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Katie Finnegan ’05 is co-founder of hukkster

By Contributing Writer on December 19, 2012
Katie Finnegan '05 Colgate University Huckster

Katie Finnegan ’05, Co-founder of hukkster

Confidence is a fickle thing when you’re thinking about starting a company. Sure, you innately have it or you wouldn’t even be thinking about striking out on your own, but there are absolutely peaks and valleys when you’re taking your first steps. You’re unsure, but passionate. You’re certain until you hear something from someone about a failed endeavor and then that feeling goes away. However, it miraculously comes back at 3:24 a.m on a Tuesday!

The point is, confidence is wild. But then comes what I like to call, the “goosebumps” moment. It’s the moment where your confidence in what you’re about to tackle hits a tipping point and doesn’t look back. You go all in. And thoroughly unexpectedly, my “goosebumps” moment happened at Thought Into Action’s first e-weekend…

It was April 2012. My to-be business partner, Erica Bell, and I had been thinking and planning on our idea, hukkster (http://hukkster.com) for the last few months. We had been trying to figure out how we could make this happen while still maintaining our day jobs (or at least parts thereof), how many hours we could dedicate… the risk mitigation list goes on. Bottom line, we were straddling this fence between finding a safe, logical way to make it work and going all in.

Then in April 2012, I was back at Colgate for the annual Spring Alumni Council meeting (and coincidentally Colgate’s first TIA Entrepreneurship Weekend). I spent the first half of the weekend listening and absorbing. Hearing real stories. Real experiences. All of these things were nudging my confidence closer and closer to the tipping point. And then the “goosebumps” moment happened. I was sitting as a panelist on the “On The Web” panel, explaining hukkster to the students, alums, and parents in the audience.

After I finished my two-minute elevator pitch, I quickly realized–This was it. The response and enthusiasm I received from the audience was overwhelming. Erica and I had experienced encouragement, support and interest before, but it is an entirely different sort of validation when it comes from people beyond your immediate friends and family. These were complete strangers. And they were excited about hukkster! That was the “goosebumps” moment.

Two weeks later, I left my consulting job and went all in. And since then, Erica and I have built hukkster into a real company. We serve 40,000+ members and our reach is rapidly growing. We raised $1 million in seed funding. We’ve been lucky to interview with the likes of the New York Times, Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, MSNBC and even appear on the TODAY show.

Without TIA and the Entrepreneurship Weekend, that tipping point might have happened far later than it should have—or not at all. And as I stay involved in TIA, I can’t wait until I see another alum or student experience the “goosebumps” moment.

Katie Finnegan (Colgate, Class of 2005) is the Co-Founder of hukkster (http://hukkster.com), a free online shopping tool that helps you track products on sites you love, get notified when those products go on sale and gives you the ability to buy when the price and time are right.

Recipe Into Reality, Yuni Sameshima ’13, Joey Petracca ’13, Peter Williams ’13

By Mary Galvez on December 19, 2012
Yuni Sameshima '12 Colgate University, Recipe Into Reality

Yuni Sameshima ’13, Co-founder Recipe into Reality

Have you ever been on a recipe website and seen a recipe you would really like to try? Then you look at the list of ingredients, realize you don’t have half of the things needed, think about the time and hassle it will take to stop at the store, shop, wait in line . . . well, maybe I’ll just forget about this recipe. What if there was a way to browse recipes and shop at the same time? Well, that’s exactly what Recipe into Reality will do for you. RIR is a browser plug-in that allows customers to browse their usual recipe websites, bring up the list of ingredients for that recipe, check off the ingredients that they need, and then have that list sent electronically to the store of their choice. All you have to do is stop at the store on your way home and the ingredients are packaged and ready for you to pick up. What could be simpler?

Joey Petracca ’13 had the original idea for the creation of RIR. He was working in San Francisco this past summer

Joey Petracca '12, Colgate University, Recipe Into Reality

Joey Petracca ’13, Co-founder Recipe into Reality

while living alone and found that he didn’t have time to go shopping even though he loved to cook. After asking around this appeared to be a pretty common problem, so he thought, “why not fix it?!” Once back at Colgate, Joey hooked up with Yuni Sameshima ’13 and Peter Williams ’13 to work on their project through Thought Into Action Institute. While their project has iterated a great deal from their original idea, all three students credit their TIA mentors with getting them where they are today. According to Yuni, “Without TIA, I am not sure we could have gotten to where we are at all. Experience is one of the crucial factors that we, as students, lack in the startup world. This is where the mentors come in. We are in constant contact with almost a dozen mentors on a regular basis. When we get stuck, the mentors are always there to give us the best advice they have, given their own experiences. We sift through all of this advice and come up with a plan that seems to take us in the best direction.” Andy Greenfield ’74, Wills Hapworth ’07 , Scott Annan ’05, Per Sekse ’78, and Dan O’Sullivan are just a few of the TIA mentors who have supported the RIR team, in addition to Eric Seidman ’84, a grocery consultant who has provided invaluable information to the team.

Peter Williams '13, Colgate University, Recipe Into Reality

Peter Williams ’13, Co-founder Recipe into Reality

One area that the mentors successfully pushed the team was to “get out of the lab and get your product out there.” “I think this may be true for many students,” said Yuni. “It is intimidating to talk with large companies or potential customers (it’s hard enough asking a girl on a date!) We thought we had a great idea that eGrocers and consumers would like, but we really didn’t know that for a fact.” Therefore, it was a major milestone when the team recently formed a partnership with Peapod, one of the largest eGrocers in the country. This has been an enormous accomplishment and confidence builder, leading the guys to realize that they just may be on to something here!

RIR will soon be releasing a beta-product that will be available to anyone who already has, or creates a Peapod account. They will also spend next semester creating more partnerships with other eGrocers in order to expand their reach. All the while, they will be listening to customer feedback and iterating their product as necessary. “We believe that RIR can change the way people think about cooking recipes forever.”


Yuni Sameshi ’13, CEO is studying Molecular Biology and Economics. He has worked at a small-cap investment firm, Brean Murray Carret & Co. and in venture capital and startups at ff Venture Capital. At ffVC, Yuni was able to meet and talk with many of the firm’s portfolio CEOs and was enthralled by the passion and drive that they had for their companies. This ignited his own ambition to try and change the world. He has a passion for efficiency and an intolerance of whining, and is very much looking forward to turning RIR into a reality.

Joey Petracca ’13, COO is studying history and politics. This past summer he worked at Stearns Consulting in San Francisco, a political consulting firm that specializes in general consulting for candidate and ballot initiative campaigns. At Stearns, Joey specialized in digital media strategy, media buying, and copywriting. While living in SF, he gained an appreciation for the startup community that is the lifeblood of the City. As the avid foodie of the group, he cannot wait until Recipe Into Reality is up and running so he can use it too!

Peter Williams ’13, CFO is a junior majoring in history. He has experience working in healthcare consulting and private equity. Peter spent his last summer working for The Holt Group, a boutique private equity firm in Vancouver, Washington and the previous summer working for Empirica, a healthcare consulting firm in Portland, Oregon. He is full of the entrepreneurial spirit and believes that he and his partners have the drive to turn Recipe Into Reality into a successful company.

Real Abroad with Jack Henley ’12

By Mary Galvez on December 19, 2012
Jack Henley '12 Graduate of Colgate University; Founder of Real Abroad

Jack Henley ’12 Founder of Real Abroad

When Jack Henley ’12 and Steve Carey ’12 spent the fall of their junior year studying in Prague, they found themselves searching for more information regarding the city in which they were living. They realized that while there were plenty of travel guides out there (both online and in print), all of them were out of touch with the wants and needs of college students. They found that the best information on what to do, where to go, what to see, as well as a host of other travel tips, came from a document that had been put together by friends who had studied abroad in Prague in previous years. After realizing that students faced this problem no matter where they traveled, Jack, Steve, and Ellie Schmidt ’12 created Real Abroad, the first student-only travel community on the web. Real Abroad helps students who are studying or traveling abroad connect with one another and share their experiences and opinions. They applied to Thought Into Action in the fall of 2011 and quickly got to work turning their idea into reality.

Jack says that he can’t stress enough how important the Thought Into Action program has been in making Real Abroad come to life. It was the TIA mentors who, in November of his senior year, pushed the team to “just do it,” meaning to take their first leap into building a website. Had it not been for that, “we probably would have spent another 4 months in the library talking about our idea, doing an unnecessary amount of market research, and fine-tuning everything down to a pin-point.” Instead, Jack and Steve built the first rendition of the website over that winter break with WordPress and threw itThe Real Abroad, Jack Henley '12, Colgate University up on the web. It was entirely static and was a sight for sore eyes, but it got the ball rolling. “Looking back, that was the turning point in our project where we stopped thinking and started doing.”

After graduation last May, Jack decided to take a shot at turning his Thought Into Action project into a full-fledged business venture. He formed an LLC in Massachusetts and invested a small amount of capital in a web development team to build a minimum viable product. Jack is currently building a team of brand ambassadors to help spread news of the website throughout Europe in the coming semester. He has also partnered with a leading student travel agency to work on a user referral program. The plan is that the site will be up and running this spring.

Jack says, “Overall, Thought Into Action has provided me with a great deal of direction and confidence. With the help of my mentors I was able to get over the fear of putting up a less-than-perfect product and realize the importance of learning as you go. Even now, if I ever feel that I’m in over my head or have hit a bump in the road, I’m able to reach out to the mentors for advice on anything from marketing to web design to legal issues. I have heard many other entrepreneurs speak of the importance of having a mentor when first starting out, which is something that I can now affirm. To be able to pick up the phone and talk to someone who is not only willing, but eager to help me with my problems is unbelievable.”

As all entrepreneurs do, Jack has had his share of challenges. The biggest one so far has been getting a minimum viable product developed. “The process has definitely caused a great deal of stress and has continually pushed the boundaries of my patience above and beyond where I thought they lay. At the same time, however, my situation has driven me to essentially give myself a crash course on all things internet, and I am now teaching myself how to program as well. It also taught me the most important lesson of all: things don’t always go as planned.”

Jack Henley graduated cum laude in 2012 with a B.A. in Philosophy and Economics where he was captain of the Colgate University rugby football club. He is currently working and living at home in Longmeadow, MA. He is looking for a partner with technical/computer experience to join the team. Please contact him at jack@realabroad.com if you or someone you know may be interested.