The Fearless Founders program guides student ventures from idea to launch. By adopting the lean startup methodology, student entrepreneurs can learn the strategy, frameworks and tools necessary to develop their business idea.
There are 61 student entrepreneurs participating in the program. They are different in personalities, majors, and classes, but share one thing in common: fearless in pursuing their business ideas. We caught up with UMD undergraduate Meir Snyder to find out what it takes to be a Fearless Founder.
Grant Lee (GL): Hi Meir, nice to meet you. Tell me a little bit about yourself?
Meir Snyder (MS): I am a junior majoring in entrepreneurial operation. I came in majoring in government and quickly realized that I was fascinated with entrepreneurship. There wasn’t an entrepreneurship major at the time, so I created my own. I did a presentation to key staff members to show what classes I would like to take and how each class would relate to the major. I also had a faculty member as my mentor.
GL: Impressive! How did you get involved with the Dingman Center?
MS: During my freshman year, I was frustrated with my major. I knew political science was a great field to get into being so close to Washington D.C., but I wasn’t happy and I began to question myself. Do I like government? Is this what I want? Then I realized that I actually like coming up with new ideas more than anything. I applied for the Hinman CEOs program and didn’t get accepted. That did not stop me from wanting to get involved in the world of entrepreneurship so I came to the Dingman Center. I remember when I first came here, I came every Friday. I was constantly talking with Entrepreneurs-In-Residence and I learned a lot from them.
GL: Yes I remember seeing you quite often on Fridays last semester. You are really engaged. Why did you decide to participate in the Fearless Founder Program?
MS: I spent the summer in an EMT program and got inspired after learning about the Emergency Medical Test. I came up with my idea for a learning platform and became very passionate about it. I heard about Fearless Founders and immediately applied.
GL: Tell me more about your idea. What is the problem and your solution?
MS: My company is called MyLevelLearning. It is a platform that matches students and teachers based on their availability, teaching and learning styles, and preferences. The idea was inspired by taking the EMT exam. I spoke with colleagues and learned that the exam was very different than other tests. Your ability to do well on the exam heavily relies on the pairing system for teachers and students. I was fortunate enough to learn the information from my teacher to pass the exam. Others failed because their teachers did not prepare them as well.
The idea began to grow. I figured teachers and students should be paired based on their availability and style of learning and teaching. Much like, match.com. Imagine a class with 46 students interested in learning the subjects based on their interests. Then I went to seek out support from the Dingman Center. Dingman challenged me and asked me to speak with more people. It was at that moment that I realize maybe education reform isn’t as difficult as it sounds. Let’s just do it.
GL: Looking forward, what is your goal for developing the idea?
MS: My goal is to develop a solid idea, craft my pitch, then build a website. At Terp Marketplace, I spoke with many potential customers. It helped me to validate my business idea because almost every person I spoke to could feel the pain of not getting the right teacher. Now I am working on the pilot test to get more data.
GL: What challenges have you encountered so far?
MS: Now I am crossing the gap between idea and application and I need partners to help me do that. I plan to add someone to my team who specializes in education technology to help my company build credibility. I also need developers to help build the site.
GL: What is the most important thing you’ve learned from the Fearless Founders program?
MS: How to refine my business idea, learn from mistakes without feeling bad about myself, and how to move forward from those mistakes. Most importantly, I’ve learned that if you are going to fail, fail fast and not later.
GL: If you can use one word to describe entrepreneurship, what will it be?
GL: How about one word for the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship?
MS: Supportive. The Dingman Center has helped me grow as an entrepreneur and as a person. They helped me understand the critical issues with my idea so I could develop a plan. It is not always easy to accept critical advice, especially for entrepreneurs, who usually take pride in their ideas. But, this has humbled me and helped me to grow.
GL: It was great to meet you Meir! Thank you for your time. I hope everything goes well for My Level Learning.
MS: You are welcome. Thank you for having me!
Meir Snyder is a junior at the University of Maryland. His current focuses are his startup “MyLevel” , his managerial responsibilities for the premier College Park hookah lounge “Cafe Hookah” and his volunteer work with America Reads and the PGFD. He can be contacted through linkedin @ linkedin.com/pub/meir-snyder
Grant Lee is a second year full-time MBA student focused on Marketing Strategy at Smith School of Business. Prior to MBA, he had four years of experience in retail marketing and advertising in Taiwan. During first year, he differentiated himself by participating in three business plan competitions and won top five in Wake Forest Retail Innovation Challenge. Now in his second year, he is dedicated to learning more about entrepreneurship by working as a Marketing Graduate Assistant for the Dingman Center, where he enjoys every moment of it. Grant shares his perspectives in his personal website mrgrantlee.com