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“From TIA to Acquisition by a Public Company” by Ryan Smith ’13

By Contributing Writer on August 26, 2014
Ryan Smith '13

Ryan Smith ’13

Entering senior year, I thought I had a big decision to make: work for a firm or start my own. Looking back on the time I spent mulling over which way to go, in the back of my mind I knew there really wasn’t a choice. Of the conversations I had, I remember two: Andy [Greenfield ‘74, founder of TIA] telling me not to overthink a simple question, and my parents who were surprised I even asked, “We thought you were going to do it anyway.” With that, we turned EcoCampus, the company I started my first year of Thought Into Action, into a legacy company and sold the firm to a group of Colgate students. Second semester I started Trupoly.

Those last few months of school felt brutally long. I could not escape the feeling that I was wasting time. Between classes, I began deeply researching real estate investing, structuring private equity investments and crowdfunding. I reached out to industry professionals, journalists, lawyers, alumni, and founders of companies in those spaces. In March I incorporated Trupoly, lined up office space and hired a developer; we were going to build a crowdfunding platform. When I say “we” – Trupoly was still a one-man outfit.Trupoly

That summer I met with 57 real estate sponsors, developers and investment firms. Anyone that would take a meeting, I was there. We were still developing the MVP (minimally viable product) but I had to begin pitching the idea of crowdfunding to these firms. With only a handful of exceptions, the meetings usually ended with either a “Not interested” or worse, “Let’s keep in touch” which really means they aren’t comfortable saying the “No” they’re thinking. Regardless, I pushed on and financed the acquisition of a rental apartment in Manhattan with investors we managed on Trupoly’s platform. Although I was still a one-man team, every meeting was worthwhile; it was my opportunity to hear the industry’s pain points. Based on those meetings, we decided to build an accompanying Investor Relationship Management (IRM) software product alongside our crowdfunding platform. We began gaining traction immediately with our IRM product and given the value of the subscription agreements we were signing, Trupoly was able to secure a large angel round quickly. With that capital I was able to hire Trupoly’s full-time team, ramp up our development sprints, and begin churning out additional sales.

Of those seven investors, five were Colgate alumni. Here, the Thought Into Action connection cannot be sufficiently stressed. Five years ago I was a freshman in Thought Into Action and there were five students with Andy. Then a few months in, Bob [Gold ’80] and Wills [Hapworth ’07] came on board and through the three of them, TIA became an institution. Within TIA, I started and sold my first firm all while part of the program. After school, I tapped into the same mentoring network that supported me from launching a small project such as EcoCampus through to Trupoly’s recent acquisition by a large, publicly-traded company.

There is something remarkable happening in Hamilton called Thought Into Action and I’d like to congratulate all the new teams in this year’s class. If you do this right, if you attack every challenge with the same force you would use if someone was trying to drown you, then you’ll create something.

Good things don’t just come, especially if you wait.

Three things I’ve learned and confirmed this year:

  • There is always money in doing things people don’t want to do. If you aren’t sure what they don’t want to do, ask them. Then charge them for your solution.
  • Don’t fall in love with an idea. If you aren’t willing to change, you will fail.
  • Business ideas are worthless; execution is everything.

Ryan Smith graduated in 2013 with a major in International Relations. He launched Trupoly in the TIA Student Incubator his senior year and, in the course of one year, went from student business owner to having that business acquired by a large, publicly-traded firm. He is a passionate entrepreneur who has a very promising future ahead of him. Ryan may be contacted at ryansmith@trupoly.com.


Changing Lives in Nepal by Amanda Brown ’15

By Contributing Writer on August 12, 2014

I’m Amanda Brown ‘15 and I’m a Peace and Conflict Studies major with a minor in Religion. Last semester I studied human rights in Nepal, Jordan, and Chile and conducted a comparative fieldwork study on girls’ access to education. Since returning, I’ve been in New York City starting up Children and Youth First USA (CYFUSA), a registered 501(c)(3) working alongside our parent organization CYF in Nepal. Together we fund the Life Vision Academy for underprivileged children, which currently provides a safe home and progressive education to 37 students from across Nepal. With Theresa Solinger ’15 and Samantha Berlin ’15 on the team, the three of us at CYFUSA are working to improve and expand Life Vision Academy.

We passionately share the belief that a person’s income, family history, and environment should not be a barrier to his or her education. All of our students come from challenging family backgrounds, and all of our girls are the first of their families to receive a full education. When I visited Life Vision for the first time, the energy and potential of the students instantly captivated me. These kids are the future of Nepal, and they are building the confidence and life skills to transform their post-conflict society into a safe, just, and prosperous new Nepal.

Our organization also involves a women’s empowerment cooperative, which helps disadvantaged women in the Kathmandu Valley build economic independence and social strength through knitting together. It is called Haushala, which means “encouragement” in Nepali. Their handcrafted merchandise has already been worn across four continents, and many of the women maintain that the social empowerment they’ve gained is even more rewarding than the financial security. Between Life Vision Academy and the Haushala cooperative, CYF provides infinite possibilities for changing lives in Nepal.

Our outreach so far has included small-scale fundraisers, community presentations, and various social media platforms. We will also be entering the Thought Into Action Student Incubator in September. Over the next year, we want to increase our influence and expand our reach as much as possible, creating a network of supporters who can help us spread word of our mission and projects. We also want to plan and execute diverse fundraising events and increase the amount of retail partners selling Haushala merchandise. It would be extremely helpful to connect with any Colgate alumni with expertise in related areas, such as but not limited to: international education, global development projects, NGO administration and fundraising, children’s and women’s rights, or free trade business administration. If interested in contributing financially to our mission, any gift to our registered 501(c)(3) is tax-deductible and will directly benefit our school expansion project, listed at www.gofundme.com/cyfusa. We would also greatly appreciate publicity or press through any alum’s social or professional networks.

Thank you so much for your time, and we look forward to your support!