Adam Saven's first startup failed. With CampusKudos, he's trying something different - Technical.ly Philly

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Mar. 6, 2015 10:31 am

Adam Saven’s first startup failed. With CampusKudos, he’s trying something different

“Our goal is for CampusKudos to be a place where young founders can find great mentors, feedback and even funding.”

Adam Saven (foreground) is the cofounder of CampusKudos, a DreamIt 2016 startup that'll be based in Philadelphia during the accelerator.

(Courtesy photo)

College students always have these different ideas and projects they’re working on. However, it’s always hard to get feedback and support from the right people.

A lot of really cool projects end up not being pursued because of the lack of support and mentorship. This was the problem Penn alum Adam Saven encountered that led him to create CampusKudos, a centralized place for students to easily show off all the awesome things they are doing.

CampusKudos, a Moutain View, Calif.-based startup that raised $550,000 last year, hopes to help students spread the word about their projects, gain feedback, meet potential teammates and build a personal brand. They’re trying to be a “LinkedIn for students,” as per CrunchBase.

"It's better to build a product around a customer and his or her needs, than building something you think is cool and then marketing it to a customer you think it will work for."
Adam Saven

Saven hopes to help more students to turn their ideas into actual projects and become entrepreneurs. In fact, CampusKudos recently held a pitch competition at the University of Pennsylvania with judges and mentors from DreamIt Ventures, Spark Capital, MentorTech Ventures and the Dorm Room Fund.

Saven and his team have been doing a lot of reaching out to college campuses in the last few months in an effort to find users.

“Our goal is for CampusKudos to be a place where young founders can find great mentors, feedback and even funding,” he said. “One of the biggest impediments for students who want to take their projects further is the lack of mentorship and resources available. I hope that these bright minds, with the help of the CampusKudos community, will be able to disrupt different industries and make a huge impact.”

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Coming out of college, Saven took a more traditional path: Heading from Wharton straight into investment banking. However, the repetitive busywork and lack of meritocracy eventually pushed him to make a career shift, he said.

Determined to break into technology, Saven would spend hours completing Codecademy lessons, teaching himself SQL and talking with others who were trying to make a similar leap. He would wake up and read TechCrunch and GigaOM to learn more about the field. With a desire to meet his idol, Elon Musk, Saven even volunteered at the TechCrunch Disrupt event in San Francisco.

This hunger for tech would lead him to a job as a business analyst for Google. It challenged him to speak up, challenge existing assumptions and build his skill set.

Equipped with a newfound appreciation for free time and “Googliness,” as Saven put it, he began working on a side project with two other friends. Frustrated by his own difficulty of finding a new job while in banking and inspired by the widespread popularity of the dating app Tinder, they created a “Tinder for job applications” called Emjoyment.

With initial positive feedback, the three cofounders decided to leave their cozy jobs and raise a seed round — this was the start of Saven’s startup journey.

Saven compared his life at the time to HBO’s “Silicon Valley.” While Emjoyment had scored some early wins — raising more than $500,000 from angel investors, picking up thousands of downloads and some nice press — Saven and his team would decide to pivot. Rigorous data analysis and door-to-door surveys of their stakeholders showed that the product-market fit wasn’t as good as they had assumed.

"Entrepreneurship can't be learned in the classroom."
Adam Saven

“Learning the fundraising process and managing my first team was an incredible learning experience,” Saven said. “It’s better to build a product around a customer and his or her needs, than building something you think is cool and then marketing it to a customer you think it will work for.”

(Saven wrote a fun Medium post on what he learned from his experience with Emjoyment. Check it out here.)

Looking back, Saven wishes he had learned coding during college so that he could build prototypes without relying on others. He recalls making a business plan for an idea he had called LetsRoll. What was it about? It was basically Uber.

Seeing Uber’s success today, Saven’s advice to college entrepreneurs is this: “Just do it.”

“Entrepreneurship can’t be learned in the classroom,” Saven said. “You’ll learn so much more from trying to do things yourself. Moreover, nothing is more impressive and a better conversation starter in an interview than talking about the business venture you started.”

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