On this trip, we met Nihal Parthasarathi, an NYU Stern Graduate who co-founded Course Horse, a web-based enrollment service for instructional and preparatory courses in New York. Users can sign their kids up for SAT courses, or find a Spanish class at the learning annex, among several other opportunities. According to Nihal, the process is a pretty simple one:
- Customer searches for class
- Course Horse chooses one
- Course Horse books it
- Course Horse can recommend other classes
There was quite a huge point for Nihal to start with, since most online registration systems are clunky at best, and completely unusable at worst.
Hearing Nihal speak gave us all valuable insight on how the life of an entrepreneurs goes. According to him, the business plan is often written in about six hours at a coffee shop, and is the passed on to the partner for editing. He and his business partner make good use of executive summaries in order to communicate to investors in the simplest way possible.
One great thing that Course Horse prides itself on is quality assurance. Users can give feedback on the courses they took that they registered for on the site, which helps in the process of referring other users to the courses. Not only that, but if a user isn't completely satisfied with the course they registered for, they can drop it within the first five weeks for a full refund. This helps give users an incentive to come back to Course Horse for registration of other classes.
Starting your own company may seem all glamorous, but Nihal mentioned several road blocks on his journey. For one thing, he noticed that networking is hardest when you need it the most, because when you just started, not many people are interested, and easier when you need it the least, when you have all the networking you can ever want. Investors often don't want to be a part of your company unless you are successful and have established yourself in the industry, which can take quite a while. Nihal's advice for countering this is simple: Make friends with people who can help you out in the long run.
Over the past few weeks I've had passing interest in starting my own media company. However, most of the people we heard from were established entrepreneurs or executives of huge companies. Hearing from Nihal, I really feel like I got to know what it's like to have your own start-up. It's good to know people who are in the industry already, but it is also important to have first-hand accounts of what it's like to be a young, up and coming entrepreneur, and I think our time with Nihal helped a little in that regard.
If you want to know more about his company, check out his website at www.coursehorse.com!