Like a lot of Drexel undergrads, Bradley Ericson likes to take trips for the South Street Special.
“You wrap a piece of Lorenzo’s pizza around a Jim’s steak and see which one of your friends can finish first,” the Drexel sophomore says. “It’s the simple things that keep you young.”
Of course, what has made Ericson one of the better known teenagers in University City was his being named College Entrepreneur of the Year by Entrepreneur’s magazine. So, though Ericson “never in a million years” imagined himself attending Drexel, you’d be right to guess he now approves of the path he’s taken.
Ericson is the CEO and co-founder of 3SecondReceipts, a startup incubated at Drexel, a startup that is testing a point-of-sale system for digital receipts to save vendors on paper and ink.
The company’s beginnings started October 2008 back at Drexel and, like the South Street Special, involves pizza. As a freshman, Ericson and his college buddies would head out to a university dining hall for pizza, using their student ID cards in the closed system.
Everyone waited for a receipt, and then everyone immediately threw them out.
“I just wanted my pizza faster, but I also realized all this paper was being thrown out for these small transactions that are pretty immaterial to us,” Ericson says now. “There had to be a better way.”
COLLEGE ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR
Last May, he entered a Drexel business competition, while he didn’t win, third place earned him $1,000 and the confidence that his idea.
Later last year, he incorporated the business, partnered with an engineer and began developing partnerships, starting with his own university. In doing so, Ericson came across Entrepreneur magazine’s annual competition and applied to be called the nation’s top college businessman.
After a series of deadlines through the summer, a round of national voting and weeks of waiting, the competition’s winners were announced in December. Ericson won $5,000 more in startup capital and a profile in this month’s issue of the magazine.
After celebrating (and talking to many more journalists), he’s back to work on the details of his system.
HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS
His company’s proprietary technology cancels a printed receipt and instead takes a digital representation in an itemized format. The team is focusing now on further developing the Web interface in which users will be able to seek, scan and store those receipts.
While the enormous potential to enter the retail market is real, 3SecondReceipts is starting in closed-circuit systems, like universities, in which users already have online accounts.
It’s a lot easier to conceive of a Drexel co-ed signing into her student account and being able to browse past receipts from trips to the dining hall and copy center. While possible through perhaps a customer loyalty card and account, Ericson says handling customers at a Starbucks is a step for the future.
In recent months, Ericson has been trying to find new places to test the platform. He’s still in talks Drexel around testing other parts of the system, some of which have been tried, but the company is still working around who owns the data, where the information will be hosted and other vagaries of intellectual property.
Ericson has plans of launching more publicly in the spring and isï¿½talking to other regional colleges. As the operation stands now, however, establishing the system at each location could take months.
“We’re working for a plug and play model that’s more scalable,” he says. “With more scalable profits.”
The Fair Lawn, N.J. native may be going to one of the region’s bright spot business schools, but he puts a lot of stock in the help of one of his older brothers.
His second oldest brother Timothy, who went to Drexel, first coaxed Ericson to a entrepreneurial summer camp at the university while Ericson was still in high school. That cemented his decision to follow in his brother’s footsteps.
“I almost didn’t come to Drexel, but now I couldn’t be any happier,” he says.
The advice hasn’t stopped coming either.
Though Timothy graduated Drexel last year and will sometimes put in 70 hour work weeks for his own startup — CityRyde, which advises municipalities on establishing bicycle share programs — he’s always available to help his younger brother.
“He helped me write my business plan and offer guidance. I’m always learning directly from his mistakes,” Ericson says of Timothy. “He really is a co-founder [of 3SecondReceipts].”
Drexel and, by extension, his brother have rooted the North Jersey kid — once a Yankees fan who traded it in for Phillies support — in Philadelphia.
“Without my brother and his influence, without the career focus of Drexel, I wouldn’t be able to devote the time to my business that I need,” he says. “From Philly Startup Leaders to the incubator at Drexel, that incredible support is something I’ve found throughout the entrepreneurial communities of Philadelphia, and I think it’s something particular to this place.”
Every Wednesday, Shop Talk shows you what goes into a tech product, organization or business in the Philadelphia region. See others here.