E-Fest Winners Park & Diamond: Where are they now?


– Hello, and welcome to a Rewire Live Q&A. I’m Maribel Lopez, director of Rewire.org, and if you’re joining
us for the first time, Rewire.org is a digital
public media service that’s dedicated to
inspiring younger adults to learn, grow, and improve their lives. So if you haven’t checked us out, make sure to visit rewire.org
after this Facebook Live Q&A. So, this live Q&A is
part of our partnership with the Entrepreneur and
Innovation Exchange, or EIX, and the Richard M.
Schulze Family Foundation. So we’ve done few of these,
and today we’re excited to be talking to David
Hall and Jordan Klein, they are co-founders of Park & Diamond, an innovative bicycle helmet company. David and Jordan were the winners of the 2017 E-fest, an
entrepreneurship competition, which is held by EIX and the
Schulze School of Business in Minneapolis, hey guys. – Hey, how’s it going, great to be here. – Thanks for joining us today,
so we’re gonna be chatting with David and Jordan, just nearly a year after they won E-fest, they
were the grand prize winners, to see where their business
is now, how it’s grown, what challenges they’ve
had over the last year, and where they plan to take it from here. So I’m really excited to
hear all about your story, and what the competition allowed you to do with your business. So for those of you who
are tuning in, we’d love it if you have any comments
about entrepreneurship or being a young entrepreneur, or entrepreneurship
competitions to leave them in the comments, and we’ll
get to them if we can. So, let’s just get started,
and my first question for you both is to just
share what Park & Diamond is, which is your business,
and give a little bit of the backstory as to how you
came to start the business. – Yeah, thanks for having us. – Yeah, excited to be here. So, Park & Diamond, we
have created a collapsible bike helmet that you can roll up into the shape of a water
bottle, and it looks like a hat. And this actually came,
now that it’s April, it’s been three full years. Three years ago, my sister,
she was riding her bike through the intersection
of Park and Diamond, when she was hit by a car. And when she spent the
next four months in a coma, we were asked countless times, why wasn’t she wearing a helmet? And that was really the light bulb moment, where Jordan and I, both
being engineering students down at Virginia Tech,
never even though twice about helmets, and that’s
what really kicked us off and got us thinking about why
don’t people wear helmets, what is preventing people
from wearing helmets? And now three years later,
we’re where we are now, ready to launch our
collapsible bike helmet. – Wow, that’s quite the story. And I remember hearing the story last year in the video that we
produced following you around the competitions, and what an important
initiative and business. – Yeah, we appreciate that. I mean, it’s really been a
situation where neither one of us really had any particular
prejudice towards bike helmets, and then we saw what had
happened to Dave’s family and realized that there
was a significant gap between what consumers
can go and buy today, and something that they would actually use on a day-to-day basis. And we realized really quickly that in 97% of all the cycling-related fatalities in an urban environment are from cyclists who are not wearing helmets. Helmets have an 87%
reduction in the likelihood of a traumatic brain injury. This affects over 85,000
Americans every year. So Rachel was just one of 85,000 in 2015 that suffered a traumatic
brain injury while cycling. And so we realized that with those stats, and the average helmet usage
is less than 10% nationally, as low as 5% in some
cities, so we realized that there’s this huge gap,
there’s this underutilized piece of safety
technology, and the barrier to people using is that
it’s this big, ugly piece of foam that frankly
hasn’t seen much innovation or design in the past 25 years. It’s basically the same
since when our parents were in college. And so, we said, at the time, products were moving towards
being a more beautiful piece of industrial design,
and we realized that in order to do that we
needed material innovation, which was really what took
the bulk of our efforts, as well as design innovation,
which is collapsibility into the shape of a water
bottle, so you could throw it in your workout bag,
throw it in a water bottle cage on your bike, take
it with you anywhere you need to go. – That’s excellent, an
amazing business idea. Thank you so much for sharing, and can you both just give
a little bit of background as to what you were studying in school, ’cause last year during the
competition, you were students at Virginia Tech, is that right? – Yeah, we were both
students at Virginia Tech. I was engineering, science mechanics, Dave’s mechanical engineering. So us CSM guys kind of make
fun of ME a little bit, ’cause our major’s harder. And then they make fun of us, because we just do math all day. – Let’s just get it out there,
they just do math all day. – So yeah, that’s kind of
what our background was. And I probably would’ve gone
into the automotive industry. I wanted to be an automotive
engineer my entire life. Dave would’ve gone back
to the defense industry. And so it was really this
combination where we had the capability, and it’s really funny, when we first started, we
thought we were gonna be successful by just
engineering a better product. And we realized that
that was really nothing but the barrier to entry to getting people to use the products. The engineering side of it was just simply the barrier to actually
producing this product. And really where we needed
to focus was on how people interacted with it, what
the user experience was, and the branding part of it, which as engineers we
had zero training on. So it was an uphill learning
battle the whole way on that front, and so we leveraged a lot of really great resources
at Virginia Tech. There’s a guy named
Doctor Geller who helped bring seatbelts to cars in the ’80s, he’s a behavioral scientist
and psychology researcher, and so we had a lot of help from him. – Yeah, that was really
one of the first lessons we learned was, when we initially started, it was a top-secret thing
where we didn’t want to tell people, we were afraid somebody was gonna steal our idea. And we laugh about this, ’cause
a friend would call you up and be like, hey, you wanna hang out? You’d be like, no, we’re
working on something top secret, we can’t tell you. But something we had to learn was, if you want to solve a problem, understand the whole user experience. You’re not gonna get that by two guys in a room just theorizing
versus going out there and understanding the user. – You just gotta talk to
as many people as possible. – Wow, that’s very cool So let’s switch gears a little bit. I want to hear about the
entrepreneurship competition last year, and we were talking earlier, you said that this kind
of deal that you won the competition last year. So can you talk a little
bit about what it was like to participate in the competition, and then as a result of
winning the competition, where that allowed you
to take your business. – Absolutely, so I think our
journey with the competition started when one of our
mentors and professors recommended that we apply. I remember really distinctly
when we got in, Dave and I, it was over spring
break and we kind of cut our spring break short. And we realized that the
opportunity to win $100,000 in one event not only does
that give you the resources to really go out and
raise money effectively. You know, as a consumer product that has some regulatory compliance,
it’s fairly capital-intensive for us to bring our product to market. And so either we were gonna have to raise a significant seed round,
and so it’s difficult, right, it’s a lot of
focus on raising money. Basically we knew that winning the event would mean that we would
have a much better chance of having a successful raise. Frankly, we worked day and night. There were times when, we
had a windowless office in the Virginia Tech
Corporate Research Center, We had won that from
another pitch competition, and we had a blow-up air mattress, and we would kind of sleep
under the desk, like no joke. I have a really funny
Snapchat of Dave doing that. – Yeah, he caught me sleeping. – When we were prototyping and preparing for the competition, we had
to run all of our prototypes overnight to get it done. So that meant waking up at
four o’clock in the morning to change prints on the 3D printers, run C and Cs, run our testing equipment, and all that stuff to get prepared. So really we had this laser focus that we really saw that as an opportunity to take this from this
space where we had won some pitch competitions, but
they’re like for 15, 20 grand here and there, which really
enabled us to even just be in a position to prepare for the Shulze Entrepreneurship Challenge, and then that is what
really accelerated us into being, and what we
kind of joked about was, it didn’t feel like we
were student entrepreneurs anymore, it felt that we were
elevated to another level. We won E-fest, and then
right after that we won a (inaudible) put on by Red Bull, we went to Tech Crunch during finals week, that was miserable for
our academic careers, but it was amazing, I mean like
a really amazing experience. Bringing it back to E-fest,
the first day we were there, there was, of course, a,
’cause nothing’s right, a massive storm, so we didn’t
even know if our flight was gonna be able to go. So as if that wasn’t
the icing on the cake, it just really was, that
first night, I don’t remember exactly what the challenge was called, but where they split us up
with other teams, was amazing. I mean the ability to
meet other entrepreneurs at other schools, right,
we had only ever worked with entrepreneurs within Virginia Tech, maybe some people in the local area, but to meet other entrepreneurs
from Boston, and California, and Portland, and places
like that was really awesome. And it was also super
nerveracking, because you’re like, we’re all pitching for $100,000 tomorrow and these are the people
we’re competing against. Seeing how smart they were,
and capable they were, kind of really turned it up to 11. So from there, really that in conjunction with the level of talent in
terms of mentors and judges that was there was really next level. I mean out of all the
events we’ve been to, and I’d say we’ve been to
quite a few really good pitch competitions, there just wasn’t, there was just such a
breadth of experience in terms of both quality and number that we really just hadn’t seen before. And so that was really powerful, and we still actually keep
in contact nearly every week with both investors that we met at E-fest, as well as other mentors, and
people who just really liked our story, and wanted to
help in any way they could. – Yeah, and that was–
– Can you. Go ahead, David. – I was just gonna say,
something that we realized before the competition
was it was really outside of the local area that we
were used to pitching in, which was the Virginia
Tech-Blacksburg area, And by getting out there,
that’s where we have the opportunity to really
network with people we would have never normally met. And one of the things that
just came out completely tangentially to winning the
grand prize was actually one of the semifinal rounds,
the judges was actually went on to close our first
full round of funding. And that’s something that
is completely separate from winning the competition,
that’s just kind of getting out of your typical local
area and meeting people you would have never normally met. That’s an opportunity that
E-fest had that was just valuable in and of itself just to network with those type of
people, and it could lead to closing on the funding. – Yeah, that’s amazing. I’d love to hear a little bit more about how you funded your venture. So you have this
entrepreneurship prize money, you met some investors,
can you speak a little bit more to how you funded your venture even prior to going to E-fest? – Yeah, absolutely, so I would
say that our funding venture started not too dissimilar
to us sitting just like this. In our entrepreneurship
club at Virginia Tech, there was a pitch
competition for 1,500 bucks. To make the intimidation
as high as possible, they had it in dollar bills
between us and the judges. So Dave and I decided
to do this really off the shrug of a shoulder. We were kind of like, you
know what, what’s the point of doing it if we don’t tell anybody about what we’re working on? We were in top-secret mode at that point. And we ended up winning that
event, and that, I think, is really where everything
kind of changed for us. We knew were starting a company, right. We had formed our C-corp,
and done all the documents, and paperwork, spent whatever
interim bit money we had on that stuff and paying the fee for stock certificates and everything. That 1,500 bucks, I
know this sounds crazy, but gave us the ability
to just, as two kids who didn’t have any money, go out and buy prototyping supplies, and
the advantage of a student is you can call a company,
and tell them that you’re a student working on a
research product, or a project, and they will just give you free stuff. All the students out
there, just say you’re part of a design team or whatever, and be like, hey, I’m this type of, I don’t know, like a tool or whatever, and
companies are really helpful about giving you discounts
if you’re a student working on something entrepreneurial. So we had a lot of really
influential marketing partnerships, most notably with Ansys, they gave us, legitimately,
a million dollars worth of software for free essentially, for $5,000, which was
quite a bit of money. And so, we won $1,500
dollars, we got a $5,000 loan from a gentleman who
was Rachel’s professor at Temple University, he
was reallY the first guy to believe in this and
be kind of like a mentor, and said, hey, this is something
that I could really see as a product and a successful business beyond just advocating
for bicycling safety. From there, we won a couple
other pitch competitions. I think in total, we’ve won 180,000. So obviously E-fest was the biggest, and that was really the most influential as far changing our trajectory. So that’s kind of where we funded things, and then beyond that just
some internship money. – The funny thing with
all the pitch competitions is we started with kind of
the shrug of a shoulder, like let’s go ahead and do it, but if you go back and you look at all of our old presentations, you can really see the progress,
I’ll just leave it at that. – Our first presentation was so bad. It was like this template we
had bought for five bucks, you know, from one of
those slideshow websites. – By doing each one of
those pitch competitions, we just got connected with
the next advisor or mentor, and just you saw through each
one of these competitions the next stage of the company. But it is funny to look
back at the original ones and laugh at it. But it’s kind of a fun
way of seeing the progress of the company. And if we didn’t have that deadline and we didn’t have that kind of incentive to get everything done beforehand, things could have
slipped, so it’s something we certainly owe to all
those pitch competitions. – Yeah, and the feedback
we got from judges along the way was real influential. I think that with each
pitch competition we won, we learned just a tremendous
amount from the experience the judges had. The same is true at E-fest, a lot of really critical information with things that we needed to change. And just kind of a piece
of advice out there to people who are
pitching their companies, if a judge kind of rips
into what you’re doing, that’s the most useful
thing they could ever do. The most useful information
we’ve ever gotten are from people who go, I
really, totally understand your concept, I just don’t
believe this one part. That’s the most beneficial
thing anybody can really ever do for you for an early stage. You have to understand
that no matter how good you are at pitching, you know, we were, when we first started, we were terrible, like I couldn’t even speak publicly. I word vomited the first
time, and looked at Dave like a little kid, I was,
like, just please take the microphone, I don’t
want to do this anymore. It’s about really
setting up an environment where you can improve yourself. I think the biggest tangential
benefit to entrepreneurship, success or not for your
company, is that really the success is improving your ability. And the way to do that,
frankly, is by pushing yourself. So if you’re not sitting
there ready to pee your pants when you’re about to do something, then you’re probably
not taking enough risk. And there are gonna be a
lot of times where you sit and question, am I pushing myself too far? At the end of the day,
the way you can judge whether you did it right or
wrong is if you get a piece of feedback, or if you learn
something from that event that you could not have
learned any other way. And we certainly had a couple
moments throughout our career as student entrepreneurs like that. There’s a very influential
venture capitalist who sat down with us, actually
the week before E-fest, and said, I buy your
story, I love your story, it’s a great story, I
think the product’s cool, I just don’t believe anybody’s
gonna pay money for it. – Wow.
– Yeah, straight up. And he was like, this is
what I do, and I don’t think anybody’s going to pay for it. So in response to that, we
put together a focus group in 24 hours, and got data that was double, basically twice the expected outcome. So we expected about 10%
of the student population to indicate that they would be interested in purchasing the product,
we got closer to 20, 25% across a couple hundred students. It was the best we could do in a week, but we probably got that,
like what, April second. – Yeah, we certainly thank
Dr. Geller, our advisor, for the help on that one. – Yeah, we owe him for that one. We shared prototypes and stuff like that. That really helped us,
and at the end of the day, is it painful to hear that in the moment? Yeah, but at the end of the
day, you need that advice everywhere you go. I mean, like, the most useful
thing you could ever have. – Yeah, a lot of great tips in there. Oh my gosh, that’s amazing,
thank you for sharing. And I would like to
welcome some of the people who have just jumped on to join us for this Facebook Live Q&A. We’re here with the
co-founders of Park & Diamond, which is an innovative
bicycle helmet company, David Hall and Jordan Klein. They’re also the winners
of the entrepreneurship competition that’s hosted by
the Schulze School of Business and the Entrepreneur
and Innovation Exchange. So they were the grand
prize winners last year, we’re kind of catching up with them to see where that competition
took them, and has led them in their entrepreneurial endeavors, and so it’s been fun
to hear from you both, and getting some great advice,
so anyone who’s tuning in that has any aspiration
to become an entrepreneur or is looking to maybe even compete at an entrepreneurship competition, there’s a bunch of good advice
coming from both of them. Something that you both
have mentioned so far has been mentorship, and
some people that have played integral roles in getting
you to where you are. Can you talk a little
bit about the importance of an entrepreneurship mentor,
and also any other resources, whether it’s books or
other educational tools, or anything that you have
found useful in getting you to where you are today. – Yeah, so the very first,
most influential advisor for us was actually my sister’s professor when she was still in college, Dr. Alkus, who everything happened with
my sister and we really didn’t know how to handle it,
how to get involved, anything like that. He basically said why don’t
we try to take this tragedy and see what we can do with it and try to make the most out of it. And he says, you guys are
engineers, why don’t you try to come up with a product or a service, or just take some kind of
action that could prevent this from happening to somebody else. And really, a suggestion as
simple as that really kicked us off, where before this,
Jordan and I joked like, ah, you know, we want to start a company, that’d be cool, but we
didn’t really have an idea that caught us or really
had something to inspire or motivate us, and with the
encouragement and support of Dr. Alkus, basically
saying, you guys can do this, you have the mission, you have the skills, get out there and make it happen. Something as simple as that
was really all we needed to kick it off, and he
was there throughout that supporting us, and
even, at the very start, he offered to help us with
a loan and stuff like that. So he was there from the very beginning and we would not be here if
it wasn’t for his support. – Yeah, absolutely, and I think from there our mentality has always been
that we’re two young kids, right, when we first started the company, we weren’t even 21 at the time, and so we knew that we didn’t
have all of the answers, and really our goal was to
recruit the best talent possible to help us, and when you can’t pay for it, that really comes from mentors. We owe a lot of our success in pitching from the mentors that Virginia
Tech was able to provide us through the Apex Center,
which is their center for entrepreneurship, it has a
really, really talented board that provided tips and pointers
through the Entrepreneurship Club, or through specific meetings with us throughout our way. And I don’t think we
wouldd be able to have had all the success that we had without that. I think we would’ve had
a little bit more pain in getting to where we are. I would encourage if you’re,
A, on these sites, one, if you are an alumni of a
university or in any ways have a skillset that could
help your alma mater’s entrepreneurship program,
of if your children are interested in entrepreneurship
and you have friends in your network, even if it
doesn’t seem super obvious where your skillset may be, just simple things, like even
just understanding how things work in the industry, as students
we don’t get any exposure to how deal flow happens, or how introductions
to venture capitalists, or how RFPs work. Like that is just foreign
to a college student, and so even advice on
procedural things can be super beneficial, because when
you do get the opportunity, that could be really career-changing
or trajectory-changing just having the basics down,
and telling a really earnest, humble story about what
you’re trying to do, and having the basics there may be enough, even if the pitch isn’t there. I mean really what you want to
do as a student entrepreneur is inspire what it could be. I mean obviously there’s
a part of it where you’re a student, you’re about
learning and making progress, and having a fundamental
position on, you know, if it’s a consumer product,
on your IP and technology, and then maybe figuring out the brand, that’s where we were. And I think that what we did effectively through our mentorship network really, we had no branding or
marketing experience, it was kind of figure out
what that looked like. And if you’re a student, aggressively look for those mentors, they’ll
be the biggest value add. I know it may be kind of weird to email, just kind of, hey, I’m
a student at the school you went to, or I
interned for your company two years ago, I’m doing this now, is there anybody in your network? People love to help,
they love to give advice, and it’s really kind of one
of the most powerful things you can get. – Yeah, and that’s
something that really makes, whether it was E Club at Virginia Tech and all the programming they put on, or EIX is just, yes there’s
competition, yes there’s fun, yes you can win a grand prize, but also there’s community there. Where you can get engaged with mentors, and get engaged with advisors, investors, and you’re not gonna find
that unless there are events like EIX and these kind of events, which pull people from the local area, from all across the country, wherever, really kind of pull everybody together so you can meet your next
mentor, meet your next advisor. – So you talked a little
bit, you mentioned getting your brand out there, and
kind of finding people that can help you navigate
things that you’re maybe not an expert in, so one question
we have from a viewer, Katie asks, for entrepreneurs
who have no experience with marketing, what were
some of the most useful things you learned about putting
your brand out there? – Yeah, that’s a great question. One, it’s super scary, because you’re kind of afraid
that people are gonna think your name’s dumb, or your
branding’s not that great. So I’ll give you a little
bit of a behind the scenes of how it started for us. The first time we
attempted to do branding, we failed miserably at it. We hired an industrial
designer for like $100 to make a logo, it was terrible. We got frustrated and
actualLy just made a logo in Ad software, so engineering software, which is totally not how
you’re supposed to do it. But that’s actually our
current logo right now, and I think that we got
a couple of cool stories of people seeing our
logo, about googling us and being like, hey, I really
want to buy the product. I think that if you
have an authentic story behind your company. We really struggled
with naming our company, because we’re, I can only speak for my, I’m terrible at naming things. That’s not gonna be my station in life. I don’t want to throw Dave under the bus, but he’s not particularly
great at it either. – I’m not gonna hide it. – So we really struggled in the beginning, it was like, well, Park and
Diamond, the intersection where everything happened,
that’s the reason why we’re here, and getting that to the
forefront, as to if that didn’t happen, we wouldn’t be here. I think that telling
that part of the story, we’re no different than
any other engineers that went through their program, right, our goal was to try and make
the world a safer place, and we were just gonna
do that behind the wheel of a corporate job. And then this kind of hit us in a way that we couldn’t ignore it. And that was really the
story that we wanted to tell, that we’re not your mom telling you to wear a helmet, right,
we’re two engineers who understand that the current
product out there sucks, and there’s a huge gap
between what you can buy today and really what you want. What we did, we said, okay, how do we tell this in the
most authentic way possible without really trying to
pull heartstrings too hard, but still having a little bit of a story? So that’s kind of where
Park & Diamond came from. We were horribly insecure about the name for a long time, really. And it wasn’t until
actually a lot of the people in our network said, you know, what that does is people
have no idea what it is when they first see it, but
once they learn what it is, it kind of sticks with them. So we learned that that was
pretty fairly effective. And so for us we learned to
just trudge through the mud. I would say that to do it
again, what we would change is, I would say as two technical
people we like analytics, we would’ve done more AB
testing early on had we known, and test out a couple different concepts. We also, there’s a professor
at Virginia Teach who is part of the entrepreneurship program who ran a marketing startup for a long time. So had we really known
that was his background, we probably would have
leveraged his expertise at an earlier time before we, kind of, had a big old blast of
Park % Diamond everywhere, and we’re kind of stuck
with it in the context. It wasn’t until, I would say,
after we got that feedback that we really learned that
people really engaged well. ‘Cause the analytics behind
the stuff that we’ve done with Red Bull and stuff
have just been tremendous. And so I think we kind of
just came from the perspective of be as honest and transparent
about what you’re doing, try and tell that story authentically, and from there, treat
the feedback you get. – Excellent, thank you to
our viewer for that question, thank you both. So you mentioned that
you’ve talked a little bit about some of the disadvantages
to not necessarily knowing how to navigate
the entrepreneurship space, and different resources,
and people that you reached out to and things like
that, so I’d love to hear from both of you, in your opinion, what has been the advantage
to starting your business at a younger age? And then if you want
to call out a specific, maybe disadvantage to starting a business when you’re less experienced
and maybe newer to a career in general, I’d like to
hear from both of you. – I mean, there are certainly
some logistical benefits of not having a house, a mortgage, and– – Sorry, the lights turned off. – But there are some logistical advantages in not having a mortgage,
and kids to feed, and all that kind of stuff. You know, just worried
about grades and meal plan are really not as bad. But there’s a lot of benefits
too, and Jordan can touch upon this, of approaching people honestly and not putting on a facade
of how great you are, or making up any kind of
progress, but really coming to people and saying, this is our mission, this is what we’re trying to
do, we’re college students starting out on this, and
really every single time we’ve approached people
from that viewpoint, they’ve always responded
wanting to help us, wanting to get involved,
or at the very least, kind of point us in the right direction. So approaching people honestly,
and just kind of saying this is the situation, this
is what we’re trying to do, and this is what we’re
trying to accomplish, rather than trying to talk
it up or anything like that, people have always responded
being very encouraging and trying to be as helpful as possible. – Right, yeah, and I would
say that, definitely, and I think also one
of the other advantages to being a student is
that you really can risk what you’re doing. And David, I think, was
really alluding to that, about not having other responsibilities. And also, I think that
there’s this sense that people really want to help the younger generation achieve as much as possible. I think that the biggest
disadvantage, frankly, is that you don’t know what you’re doing. You may think you know what
you’re doing, but you don’t. Our joke actually, going back, he knows exactly what I’m going to say, is that we’re really good at
not knowing what we’re doing. And I would say that’s
what you can get good at. You have to be good at not
knowing what you’re doing, because at the end of the day, you’re just not gonna
have all the answers, your mentors are not gonna
have all the answers. Frankly, a lot of these
questions probably don’t even have answers, at the end of the day. And I think that’s what’s so fun about it, and so enjoyable is that
it’s not bogged down by this sense of certainty,
it’s actually almost this kind of enjoyment for the
unknown of your actions, and just kind of putting
yourself in the line of fire, and just enjoying
reacting to what happens. I think that even just going
into actually pitching, the Q&A section, I think
that’s where it’s won and lost, really, and to be good there,
you have to live your company. If you live it, you’ll kill it. At the end of the day, I mean
there’s no better preparation than just really living what you’re doing, and enjoying the adrenaline rush you get. We’ve thought of some of our best ideas, actually answering questions
at pitch competitions. Really, and so I think
that that’s the advantage of a student, you have this
network that’s around you that wants to support you in a way that you don’t when
you’re out in a career. And if you’re thinking
about starting a business, I would say the advice is do
it before your junior year. It’s gonna be very difficult
to turn down an internship or a job offer if your venture
really isn’t at that point where you can stand it up by itself. – That’s some good advice, thank you. Speaking of advice, specifically
related to participating in an entrepreneurship
competition, if you could give one tip, thinking about
this time last year, you were preparing for
this big entrepreneurship competition, what one tip
would you give someone who’s getting ready to
get in there and compete? – I would say number-one thing is check your ego at the door. When you show up, you
have to understand that no matter how much preparation you put in, no matter how hard you
worked, and how confident you are in what you’re
doing, the way people react to what you’re working on
is the most critical piece of information you will ever get, and you will get so much of
that at a pitch competition, whether you win or lose, you’ll get just a tremendous amount. And I think that people
tend to have this sense, and we certainly felt
this way a lot of times, where we had thoroughly
investigated a problem. We were really confident
we had the right answer at that point in time, and we realized maybe we weren’t looking
at it in the right way. And maybe through looking at
it through a different lens that somebody brought up, we
could actually really answer bigger challenges that we had. And I know that sounds really vague, but at the end of the day, I think that the biggest inhibitor towards your success as a student entrepreneur
is thinking that you have all of the answers, because you don’t, and
the more you own that, the more that if a judge
asks you a question that you don’t have the answer to, rather than trying to give
some half-baked answer that you came up with on the spot, say, look, I actually haven’t
considered that yet, but that’s a really great
point, and here are the steps that I’m gonna take to deal
with that in the next week. When you flip the script
like that, it can become really powerful in showing
that you can be coachable, that you can learn on the spot, particularly because
companies are gonna be at every different stage. We’ve pitched against companies that had hundreds and hundreds of thousands, almost a million dollars in
funding when we had none, and they thought they knew everything. And so, when it came to the Q&A section, that’s really where they fell apart, because the judges said,
well, you have this amount of funding tell me, you know,
they went a little bit more in-depth, and the challenge
was they didn’t really have great answers, and rather
than taking ownership of the fact that they
hadn’t fully figured out what was going on, they kind of went in a different direction, and I think that wasn’t as effective. And so, I would say that’s definitely, speaking for myself, that’s the thing that I would say the most. I don’t know if you have the same. – My biggest recommendation
is that don’t go into the mindset of these competitions as, I need to win the grand
prize, it’s all or nothing, that’s the only thing that matters, where we’ve seen teams
where you don’t see them throughoUt the day and
the days before the pitch competition because they’re
in their hotel room, or they’re off practicing their pitch. And sure, you should be prepared, but you’re missing out
on all the opportunities to network with people,
like Jordan was saying, get those little snippets of advice from all the judges,
whoever, you’re missing out on all of that opportunity
just ’cause you wanted to practice your pitch. So don’t miss out on all that, just ’cause you wanted to be prepared. – That’s a really great point. – Yeah, so taking advantage of the whole, all the aspects of the competition, and not just the actual competition. So there’s a lot more to
it, that’s really important. So good advice, thank you. If you’re just joining us, we are talking with the co-founders of Park & Diamond, Jordan Klein and David Hall,
they are also the winners of the entrepreneurship
competition last year that was held at the
Schulze School of Business in Minneapolis, and so we’re
just kind of catching up with them, how things are
going with their business, where they’re planning
to take it from here, and actually, I’d love to just get, you know we’re probably gonna
wrap up here in a little bit, but I’d love to get
kind of a status update. Where is Park & Diamond now? It’s been a year, what’s
the status of the company and where do you see
yourself going from here? – Kind of what we’ve been working on, so kind of right after the challenge, we went to Crunch in New
York state with Red Bull, which was an amazing two-day experience. I mean the most draining days, definitely the most
draining days I’ve ever had in my life, that’s for certain, getting up at six o’clock in the morning, and then around Tech Crunch all day. So from there we participated
in an accelerator in New York. And so we kind of through
doing that finished closing our funding round,
we closed in October. So from there, we kind of
went out and did what you did after you close your
round, build your team, get all of your contractors
in place, and get working, head down through those
cold, dreary winter months here in New York. And from there, this
spring, we’re participating in another accelerator, and
we’ll have a press release about it hopefully in a couple weeks once everything’s finalized. And to kick off, we’re
very excited about that. And so we’ll be doing that
over the next six months, and really the net of
it will be this summer we’ll launch the product. So if you guys are interested
in what we’re doing and our products, please
follow us on our website. Our best place to keep in touch with us is on our email list. I know it sounds kind of crazy,
but we’re very social media light at the moment. There’s only, I think, two
posts on our Instagram. One of ’em, though is pretty cool of us talking at We Work’s global thing, we got to meet the co-founder of We Work, which was pretty cool. That would be the best place. Starting these next couple
weeks with our updates as we gear up for product launch. And really from there,
production is tough, but we’re getting through it, that’s what we do, we’re engineers, so that’s our fun,
that’s where we have fun. More so, it’s less scary than marketing. Really have a lot of beyond
exciting partnerships that are just forming right
now that are really amazing, and so, super excited to share those over the next couple of weeks, as well. – Excellent, awesome, we’ll be
glad to keep track of you all as you move along in
launching Park & Diamond and get your product out there, so looking forward to seeing what comes. – Thanks, yeah, absolutely. – So I think we’re gonna
go ahead and wrap it up. We’ve got one more question. So if you could give one piece of advice to a young person that’s
aspiring to start a business, aspiring entrepreneur, what would that one piece of advice be? – Do you want to go first? – Ooh, I like that question. Mine, and this is kind of
we touched on this before, is avoid the top-secret
mode where you’re afraid to share the idea. And that could be in the form
of talking to your friend about it at school. It could be in the form of
entering a pitch competition. Quite literally, you
wanna shrug like we did. It’s just a matter of the
more you engage with people, the more they’re gonna respond, and the more you’ll learn about the user, the more you’ll learn
about what they need, and also what they think
your company needs. So it’s a learning experience
you’re not gonna get by locking yourself in a classroom. – Yeah, that’s really good. I would say that you
need to expose yourself to it as much as possible. So, back when we were joking
about starting a company, like all of our ideas were super terrible. We kind of knew that. – There’s a reason why we didn’t start. – I think that we really
owe Virginia Tech’s entrepreneurship programming
for really helping us in the beginning, ’cause
it gave us a forum to explore entrepreneurship with no risk. It didn’t require us to
do any scary competitions, or really go out on a limb on our own. And so, what I’d recommend
is that if you can at all, involve yourself in an
entrepreneurship program, take classes, read about it. There’s a couple really great books, like obviously read
anything from Steve Blank, that stuff’s great. Books about design thinking and whatnot, really think about the
customer discovery process. I think that one of the
most valuable resources is the NSF I-Corps program. So if you’re, I guess this is gonna split, so if you’re kind of more in
the business and marketing side, the NSF I-Corps
may not be as useful, so The Lean Startup
teachings may be more useful. But on the more technical
side, if you’re like a master’s student or a graduate student, and you’re interested in entrepreneurship, but kind of have an academic
track in front of you, the NSF I-Corps program
is a really great way to break out of a lab and kind
of practice entrepreneurship and customer discovery. And so I would encourage
you to look into that. And really the net of
it is, the more context you put yourself in with
fellow entrepreneurs, the more it’s gonna come together. You know, without E Club,
we wouldn’t have had the first pitch competition. And we ended up there
because I was, at the time, interning with somebody who was in E Club, and he talked me into going. And so you know it’s kind
of crazy what happens in retrospect, but it
really is just a game of you have to show up. – Wonderful, thank you so much. Lots of great information and
some really good insights, and also just a really great story. It’s been really cool to
catch up with you both, and see where things have taken you over the last year since
we first met at E-fest, and excited to see where things lead. So thank you both, David
and Jordan, for joining us on this Rewire Live Q&A. I’m Maribel Lopez for Rewire.org. This Facebook Live was
part of our partnership with the Entrepreneurship
and Innovation Exchange, and is made possible by support from the Richard M.
Schulze Family Foundation. Thanks to all of you for watching, and we hope you will like us on Facebook, and maybe sign up for our newsletter. Definitely be sure to visit Rewire.org and we’ll see you next time.