Mar 07, 2016

Building a Different Kind of Startup While at Tuck

By Fernando Plubins Schneider T'16

Growing up in Brazil, a series of unfortunate events made my early years in life very challenging. However, everything changed when I met wonderful people during my journey who helped me in many different ways. Some were great mentors who I looked to for advice. Some were people I looked up to who inspired me to achieve more and aim higher (including pursuing my MBA). Some were very practical mentors who helped me with a job, money, or other basic needs. All of these people completely changed my life. As a result, I developed the desire to do the same for others.

At Tuck, I found the perfect environment to do so. I took the “Strategic Principles for Internet Business” course where I was introduced to the idea of two-sided platforms and the sharing economy. I was so fascinated with these concepts that a Tuck colleague and I started thinking about business ideas around them. While our business ideas were still in the development phase, I realized I could apply the concepts to build a non-profit organization to help people in my home country of Brazil.

And that’s what I did. Six months ago I invited a couple of friends to build Projeto Joule. It’s a platform that connects experienced mentors with teenagers trying to figure out their career path. It also connects experienced professionals who are looking for a new job or trying to improve their careers. We help people find a job, education opportunities, or discover their path in general. Mentors are volunteers who are willing to share their knowledge—mentees get help for free. We have about 200 mentors and we’ve already helped hundreds of people. The majority of our mentors have a master’s degree, over 15 years of professional experience, and work for top companies including Google, Microsoft, Uber, Johnson & Johnson, PwC, Oracle, Amazon, Citi, PepsiCo and many  others.

Building a nonprofit is very similar to building a startup company. I’m applying several concepts I learned during my “Building Entrepreneurial Ventures” course. During the class, students have the opportunity to work on an idea from scratch and develop it to a point where you can actually deliver a pitch to real investors. I had the opportunity to discuss my idea with professors of strategy, marketing, leadership, and more. Tuck professors love to help students—the close access students have to faculty here is amazing.

The Tuck community has helped me a great deal throughout this venture as well. For example, I started a small fundraising campaign to hire our first intern and I was very surprised to see donations coming from former students that I didn’t even have strong relationships with.

While launching the platform, I did most of the work at the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network (DEN) building. The DEN is my favorite place here. It looks like Google or Facebook or any other cool company in Silicon Valley. It´s a perfect place to think, brainstorm ideas, or just to do work. And you also get free food and drinks! At DEN, you can also discuss your ideas with experienced entrepreneurs who are there to help students succeed. Having access to them is such a privilege.

Nothing gives me more satisfaction than to work on Projeto Joule. I hope to impact the lives of thousands of people with this nonprofit. I’m amazed to see how many good people are trying to find an opportunity to give back to the community and help others, so I’m happy we are providing such an opportunity. And Tuck was the perfect birthplace for our project—“giving back” is such a strong value here. 

Follow Projeto Joule’s facebook at www.facebook.com/projetojoule

Originally from Brazil, Fernando attended Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, where he graduated with a degree in Business Administration. Before coming to Tuck, he worked for about eight years in the tech space for companies including Google, Dell, and UOL (largest Brazilian internet company).  His roles included product management, sales, and marketing. During the summer he interned at Microsoft in Redmond, as a channel marketing manager. After graduation, he’s returning to Brazil to work for McKinsey & Co in the digital practice. Fernando is married and has a three-year-old son. “I’m notably known for not having any special talent, hobby, or interesting side or story,” he says.

(Photo of DEN courtesy of Dartmouth College)