Three influential industry leaders have launched a crowdsourcing community to accelerate the growth of small and medium-sized businesses.
Aptly named ‘Ureeka’, the platform gives founders unprecedented access to expertise needed for growth. It connects underrepresented entrepreneurs with a community of peers, mentors, coaches, a specialist marketplace, shared best practices, and sought-after resources.
The membership platform features a social networking style interface (think LinkedIn or Facebook) where members meet and interact. Users have their own profiles and can view the profiles of others. Additionally, in the marketplace seekers can source vetted service providers in different business areas. The platform even hosts live and virtual pitch competitions.
Chief exec David Jakubowski and co-founders Melissa Bradley and Rob Gatto met while judging a pitch competition. They quickly realized that they shared a passion for helping businesses grow and then took their back of a napkin idea and built out Ureeka.
The trio brings a wealth of experience and connections. Jakubowski is a former highflying Facebook executive, Bradley is a well-respected mover and shaker in the startup ecosystem, and Gatto has served in leadership positions at top tech firms.
The co-founders recognize that the traditional paths of angel investing and board work are not having a significant enough impact for many enterprises. Their mission is to democratize economic opportunity by reducing the cost and risk associated with growing a small and medium-sized business (SMB).
Despite still being in beta, Ureeka is a fast-growing, highly engaged community. Entrepreneurs are sold on the model and discovering specialized and tools to better help them execute. What’s more, the trio is using their connections to offer sought-after giveaways (for example, Snapchat and Facebook advertising credits), access to influencers, and partnerships with bigwig corporations. For example in a Ureeka webinar Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary joined the line to offer candid advice.
In recent weeks the platform has been a lifeline for Ureeka members navigating coronavirus disruption. The team has been working around the clock providing everything from expert advice, access to resources, remote office hours, and conferences.
UrbanGeekz got the chance to catch up with all three co-founders on the start, the vision, and the value behind the asset. Read on to understand their ambitious mission and in turn how small business entrepreneurs will benefit.
What sparked the idea for Ureeka?
David Jakubowski: Ureeka came together when the three of us met while judging a pitch competition. We quickly realized we shared a passion for helping small businesses grow. Unfortunately, the traditional paths of angel investing and board work weren’t having a significant enough impact on those that needed it most. That was the start of Ureeka. We studied what made businesses successful and found a clear pattern of obstacles, hurdles, stages, and best practices. The common theme was access to the right people to cut through the BS that preys on unknowing businesses. Technology was perfect for making access easy, and the rest fell into place.
What services does Ureeka offer?
Rob Gatto: Ureeka enables access for underrepresented business owners to people, tools, and services they need to grow. This includes our community of peers, mentors, and coaches, a curriculum of how-to’s and shared best practices and a curated marketplace of service specialists. Going back to the original idea and theme for Ureeka, access to the right people is essential, so when a founder needs help or needs advice, guidance, research, we are there to support. Working together, we fill resource gaps allowing them to instantly function like a company ten times their size.
Who will benefit most from using Ureeka and how?
Melissa Bradley: Ureeka is meant for the underserved business owner; the owner who wants access to the people that can help them grow, but doesn’t otherwise have that access. Whether they are just starting out or running multi-million dollar businesses, everyone needs connections and support. Being a digital-first company has become one of the key distinctions for the great versus good companies. Ureeka is specifically built to help those businesses with a product or service that needs digital exposure and has thousands of questions they just don’t know the answer to.
What features are you most passionate about?
Two things: First, our human mentorship is powerful. We have an entire ecosystem of real people experienced in executing across hundreds of topic areas. You can access them for one-on-one help specific to your business simply because you are a Ureeka member. It’s an entire movement of people helping people.
Second, we have “do it for you” services available. There is so much to do as an entrepreneur. We have curated specialists who will execute for you at a fraction of the cost that you would pay to hire or do elsewhere. Too often we see founders throwing their money away paying vendors or paying too much for a service. Ureeka’s product specialists constantly vet the newest vendors, technology, and solutions to make sure that we can offer the best in class to our community members. We then leverage the size of the community to negotiate rates that everyone in the community can benefit from. By joining our community, members won’t have to worry if they are overpaying or if the solution that they seek is from someone that is actually qualified. We cut through the noise and give our members the truth.
What differentiates Ureeka from other platforms?
Melissa Bradley: Ureeka is a community of real people. Each of us has deep experience building companies and has worked at the biggest companies in the world. We’re here to help our users cut through the noise. Our mentors and coaches have worked at places like Facebook, Snapchat, Google, Twitter, Amazon, Automatic, and Shopify. Further, we have curated professional coaches, all of whom have been an entrepreneur or are a seasoned expert from industry. We give unprecedented access that eludes most small business owners.
How many people – active users, mentors, and coaches — do you anticipate will join the platform?
Melissa Bradley: Thousands across all of those dimensions… Ureeka is referral only. A member needs to invite you. That keeps out the scams, the people not serious and the MLM bottom feeders that overrun most places that businesses congregate. We actively screen and won’t let them in. We rely on our community for “pay it forward” model of growth.
How did you determine the revenue model for Ureeka?
Rob Gatto: We didn’t. The community themselves defined it. We set out to help people and to scale the expertise that we had access to. We set out to help businesses grow and they started to ask us for services and to “do it for us.” All of the services we offer are a result of the request of an SMB to find them someone qualified to do that work; it enables our members to focus on their core business and act like a big one.
What is the importance of a mentor-mentee relationship for SMBs?
Melissa Bradley: Being an entrepreneur is lonely on the best days. When faced with hard choices or things we don’t have experience in, it hits hard on our inherent insecurities. Having a place to go where real people who understand this dynamic are raising their hands to help out is priceless. We as founders use our community for the same thing – support, advice, guidance, and to remove the loneliness, get smarter and stay focused.
What culture are you building into the platform and how?
David Jakubowski: We don’t build culture, our members do. We are a support structure. Our job is to reflect the community and go tackle the hard problems they face every day that require outside help. We are taking the cost and risk out of running the business, but the members define the culture and the problems.
What’s your long-term vision or end goal for Ureeka?
Rob Gatto: Help one million businesses grow, creating billions in wealth and millions of jobs in communities that have historically been overlooked. As a society, we need a new source for living-wage jobs. We see that source in our members every day. If we help them, they are the solution the country needs.
Ureeka is in an invite-only Beta test, but you can join Ureeka here with this PROMO CODE: UreekaHelp
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