Founder Stories: Storify and MinuteBox

Last Friday, as part of the Imperial Entrepreneurs speaker series programme, we had the founders of Storify, Xavier Damman, and MinuteBox, Josh Liu, in the Imperial College Business School.

The evening kicked off with a presentation from Imperial Entrepreneurs about what they do and the set of events planned out for the year. Both speakers had fascinating stories of entrepreneurship and how they grew their businesses from scratch in uncertain times.

Xavier, who has a background in Computer Science joined the City for one year and swiftly moved on to starting his own business. His first concept was to develop a product to help people publish stories around social media, in particular Twitter. He was bold and moved from Brussels to Silicon Valley with his girlfriend not knowing what to expect and with only a few contacts. After 6 months of hard work and networking, his business, Storify, got $2 million funding from Khosla Ventures and also managed to get a co-founder who was in the media industry. Xavier was juggling his time between meetings with venture capitalists and coding the product by himself. Storify allows people and companies to create stories around social media sites including Twitter, Facebook, or Youtube. Xavier is very passionate about the concept of sharing and how his product allows people to capture individual posts, photos and links that would otherwise have been lost in the web, and create stories around these. Xavier says “Everybody is a reporter, but thanks to journalists, those voices can impact wide audiences, be remembered, change the world”. Xavier’s aim is to reinvent storytelling with social media, and to make everyone a ‘journalist’.

One tip from Xavier for aspiring entrepreneurs was “Don’t ask for permission. Ask for forgiveness.” It is, after all, in words of Steve Jobs, those of us who “think different, … , have no respect for the status quo”, that will make a noticeable difference in this world.

Our second visiting entrepreneur was Josh from MinuteBox. Josh is an alumni of Imperial College, and his product focuses on in getting people in touch with specialists in certain areas of expertise. The first iteration of his product got some negative publicity on TechCrunch (a leading technology/startup blog), but despite this, MinuteBox became a succesful startup enabling people to have a live chat with professionals in various fields through looking at LinkedIn profiles. Josh came from a working class family and fought hard to break out of it and build his own business. Josh’s largest piece of advice from the evening was to have a great team when starting out, as these are the people who you will be spending most of your time with. Even though Josh was not a technical cofounder, it was his succesful collaboration with the team he formed, that ensured the eventual success of MinuteBox.

The visit from Xavier and Josh is the first of many inspiring talks Imperial Entrepreneurs has planned. The focus of the society is to promote entrepreneurship and the idea that there is another possibility after graduation other than working for one of the very tempting investment banks. Imperial College represents some of the top intellect around the world, and it is people like that who are able to create innovative companies of their own which generate value for society.

If you are interested in entrepreneurship, starting your own company, the technology sector, or just want to listen to some very inspiring speakers, come to the talks organized by Imperial Entrepreneurs!