Matchmaking takes many forms. When we think of this term we often think of finding a significant other. Someone who can help make your life whole. In startupland, matchmaking is being redefined. When entrepreneurs talk about a true match it’s usually in the form of a co-founder, a developer, a salesperson. Similar to traditional matchmaking, this match is hugely important to a founder’s life because it’s who they’ll spend 80-plus hours weekly working on a venture.
There are a number of big players in entrepreneur matchmaking, including CoFoundersLab, as well as a number of big players in the freelance space, such as Elance, Upwork, and Freelancer. At the University of Maryland, a team of students are combining matchmaking and freelancing with their startup, VentureStorm. VentureStorm differs from the major players because it is not solely a platform to find a freelance project for the month, but also provides the opportunity to join a team. The startup is entering the market with a focus on college students. Users of VentureStorm are aiming to form relationships, build teams, and launch a business straight out of college. The venture’s value proposition is that students can find team members or co-founders on their campus.
“College students have brilliant ideas for websites and apps but they can’t build them on their own,” says Tyler Denk, VentureStorm’s Chief Operating Officer. “In tech, there’s so much space to develop ideas that benefit everyone. VentureStorm allows students to collaborate with other students to bring an idea to life.”
When a student logs into the VentureStorm web site they create one of two profiles: project owner or developer. The project owner posts their idea with a description of the type of developer they’re looking for, as well as their budget and offered compensation. Developers can then browse the database of projects at their university and apply to projects based on their interests and expertise (Ruby on Rails, php, etc). From there the matchmaking begins. Once a match has been made, the VentureStorm collaboration page allows project owners and developers to communicate, negotiate, and utilize legal documents and development tools. VentureStorm also acts as a third party payment platform that ensures secure transactions between the two parties.
Like so many startups, the founders came up with this idea when they ran into the problem themselves. A few semesters ago Denk, a Mechanical Engineering major, and co-founder Taylor Johnson, an Electrical Engineering major, came up with an app idea but neither student knew how to develop an app. That’s where the idea for VentureStorm began. From there, Johnson brought on twin brother, Tommy Johnson, also an Electrical Engineering major. Later, the team added two talented developers: Ephraim Rothschild and Akash Magoon; both Computer Science and Mathematics double-majors. Rothschild is currently VentureStorm’s Chief Technology Officer, and Magoon is the company’s Chief Information Officer.
After working on the idea for a few months, members of the team joined the Dingman Center’s Fearless Founders accelerator where they did extensive customer discovery and developed a minimal viable product. Denk and Rothschild are spending the summer in the Fearless Founders incubator program, Terp Startup.
“For students who are not in the computer science school, finding a talented developer can be hard,” said Rothschild. “We bridge that gap and that’s why I’m excited to be spending my entire summer working on VentureStorm.”
Like students with corporate internships, both Denk and Rothschild are spending 40-plus hours per week working on VentureStorm. The main focus of the summer has been developing. Both value the Terp Startup experience and are enjoying working on their own venture rather than for an outside entity.
“There’s nothing better than pursuing your own idea, working on your own schedule,” said Denk. “I always wanted to be an entrepreneur because I like carrying out my vision.”
The team acknowledges they have to start focusing on more than just perfecting the tech side of the platform, they must start focusing on marketing and business development. This fall, they hope to bring on several campuses to the platform. Denk, Rothschild and the rest of the team hope to grow VentureStorm so that after graduating they are able to run the business full time.
Co-Founders: Tyler Denk ’16, Taylor Johnson ’16, Tommy Johnson ‘16, Akash Magoon ’18 and Ephraim Rothschild ’17
VentureStorm is an online platform that connects aspiring student entrepreneurs with talented student developers locally on their campus to advance their business from idea to launch. The VentureStorm team is currently building a unique collaborative workspace on their platform to enhance the communication and development process. The team aims to expand their services to more universities by Fall ’15.