Apr 27, 2015

Can you start a business in the woods?

By Justin Gerrard T'16

Justin is co-founder of Bae (Before Anyone Else), a mobile matchmaking app curated for people of color. Bae won first place at the 13th annual Dartmouth Ventures Competition and he will be pursuing the venture full time during the summer. Justin is a graduate of Harvard College (Bachelor of Arts, Anthropology).

I always aspired to be an entrepreneur. From my first lemonade stand in primary school, to an apparel business in college, the notion that I could create a successful business from scratch appealed to me. I guess it’s somewhat in my blood. My maternal grandfather was a serial entrepreneur who started a shoe shine parlor, hot dog stand, ice cream shop, and upholstery business, among numerous other pursuits. Despite never graduating from high school, his tireless work ethic, keen business sense, and affable nature allowed him to put all five of his children through college. My goal was to someday apply that same effort to my own entrepreneurial endeavors, and achieve half of his success.

When I submitted applications to business schools after four years of product marketing experience at Microsoft and American Express, my plan was to use my MBA as an incubator for starting a business. I chose Tuck because of its strong alumni network, the values and quality of its students (Tuckiness), its emphasis on world-class pedagogy, and focus on building out networks of entrepreneurial support—through the organizations like the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network (DEN) and the Tuck Entrepreneurship Initiative. I believed that the confluence of elements embedded into a Tuck education would allow me to hit the ground running in my first year, and start a business before the end of the summer. I had an idea that I’d been working on with my brother, (a dating app targeted at the African-American community), and decided to run with this concept once I arrived on campus.

When I entered Tuck last fall, the resources afforded me through the school and the broader Dartmouth network exceeded all my expectations. My professors and the administration at Tuck fully committed their time to support my entrepreneurial journey, and the broader Dartmouth community provided alumni mentorship, funding, and co-working space to turn my idea into a business. Moreover, my amazing classmates offered boundless encouragement, which helped me to push through tough times when I thought we would fail to bring the product to market.

On April 1, my team launched our dating app Bae (Before Anyone Else), in front of a crowd of 2,500 students at the historically Black university, Howard University, in Washington, DC. Since our launch, we have had over 15,000 downloads, and recently won first prize at the Dartmouth Ventures competition. Because of Tuck, I can work on my business full time through the summer, have a pipeline of funding, and am pursuing my dream. So, if your question before applying to Tuck is, “Can I actually start my business in the woods?” I hope my story provides a helpful lens into the incredible community and resources we have here.

You can download Bae for iPhone and Android at www.baeapp.co (shameless plug). 

(Photo above: Justin at the 2015 Dartmouth Ventures. Photo by Laura DeCapua.)