Source Newsroom: Washington University in St. Louis
Newswise — LockerDome CEO and cofounder Gabe Lozano was telling a packed classroom at Washington University in St. Louis’ Olin Business School the unglamorous and gritty details of creating today’s fastest-growing social media startup.
“In mid 2011, we completely rebuilt the [software] system. We didn’t leave the office for eight days. We slept and worked there, not knowing what day it was or what time it was until we had a new product to launch.”
Lozano’s story began in 2006 when he got the idea for a sports-oriented social network. After years of long days and all-nighters writing software code, raising money, losing money, and repeated failures, the 30-year-old Lozano had to move back home with his parents to pursue his entrepreneurial dream.
“You must have an insane passion for what you’re doing and a ‘don’t die’ attitude,” Lozano told the business school undergraduate and MBA students who are considering the entrepreneurial path. “We are ridiculously competitive,” Lozano said about his team of 13 full-time and three part-time employees. “We are always sprinting, but the highs of startup wins are unbelievable.”
LockerDome’s team has been on a record-breaking high with unique monthly users surpassing 10 million and successfully completing a $6 million Series A funding round–all in the past two weeks. The company also announced its first strategic partnership for ad sales with USA Today last month.
Lozano shares some of the credit for attracting investors with students at Olin Business School. Student teams in one of Olin’s venture consulting courses worked closely with LockerDome’s CFO, Mark Lewis, on market and financial analysis research projects this semester.
They demonstrated that the company was undervalued with higher-than-expected revenue-generating potential. “We used the students’ comparative analysis in our latest round of financing,” Lozano says with a big smile, “and as our investors like to say, that might have helped bump up our price a bit.”
One of LockerDome’s major investors is Cultivation Capital, an early-stage venture capital firm based in St. Louis and managed by successful entrepreneurs, including Square founder Jim McKelvey and Olin’s senior lecturer in entrepreneurship, Clifford Holekamp. They both serve on LockerDome’s board.
Holekamp’s involvement in the St. Louis startup community as an investor, advisor, and mentor provides a natural entree for collaboration between the university, entrepreneurs, and students.
Meeting and working with successful, young CEOs like Lozano is just one of the advantages that students have in Olin Business School’s entrepreneurial program. A new course launched this semester pairs students with startups housed at T-REx, a tech incubator located in downtown St. Louis.
Classes are held at the T-REx building and students work side by side with entrepreneurs on a variety of projects from marketing plans to financial analysis to product research. Other Olin venture consulting courses offer students the opportunity to travel and work with startups in Hungary and Israel.
Lozano concluded his classroom talk at Olin with a confession that the students may find common among entrepreneurs around the world. He said, while creating a startup, “You get no sleep, no social life, and most days you feel like you were hit by a Mack Truck.” But, he added, “I would do it all over again. It’s been the most rewarding experience of my life.”