best idea when you first start. Just start.”


Reach reporter Anna DiBlosi at Twitter: @annadib4

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