Ask the Alumni: AJ Agrawal talks about Alumnify
AJ Agrawal graduated from the University of San Diego in 2013 with a degree in finance. He pursued a career as an entrepreneur and developed his business, Alumnify, shortly after graduation. Alumnify is a mobile application that allows for alumni to engage with each other and their alma mater. The aim of the application is to reach out to alumni within the first three years of graduation to increase crowdfunding, the process of raising small amounts of funding from a large number of people, for the university of attendance.
Agrawal developed this idea after realizing that one of the first things a university does when you graduate is send you mail asking for donations. Alumnify was created in hopes that alumni could connect with each other and successfully network, which would give them incentive to remember their alma mater.
“Alumns care about connecting with each other and giving back,” Agrawal said.
However, the idea for this business model did not start with alumni. While Agrawal was attending USD, he and his business partner tested out a similar model and created a crowdfunding platform for Greek life at USD. The venture was successful, and the idea would stick with them.
While at USD, Agrawal received support and aid from various sources on campus. He was a part of the Alcala Club and was able to meet and get the contact information of important people through networking opportunities provided by the club. He recorded and kept that information for later use. Another resource that was helpful was USD’s own staff.
“USD has a lot of entrepreneurs that have lead successful companies,” Agrawal said. “You just have to reach out; people are really willing to help others out.”
The biggest problem that Agrawal encountered in his business venture was starting up his company post-graduation. He and his business partner spent a few months after graduation living in their cars with only $70 to their names, but they would not give up.
“A lot of times we would go around knocking on doors looking to raise money,” Agrawal said.
In 2014, he and his business partner got lucky and won the V2 Competition at USD. Agrawal was awarded $40,000 with no strings attached to start his business. After winning the competition, they raised half a million dollars through investors and donors. The prestige of the award allowed them to network more successfully and gave their company some backing.
Agrawal encourages current students to try their luck with the V2 Competition. He also advises that students begin their business plans as students. From his experience, Agrawal has decided this is the best, and safest way to go.
“It’s tough to start a business in school, but, in my opinion, it is the absolute best time to do it. It’s better to start a company in college because you don’t have as much to be liable for and the risks are minimized,” Agrawal said. “People are always more willing to help students start a business, [and] the point of college is to try new things. You’re much more naive in college, so you’re willing to try out crazy ideas.”
His advice does not end there. Agrawal encourages students to be prepared to build their business and follow the steps that are necessary in becoming successful. He also urges students to take advantage of what USD has to offer to them while they can.
“The most important thing is to focus on who you bring on board for your team,” Agrawal said. “USD is unique in that it has a population of intelligent and willing students, you won’t have that advantage once you graduate. Find great people to work with, push yourself to think differently, set yourself up for success by preparing yourself to invest in your business plan full-time, and use the leverage you have at USD. It has arguably one of the top programs for entrepreneurs.”
USD offers a lot of ways to get involved and learn more about growing a business. It is up to the students to get involved and build their own success.