Reach’s co-founders Brent Hussey and Sarah Main didn’t like having to use Facebook to connect with other students in their university classes, only to face a series of awkward unfriendings at the end of the term. On the other hand, the online learning management systems provided by their universities were outdated and poorly designed. This frustration pushed them to create their own platform that facilitates the short-term connections inherent in university life. We spoke with Brent and Sarah about their experience at The Next Big Thing (TNBT).
On idea validation, setbacks, and moving forward
BH. There was this entrepreneur competition at McGill called the Dobson Cup. So we were like, oh we’re obviously going to enter this. We spent weeks and weeks preparing our summary, and doing our pitch deck, made it through the first round of submissions. Then for the second round, there were like, 200 different ventures, and we ended up placing 13th out of the 12 finalists. But the problem – the reason we didn’t place is because we had our big presentation and it was like, it wasn’t huge, there were three panelists, and then our team of three. We bombed it.
SM. I forgot every single word possible. I didn’t say anything. I literally froze up. Everything was so memorized… I was traumatized. And then after that happened, we got our feedback form, and it was 5/5 investment potential, 5/5 marketing potential, 5/5 for all of these things… even though the presentation was so bad, they were like, “You guys, we understand this is your first try, but you have to keep going.” So I think it was after that, everything changed for us and we started going full speed ahead.
On deciding to join TNBT
BH. We’d gotten into this other accelerator called DC Ventures. It was a lot more structured, you had to pay, everyone was a lot older than us. And then we came here, and realized that everyone was our age, everyone was going through the same problems as us, we were kind of in similar stages of our businesses, and the offices were a lot cooler [laughs]. So yeah, this was definitely a much better fit for us.
SM. I think for us, our lack of resources, and the sense of community that TNBT brought with people our age was probably the most appealing to us, because again, it’s so nice coming into a place where everyone is like-minded, has the same challenges but they’re all doing it together, and you guys can kind of talk about it to each other. All of that was super appealing to want to start a business. It was basically like going back to highschool – like, not highschool, but university – it felt like you were going back to class to learn how to do real world things.
On your biggest misconception about entrepreneurship
SM. Everything takes twice as long and twice as much money. And like, that’s a firm statement, and there’s no bending that. And time flies. Ooooh my god.
SM. 9 out of 10 startups fail. So you’re actually going into the riskiest market to make money. But you do it because you believe in your idea. In tech, regardless of what anyone’s product is, or industry or venture or anything they do, they believe 110% that their product will change the world, or will be the next big thing. And that is so motivating, seeing so many people so passionate about everything they do.
The thing is that I know so many people that I graduated with that are in investment banking who hate their lives who are like, “Oh but the payoff”, “Oh but I’m gonna’ make money.” But for all of us here, regardless of what the payoff’s gonna’ be, you have to live and breath what you’re doing, and you have to believe in it, because if you don’t, no one else will.
On the next steps for Reach
SM. Turn this into a billion-dollar company.
BH. Definitely no slowing down from here. The sky’s the limit.
SM. Yeah, the sky’s the limit.