Russ: This is The BusinessMakers Show, heard on the radio, seen online at TheBusinessMakers.com. It's guest time for a unique business, a business focused on entrepreneurs and I'm here with the two founders of the new business called Sivi. Nicholas Seat and Ashok Kamal and but they are both very successful entrepreneurs, so I'm going to let them tell that story first, Nicholas?
Nicholas: Well Russ, I'm thrilled to be here talking to your entrepreneurs about entrepreneurship and got my start at the Rice Business Plan competition in 2005 when my UCLA MBA founded company Auditude was a – I would call us a dark horse. I was rehearsing my business plan pitch in front of the Rice competition panel judges and low and behold we ended up winning the competition.
Russ: Okay. And so – and so that's what got you started?
Nicholas: That got the ball rolling and then we grew the company and we transitioned it and it became the world's third largest online video ad platform. And then we sold it to Adobe in 2011 for more than – more than the goose guys put in so they were happy.
Russ: Congratulations with that. Okay, so Ashok?
Ashok: So I was waiting for the David Bowie Under Pressure music to come on Russ because I associate you so viscerally with that tune. Like Nick, I was in the Rice Business Plan competition, in my case it was 2010, a few years later. That's how we met, by returning to speak about our then current businesses. In my case it was called Benu Bags and we made backpacks out of recycled bottles. Anyone who's been attending the RBPC for the last few years probably has at least one of those backpacks which we came back the following year and sponsored.
Russ: I have them from every year.
Ashok: So you've got a rainbow of
Russ: Yes I do, absolutely.
Ashok: Like many entrepreneurial journeys we pivoted that business into a green social media marketing company which I now have in New York where I live most of the year and my partners and team. But through interactions with Nick at various Rice Alliance organized events over the past 6 months we realized we have a great passion for educational technology and of course entrepreneurship, so we decided to put our efforts together and work on our latest venture which is a online entrepreneurship education company.
Russ: Okay, so tell us about SIVI.
Nicholas: So Ashok and I, we were networking and talking shop as good entrepreneurs do at a speaking event that we were both at and we both indicated that we were ready for the next big thing in our lives. And of course Ashok has a going company and, as I like to joke, I picked online video, Ashok picked saving the planet, so he had a much tougher exit opportunity, much harder to convince the customer So we were thinking what would be a great compelling way to do online education? And with this huge growth in online education, there was definitely – there's opportunity there for entrepreneurs; in a growing pie there's always opportunity. So then we were thinking specifically what subject should we start with online education in and if we were to do something there; what is something that we're both, well, at least superficially we're good at?
Nicholas: Entrepreneurship! So that's
Ashok: And passionate if not good.
Nicholas: Yes, exactly.
Russ: Right, okay.
Nicholas: So that's when we had that aha moment. It's like if we can adapt new online education techniques like gamification and leader boards and points into the entrepreneurship space, we might have something special because certainly – for me – entrepreneurship education was a 10 year process of making mistakes, of doing the wrong thing, being told by – fortunately I had great advisors and mentors, but did I really have to make – does every entrepreneur really have to make all of those mistakes over and over again? No. There is a finite list of mistakes and if we can put together a comprehensive list of things that an entrepreneur needs to know to be a successful entrepreneur, let's do it in a – in a palatable fashion that‘s much more easy for a busy entrepreneur to pursue than reading a huge text book.
Ashok: So we've packaged that sort of checklist of, you know, must do's of knowledge into an engaging framework using, as Nick mentioned, some of the contemporary social technology tools and as we were measuring the pie, we realized that there's more interest than ever in entrepreneurship. And good reason for it of course; you know, corporate job security is not what it once was and, you know, half of U.S. graduates are under employed or unemployed. So at the same time you have now a hundred and sixty-five million entrepreneurs between 18 and 35 around the world, there's 400,000 students in the U.S. today taking classes on entrepreneurship in schools like Rice. That's a 20X increase since 1985, so this is actually an industry that's growing rapidly and, you know, we felt like it was the perfect time – the economic challenges of the traditional path plus the economic opportunities of entrepreneurship - for us to take some of the experience that we've accumulated, apply it in an engaging, you know, accessible, cost-effective way really create a game-changer.
Russ: Okay, now is this a for-profit endeavor?
Russ: Okay. So tell us – say I'm an entrepreneur, I heard about it, I said I think I got to go there and check this out, I sign up; what do I pay, what do I get, how long does it take?
Ashok: So it's a subscription-based platform. So you may have heard of say Linda.com, you know, they charge a couple hundred dollars a year to teach you; in Linda's case a technical skill like, you know, Java Script or maybe, you know, web design. Similarly we're looking at around a hundred dollar price point for an annual subscription, we'll also have a – a free version so it's a –a freemium, you know, business model. That's for the individual entrepreneur, however we're also excited about our enterprise partnerships where we can work with institutions that already are aggregating our target market of young entrepreneurs; so these are co-working spaces, accelerators, entrepreneursive centers – and in those cases we can actually expand their pie, give them a way to add value in a scalable way and, you know, share the revenue.
Russ: Cool, really cool. Okay, so what's the status of SIVI right now?
Ashok: Almost done.
Nicholas: We have launch day – pitch day with our VentureSpur Accelerator next week in Oklahoma City and a following week after that, so 2 weeks from today in Dallas and so that'll be our big coming out party. And hopefully Brad will let us announce at the 2014 Rice Competition what we've been up to all this time.
Russ: Is that what the countdown is or is it
Nicholas: This is our stealth mode landing page. If you go to SIVI.com now you see the countdown ticket. But for aspiring entrepreneurs – and you may like to do this yourself Russ – is to go to launchleader.com. And so this is a sneak peak of our forthcoming entrepreneurship education platform. This one answers us the question Am I an entrepreneur? So the User comes in, they have to click Go or Activate Me, and then up comes a series of very short, very quick questions that asks you Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur? So these are questions…
Ashok: I only work on Mondays through Friday, from 9 to 5, yeah, true or false?
Russ: Right, if you say yes there you need to back out - you need to back out right away. So that's really cool, launchleader.com?
Nicholas: That's correct.
Ashok: Yeah, which is our product. So SIVI is the parent company, Launch Leader is the product.
Russ: And SIVI is SIVI.com?
Russ: All right guys, we want to stay in touch on this, we want to watch it grow. Perhaps at the 2014 Plan we can get an update from you guys, how does that sound?
Nicholas: Hopefully yes.
Ashok: Sounds like a plan, we've got work to do in between now and then but we're back in the saddle; great to see you again Russ.
Russ: Guys, thank you so much for sharing that with us, really appreciate it. And that wraps up my discussion with Nicholas Seat and Ashok Kamal, the Co-Founders of SIVI. This is The BusinessMakers Show, heard on the radio and seen online at TheBusinessMakers.com.