Derek Brown of Acceptd
Meet Derek Brown, founder of Acceptd
, an online admissions tool for students and university administrators.
What is Acceptd?
Acceptd is an online resource that streamlines the recruitment and admissions process, allowing universities to efficiently recruit and screen applicants, while also enabling students to search and find schools, competitions, and festivals that are the best fit for them.
How did you come up with the idea?
My co-founder Don Hunter and I were fortunate to receive full academic scholarships to the University of Cincinnati
(UC). We wanted to build a company that made it more accessible for students to have the same type of opportunities that we did. After talking with several local universities, we found a real need to utilize online technology to better connect students and programs.
What was the biggest surprise in starting your business?
The pace of running a startup was the biggest surprise. We've had incredible growth over the past year; so keeping up has been a good challenge for us.
Where did you find your first employee?
Our first employee was high school and college friend, Jerry Tsai. Being the first hire, we needed someone that we trusted and shared the same passion for creating opportunities to connect students and colleges. Jerry was a natural fit as former UC Class President and Teach for America teacher.
What does a typical day in your business look like?
If there's one thing I've learned, it's that there is no typical day in a startup. We come to the office everyday prepared to drive our business forward and achieve our vision of connecting students with opportunity. You will find us reaching out to partner with universities, festivals, and scholarship competitions to create more opportunities on Acceptd, and then communicating those opportunities to students, parents and teachers. We're also continually enhancing our technology to better connect the two and provide additional value-added resources.
What are some of the advantages to doing business in Ohio?
Ohio is a close-knit community of entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors that share a passion for helping grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem across the state. There are a number of incubators and funding resources to take advantage of as an entrepreneur to help grow your business.
What resources or organizations in Ohio did you take advantage of and how did they help?
We've been fortunate to have tremendous support from the startup community here in Columbus. We've worked with a number of organizations, including TechColumbus
, the 10-xelerator
program, NCT Ventures
, Founders Factory
, and several local angels, entrepreneurs. These groups have provided funding, mentorship, key introductions, business strategy guidance, among many other things.
Can you share a funny or amazing entrepreneurial experience with our readers?
This past season we had several school application deadlines fall on December 1st. We performed extensive load testing prior to prepare for the rush. In order to ensure the best possible customer support around-the-clock, our entire team of nine piled into my apartment for 72 hours straight to help answer last-minute calls and emails from students and parents. It was great to see our team bond together and deliver outstanding service to nearly 5,000 applicants that week.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by creating a business from the ground up to solve real problems and inefficiencies for real customers. The greatest feeling in the world is seeing a vision come to fruition and having actual customers use your product or service.
What founders do you admire and why?
Steve Jobs, for revolutionizing so many industries, and for his unrelenting pursuit of perfection in every product and service that Apple delivered.
What’s next for you?
We're still in the early stages of growing Acceptd, so that consumes all of my focus right now. However, I know the day will come for me to move on to the next opportunity, and I imagine that opportunity will be another technology startup.
Interview by Joe Baur