After a nudge from a friend, Jonathan took Business Fundamentals & Tactics in New York City. During the course, he came up with an idea for Lost and Found, a missedconnections app, which became the focus of his final project. Since, he’s kicked his idea into hyperdrive and is committed to building his app full-time.
What brought you to GA?
I ended up at GA after my roommate took a Product Management course last spring. It was around that time we had the idea for creating a new missed connections experience, which he used for his course project. The way the course brought him through the cycle of a product was really impressive. Flash forward a couple of months, I was committed to leaving my job to actually create this product and was looking to supplement that transition with some sort of course to aid in the process.
After my roommate’s experience at GA, it was my first thought to turn there for resources. Although I was intrigued by the BFT course content I went to the information session a bit unsure about what direction I was going to head in, whether that was a different course at GA or just jumping into the venture on my own. I was so excited to learn at the info session that students would be able to work on their own individual projects. I knew I was taking BFT at that point. The first week of the course coincided with the last week at my previous job.
And what were you doing before that?
Prior to BFT I was working for a smaller management consulting firm doing non-technical process redesign for Fortune 500 companies, helping those clients eliminate operational waste.
Tell us about the Lost and Found app.
Lost and Found is a mobile and web platform that allows people to reconnect based on a missed connection; a moment shared between two strangers that was interrupted for some reason. Whether it was an exchange of eye contact and smiles on the train, bumping into a stranger at the coffee shop, or someone you sparked a conversation with in the elevator, these are experiences we all have. Rewind is a fun, social and interactive platform for these interactions that offers a better user experience than the current, outdated methods. This better user experience will create a community of like-minded individuals where users are more likely to reconnect, and even have the ability to connect with people beyond their own missed connection experience.
There are several factors that motivated my pursuit of this. First off, if I didn’t take the leap I knew someone else would and I’d never forgive myself for being outcompeted. Creating and leading a company that provides a value to the community has always been a goal of mine. Somewhat related to that motivation is my distaste for current online platforms for meeting people because they are superficial and lead to pointless conversations that are founded on a profile picture and a tagline, rather than a true connection between two people. This all culminated one evening when I had a missed connection at a bar and thought to myself, “Why isn’t there a better way to do this than Craiglist’s Missed Connections?”
Also, my parents met in a very serendipitous way, and only ended up together because of another chance encounter a few weeks later. Who doesn’t like the idea of meeting their significant other in such a happenstance way? Even if it ends up being just a date or two, at least you don’t have to say you met on Tinder.
A lot of early-stage founders balance other gigs while getting their business idea off the ground. What prompted you to focus on Rewind full-time?
That is definitely tough to juggle. After several months of building Rewind on the side, I felt like it was a viable business idea. That, along with my refusal to be outcompeted due to inaction, and the motivations I mentioned before all weighed heavily in my decision to pursue Rewind full-time.
What is your timeline for developing and launching the product? And when will it have it’s official name?
The beta version will be ready for usability testing in early to mid-december. That feedback from early adopters may result in some changes to the product. We will continue to iterate through that build, measure, learn feedback loop as we connect with more early adopters. Once we build an initial user base and learn from them we will launch. I expect that to be sometime in February.
As for the name, we are still debating between Rewind and Lost & Found. I plan to ask people about this during the usability testing so it should have a name very soon. I like both names and believe that if the product is awesome you can name it just about anything. As we build an awesome product a name will come, and if not, I will just choose one.
You’re staking a lot on this venture. What does success look like for you?
Success will be measured along the way and will look different at each stage of the process. For starters, just building the initial beta will be a measure of success. At that point, I want to build up a user base of early adopters and begin to gain traction in NYC. We have specific metrics to measure that success, but in general, acquiring initial users will be another sign of success along the way. Launching the product in the app store is next on the list. There is a lot of work that goes into a launch so that will certainly be another moment of success as we move forward. From there I want to continue to provide value to our users. Providing that value to people will be the ultimate measure of success.
Raising VC money is also something we want to do, not for the valuation, but for the validation. An investment like that validates the fact that we are providing value to a growing number of users.
To sum it up, success will be measured in the value we provide to our users. The more value we create the more users we will have. Everything else will follow that.
What advice do you have for your classmates and other graduates who are trying to build their projects into startups?
Be passionate about it. Passion will help it seem less like work, especially when you are doing it on the side of your regular job. It will also help you through the times where you catch yourself thinking, “is this even a good idea?”.
Talk about it with everyone. Go to any and all events/groups that look remotely beneficial. This will help you refine your pitch and you never know who you’ll meet.
How has GA been helpful throughout this process?
The BFT class itself was incredibly helpful in the way it guided me to build out the business in a structured manner. I’m not sure what direction it would have gone in had it not been for BFT. My classmates were all awesome too. We had a great time collaborating and giving each other feedback, which was very helpful.
The GA community is also a tremendous resource. The different workshops, meetups and social gatherings were a huge part of the learning experience. I tried to participate in as many of these as possible and continue to do so even after the course. I’ve met a lot of impressive people that are working on some really cool things.
Who is your favorite teacher and why?
It’s just not possible to choose between June Choi and Eleanore Hopper. June was our teacher and Eleanore was our TA, and they are both awesome. I think it’s a rare skill to be very intelligent and also be able to pass that knowledge to students, and the two of them are great at that. Beyond their ability to teach the curriculum was a dedication to helping each of us build our ideas and skills. Both of them have a lot of experience with startups which made for an invaluable learning environment. If it wasn’t for the two them I am not sure what direction I would be headed in with my company.
Nelson Igunma is an Alumni Stories Writer who works on our Front Lines team, keeping our General Assembly NYC campus running day-to-day.