GenYrator to connect only USC entrepreneurs
A quick search for opportunities afforded to young entrepreneurs at USC yields an overwhelming amount of results: Spark SC, LavaLab, Ignite USC, The Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and others.
To an entrepreneurial student hoping to optimize access to resources, this yield of information can be confusing and difficult to navigate. Jay Roth and Sean Nasiri, recent graduates of the Marshall School of Business, hope to streamline the process with their new company GenYrator, a platform they describe as a start-up ecosystem. This company hopes to bring together young entrepreneurs, investors, mentors and skilled students with the aim of making meaningful connections that foster entrepreneurship at USC.
The pair believe that Generation Y, or the millennial generation, is well equipped to form interactive communities online because of their extensive experience connecting via social media. This tech-savvy generation is also most likely to want to work in an entrepreneurial environment, according to the co-founders.
“That’s why we called it GenYrator: it’s Generation Y plus accelerator. We’re taking the Generation Y businesses of today and we’re accelerating them through our platform,” Roth said.
At its core, GenYrator is a platform for equity crowdfunding, a term used to describe crowdfunding that gives investors a share in the company in which they invest. The company currently works out of the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, and is developing the beta version of the platform strictly for opportunities at USC, though it is hoping to expand in the future.
This means students will have the ability to present their established company to a network of investors tied to the Trojan Family by making an account with GenYrator and going through their approval process.
“Given that GenYrator will be exclusive to USC, the eClub hopes to drive interest by encouraging its members to explore the opportunity and its benefits, while providing step-by-step guidance throughout the process,” said Patrick Tanahan, president of the Entrepreneur Club.
For alumni and other interested parties, GenYrator hopes to act as a trustworthy concierge, curating businesses that are well-established and prepared to take on the pressure of investment.
“When you make an investment in the early stage, it’s about the people,” Nasiri said. “Because we’re removing that human element by going online, we hope to come up with different ways to create that connection by being very targeted in how we reach out to people.”
Roth and Nasiri present a confident front and speak in a well-oiled pattern, with Nasiri starting boldly and often passionately interjecting with the big ideas and Roth following up with details and processes. Both are passionate about the project and believe in the positive effects of building an entrepreneurial community. They see the process as a way for older generations to pass along success.
“Though return on investment is never guaranteed, it is guaranteed that you’re helping a group of young people trying to pave their way in this world, and follow their dream,” Nasiri told potential investors.
The idea for GenYrator came to the pair a few months before equity crowdfunding was made legal in the United States by the Securities and Exchange Commission as part of Title II of the JOBS Act in September 2013. Though still in its beta stages, the company boasts an established network of partners and mentors including Blackstone LaunchPad and co-founder of TechCrunch Keith Teare. As for potential investors, the pair have begun reaching out to the USC network, including the university’s trustees and board of governors, as well as their own personal networks. GenYrator hopes to utilize what Nasiri describes as USC’s vast “prideful, affluent and well-connected alumni network” to mobilize start-ups that use their service.
Their future goal, however, is to create an overarching network that takes the focus of entrepreneurship and angel investing out of the perceived locus of Silicon Valley and into the global sphere.
GenYrator markets itself as a place for “true” angel investment. Nasiri contrasted their company’s spirit of helping a newer generation with the perceived practices of many angel investors today.
“There’s nothing too angelic about it,” he said. “The show Shark Tank is more of an accurate term for what’s going on there.” Nasiri suggests that many investors skew companies’ valuations and use their leverage for maximum personal profit. The goal of the platform is instead to form a spirit of community and create a system of paying it back.
Entrepreneur Club Vice President Shiv Shah said there are many companies getting involved in the equity crowdfunding space currently, including a fellow student in the club. To Shah, there have been just a few limelight entrepreneurial businesses out of USC, such as camel milk company Desert Farms and Talent Trail, the internship and job matching site. He hopes that the number of successful entrepreneurial businesses will grow in the coming years.
“More important than the funding is that they create a platform where students can see other start-ups,” Shah said. “You want to see your peers building a successful company.”
GenYrator aims to serve a need that the co-founders saw during their time as students: a cohesive platform that supports the entrepreneurial spirit that they believe is strong at the university, but that lacks extended support.
“Once you hit market, once you graduate, USC doesn’t provide the capital or access to capital services or guidance you need once you have your business, that take it to the level of it being truly great,” Nasiri said.
They state that their platform will provide a support system that extends past networks of current students, and will help companies past the primary fundraising stages through their community network. Nasiri and Roth hope to facilitate the renewal of entrepreneurial influence at the university.
“We need to be bringing our resources, mentors, advisors, tools, services, benefits together, interacting as one,” Nasiri said. “They all need to be interacting as one if USC really wants to be established as an entrepreneurial powerhouse.”