Beginning Stages

What is the exact date when the idea for KANU was conceived in the dorm room? 10/12/23, the campus bulletin board.
Can you share a brief story or insight that sparked the initial idea? After conducting hours of research, white boarding, and brainstorming of business ideas to launch on campus, we came across an article about side-hustles in college. One of the ideas was facilitating a dorm-wide bulletin board for students to promote hustles and odd jobs. That set us on our way to build V1 of KANU, where students could create a product or service storefront in a campus exclusive environment.
What were the initial challenges you faced? Marketing and product development were our biggest initial challenges off-the-bat. Neither Ben or Andrew were coders, or had experiencing marketing a software, which led to a number of trials and many errors. After finally engaging with a low-cost product development team, and conducting demand surveys on campus, we successfully launched our MVP.

First Failure

What date did you encounter your first significant failure? 9/1/18, the start of sophomore year.
What exactly was this failure, and how did it affect your team and project? Our plan was to complete the development of our MVP during the summer of 2018. However, after numerous setbacks and due to the lack of founder experience, the product launch was delayed several months, making it difficult to carry out consistent marketing campaigns, and build relationships on campus.
What lessons did you learn from this setback? Software development takes time and always costs more than initially planned. It is nearly impossible to foresee the potential bugs, setbacks, and additional features that may come about during development. It is crucial to allocate plenty of extra QA time and budget space, and overestimate the necessary resources to successful launch a product feature.

First Pivot

When did you realize a pivot was necessary? (Please provide a date) 11/1/18, when we realized a two person team couldn’t market a product by themselves.
What changes did you make? Was it a change in target customer, features, business model, etc.? We emailed and contacted everyone at our University who we thought would point us in the right direction for proper and sustainable growth. We learned that we had to pivot our focus towards the classroom, where we could develop higher quality ventures to share with the greater community. Working with professors has dramatically increased our user adoption and has made it possible to build a sustainable business.
How did the pivot affect your trajectory? We thought we could scale our marketplace like a Shopify or Facebook Marketplace overnight. Little did we realize that it takes years of trial and error in all phases of a company, customer interviews, and tedious work to achieve our goals. By focusing on the relationships with our best customers, we realized that taking a slower, more patient route would lead to far greater success

Partnering with Educators

When did you form your first partnership with educators? ​We formed our first educator partnership with Nancy Forster-Holt at the University of Rhode Island during Fall 2018. We had trouble gaining traction on the marketplace given our busy schedules and limited professional experience, so we engaged with as many University staff and faculty as possible with a desire to build partnerships that would accelerate our growth.
What was the scope of this partnership, and how did it benefit both parties? ​When we were introduced to Nancy, we learned that she was looking for a risk-free, safe platform for her students to launch a side-hustle. Over the past several semesters, her students were creating small product and service ventures, meant for their peers, family, and campus community. However, the ventures remained conceptual and students abandoned the ideas after the semester. At first, the partnership represented a win-win situation for Nancy as an educational tool, and for KANU as a way to gain meaningful traction at a sustainable rate.
Were there any milestones achieved through this partnership? ​The positive feedback from students as a unique, meaningful experience in a classroom was a key milestone at first. From an educational standpoint, many students also gained insight about themselves as entrepreneurs and whether or not they wanted to start a business during their careers. From a business standpoint, acceptance to the USASBE 2019 conference as an emerging experiential exercise was a massive milestone as the admission was validation of KANU as an educational tool, leading a further adoption in other entrepreneurship programs and classrooms. This validation led us to continued technological development.

National Conference Presentation

On what date did you present at a national conference? ​January 2019 was an our presentation at our first USASBE conference.
What was the conference, and what was the focus of your presentation? ​USASBE is the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship. The focus of the conference is entrepreneurship education in the higher education space. There are a few different programming and research tracks that include emerging, developmental, and experiential themes accompanied by various interest groups and presentations.
What impact did the conference presentation have on KANU? ​The conference presentation had a few different impacts on KANU. It provided validation as an experiential exercise in the higher education space, and it gave the KANU team an opportunity to share the tool and its values with a large audience. Ensuring our marketing and messaging was of the highest quality was crucial as this was the first time we shared the platform with the mass.

First USASBE Conference - Initial Presentation

What was the year and name of the first USASBE conference where you presented? ​The first USASBE conference was in January 2020 in New Orleans, LA. We accompanied Nancy Forster-Holt as representatives of the University of Rhode Island. The theme of the conference was
Can you provide a description of the milestone achieved at this first conference? ​Being selected as an emerging experiential exercise and having a position alongside other educators with similar exercises provided tremendous validation of KANU. Throughout the conference, we had dozens of conversations with likeminded educators as we sought feedback and built relationships with future potential early evangelists. Joining the community and receiving their support was another major milestone of this conference.
How many educators initially partnered with you after this conference? There were two educators who formally adopted KANU into their curriculum as a tool the following semester, but KANU was too early in development to formally sell to other institutions. Our focus at this conference was gathering feedback and conducting further customer discovery of our marketplace. In this respect, we learned more about working with Universities, sales, and the classroom technology space than we could’ve ever imagined.

Second USASBE Conference - Post-Pilot

What was the year and name of the second USASBE conference you attended? ​USASBE 2021 was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The theme was similar to the prior year, but with a growing focus on experiential exercises. We entered this conference as an independent learning tool rather than an piece of an exercise.
Did you present the results of your pilot program at this conference? ​Our second USASBE conference gave us the opportunity to share the continued results of our work with Nancy Forster-Holt. As an emerging experiential tool with 3 semesters of positive student feedback, our credibility was growing among the USASBE community. Our message to other entrepreneurship educators continued to be that empowering students to launch real, live businesses from the classroom is crucial for a meaningful experience in the entrepreneurship space.
Can you describe the milestone achieved at this second event, including the addition of two more educators? ​While our goal at this conference was to continue conducting customer discovery, USASBE 2021 was also the launch of our first sales campaign. We welcomed two new educators from Florida Gulf Coast University and Drexel University, Colleen Robb and John Wilson, who turned out to be loyal, early evangelists of KANU as an educational tool. The two educators eventually adopted KANU into their Fall 2021 curriculum, proving that KANU was a scalable learning tool.

Third USASBE Conference - Prestigious Award

What was the year and name of the third USASBE conference where you won the most prestigious award? ​USASBE 2022 in Raleigh, North Carolina held at NC State University was where we won 1st place in the prestigious 3E Competition.
What was the name of the award? ​The 3E competition is held to showcase the top experiential entrepreneurship exercises around the globe. With over 30 entrants and only 3 top finishers, the field was tight with educators who had years of experience in the field, and other learning tools that had produced award winning exercises in the past.
Can you elaborate on how winning this award affected KANU and the team? ​Winning this award was both a massive relief and accomplishment for the KANU team. Not only did the award represent tremendous validation of KANU in the entrepreneurship education space, but was an incredible feat given the COVID-19 pandemic and having to adjust our business accordingly. The award put KANU on the national stage, and set a a strong foundation for a partnership with USASBE in the years to come.
How did this award affect your relationship with the initial and new educator partners? ​Since our competition application was submitted with Nancy Forster-Holt, Colleen Robb, and John Wilson, the award provided an all-around tremendous boost to their academic credibility as contributors to the USASBE community. For new educators, the award added a sense of familiarity to KANU, making prospects more comfortable to adopt the tool into their programs. The 3E award also set the foundation for further scalability beyond just the classroom into entrepreneurship centers and larger organizations. At this conference, our partnership network expanded to include other organization in the Higher Education space such as the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization and Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers.

Fourth USASBE Conference - Sponsorship and Client Expansion

What was the year and name of the USASBE conference where KANU was a sponsor? ​USASBE 2023 in Tallahassee, Florida was KANU’s first conference sponsorship.
As a sponsor, what specific opportunities did this open up for KANU? ​Being a sponsor opened the door to a number of new opportunities at the USASBE conference. For the first time, KANU had a vendor booth to better communicate with prospects and with a new standard of credibility. The booth made the KANU team rethink marketing materials and strategy because this was the first time the team was seeking mass adoption. Sponsorship also opened the door to summit programming involvement at the conference, as a session supporter. The summit gave the KANU team an opportunity to collaborate and brainstorm with other educators on key issues in the entrepreneurship education space, and in turn, established budding relationships with educators in a new, less “sales-y” way.
Can you detail the milestone achieved at this fourth event, including the addition of 10 more educators to your client list? ​Being a sponsor and participant in the conference summit was a big milestone for KANU as it solidified our reputation and credibility within the USASBE community. With our refined marketing and sales strategy, educator adoption was far more seamless and organized than ever before, leading to over 10 new educators and programs coming onboard. We also became more heavily involved in the administrative side of USASBE, opening the door to a social interest group dedicated entirely to KANU and new venture creation in the classroom.


When did you achieve your first monetization milestone? ​We achieved our first monetization milestone in Fall 2021, with the release of our educator dashboard and premium mobile features for students.
What was the revenue model you adopted? ​We adopted a subscription model, mainly from classroom users, and a transaction fee model from marketplace activity. The subscription model was launched in the form of a semesterly package for students to access learning milestone badges, premium analytics, and other resources to assist with venture development. As a marketplace with payment processing, booking, inventory management, and chat features, these features allowed us to integrate a transaction fee model where KANU captures a small percentage of each marketplace transaction.
How did this milestone influence your business strategy? ​With a subscription model that was producing far more revenue than the transactions, our we adopted a B2C sales strategy directly to entrepreneurship educators. The subscription acted as a textbook fee for students, and the expectation was that once they subscribed and launched their ventures, they would start to generate revenue, and eventually drive transaction fees for KANU. Over time, incorporating and refining classroom engagement and support has become a major initiative in scaling KANU.

College Graduation

When did you graduate from college, and how did this affect your commitment to KANU? ​By the time graduation was on the horizon, the KANU team was gearing up to jump full-time into KANU. Luckily, the time dedicated to KANU was nearly evenly split with academics as we had multiple clients and thousands of users to manage on the platform. Given the circumstances and our momentum as a company, our commitment to KANU never wavered.
Did the business see a change in pace or focus after graduation? ​With academics no longer taking time away from KANU, the team was able to become full-time employees. This change naturally accelerated the pace of growth, with less distractions academically and socially from college. The work quickly started to buildup as we remained a small team of two with minimal work experience as recent graduates.

Going Full Time

When did you decide to work on KANU full time? ​When we first started KANU as students, our goal was to make our roles full-time after graduation. However, it wasn’t until the summer of 2020 when we first experienced being full-time employees of KANU.
What triggered this decision, and what were the key considerations? ​While our revenue wasn’t at a point of sustainability and our team remained small, we believed that the value we were creating for students and educators had the potential to yield massive returns later on. There was no other tool that allowed students to create a small venture quickly and safely without having to join a platform of professionals. At the same time, there was no classroom tool that allowed educators to facilitate a real-life learning experience around creating a business. Our belief in our mission allowed us to persevere, and continue to focus on value creation on campus and in the classroom. With additional funding from friends and family, we were able to work on KANU full-time until we reached a point where we had enough traction to secure a formal round of funding.

Funding by Reach

When did you secure funding from Reach? ​We closed our financing with Reach Capital in December 2022.
What was the amount and terms of the funding? ​We secured a convertible note of $175,000.
How did this funding help accelerate KANU’s plans? ​The funding allowed the team to continue developing essential features for continued growth and scalability of KANU such as a new website, marketplace enhancements, and broader visibility for KANU ventures. The funding also enabled us to become sponsors at programs such as USASBE, and build the marketing materials to support our branding. Joining the Reach Portfolio also opened the door to numerous other companies, future partners, and resources as part of a venture capital portfolio. We were lucky enough to have been supported by Reach at such an early stage given our limited traction and their reputation as a leading education technology investment firm.

Traction Today

As of today's date, what are some key metrics that indicate your current traction? KANU has collaborated with 20 universities, and 8 are actively utilizing the platform across various classrooms and 12 in active partnerships. It has facilitated the creation of 160 private campus marketplaces and 10 public community marketplaces. The platform also extends to 6 different organizations and has been integrated into 15 classrooms tailored for marketing and entrepreneurship, and involved in 3 venture competitions. They have also recruited 6 ambassadors and have seen an increase in student involvement in university entrepreneurship programs post-engagement with KANU. The total point-of-sale transactions have reached 600 since its launch in January 2023, and $10,000 has been accumulated through micro-investing in competitions. Interest capture has recorded 350 new consumers expressing interest in student venture MVPs.
Any significant partnerships, customer feedback, or other indicators you'd like to highlight? ​Numerous universities, prominently including the University of Rhode Island and Drexel University, have adopted KANU for use in entrepreneurship and marketing classes, innovation centers, entrepreneurship clubs, and startup competitions. Most universities commenced utilization around September 1, 2023, with programs varying in adoption scales. KANU has also progressed in partnership discussions with various entities like the Girl Scouts of America and the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization, focusing on developing community-driven experiences to launch ventures and enhance classroom exercises. Moreover, KANU has made appearances in news and media, featuring in outlets like KENS 5 San Antonio News and Rhode Island Inno, showcasing its growing presence and acknowledgment in the entrepreneurship and educational domains.

Future Outlook

What are your short-term (next 6 months) and long-term (next 2-5 years) goals for KANU? ​We're excited to have a free storefront builder and a range of playbooks and resources to empower even the most novice entrepreneurs. We aspire to be a one-stop-shop for entrepreneurs, from side-hustles to high-growth ventures, and one day integrating third-party services like tax filing and accounting. From a big-picture standpoint, we hope KANU facilitates community-driven marketplaces to support aspiring entrepreneurs around the US. KANU will be suitable for any community fostering aspiring entrepreneurs and cultivating a robust network of supportive members and affinity groups.
Are there any upcoming milestones or events that you're particularly excited about? ​The KANU team is observing notable inroads into community colleges and aims to achieve $50,000 in subscription revenue by the end of FA2023, marking a 169% YoY growth. All in all, we are looking forward to the traction generated over Fall 2023 with more students and businesses on KANU than ever before. We are excited about our partnership development on several fronts with C-E-O, GCEC, BBYO, and Girl Scouts of America.
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