FC'22 Member Jerry
Chapter 1: The problem of networking
I'm a marketing major. Sarah, my cofounder, is a finance major. Spring recruiting season was rough for both of us. Between hundreds of applications and thousands of cold emails, networking for jobs can be overwhelming. We both struggled to find meaningful connections, and ultimately, we felt that networking was an overwhelming, inauthentic experience. But maybe it was just us...
We had to check, to be sure. So we started with depth interviews, where we asked other students and professionals about their networking experiences. We found that most students had the same issues. No one felt like they were being genuine, or like they could make real connections with people. We heard stories of introverts and extroverts alike feeling overwhelmed in group settings, unable to show off their true selves - and worse yet, unable to make meaningful connections.
Simultaneously, we conducted a survey, which was answered by 140 students and business professionals. It confirmed our suspicions - the vast majority of respondents felt that networking was time-consuming, transactional, and awkward. We had found a problem. Networking felt unsustainable, and it was something that everyone seemed to be struggling with.
Chapter 2: Creating the concept
Although landing an internship is a major concern, we found that students were just as eagerly trying to land a date. Those around me primarily used Tinder or Bumble- and it seemed to me that they had a much better time on these apps than on LinkedIn.
When asked why, one recurring theme surfaced: the swipe system got rid of the feeling of rejection. If you don't match, you don't know. It felt much more natural and less intimidating than the traditional one-on-one interview process.
That's when we had our “aha” moment: if swiping could make networking easier for dating, why not for job search? We thought about what a networking app would look like if it combined the best of both worlds - the convenience and anonymity of swiping with the opportunity to make meaningful connections. Thus our most basic concept for Latte was born.
Chapter 3: Rejection, rejection, rejection
We came up with our first pitch deck, and in retrospect, it sucked. To be fair, it did a good job of identifying problems in networking but simply wasn't very convincing in terms of why "swipe" was a good alternative.
Nobody wanted to invest in Latte - at least, not yet. We heard the same two words over and over again: “no” and “not interested”.
It was discouraging, but we kept pushing forward. Based on the feedback that we got (some of which were closer to roasts) we iterated on our presentation and eventually began building out the ecosystem of Latte, defining it in terms of peer-to-peer, peer-to-mentor, and peer-recruiter. We eventually ended up with this pitch deck, which finally landed us a conversation with Fabian de la Fuente, CEO of Solaires enterprises.
He liked the idea and gave us a small loan of a million dollars offered us an investment of 50k. We accepted, and he became our first investor.
It was also during this process that we built our tech team- a scrappy group of CS majors who worked on Latte throughout the summer.
Chapter 4: Getting Latte to market... but not really
As the new school year rolled around, we were inching closer to a fully functional product. We built out our MVP and began running beta tests with student participants who had helped us define the project from the start.
Simultaneously, we began marketing Latte to the NYU Stern community. After a few days of pushing a coffee cart around, we had an estimated reach of 1500 students, and a waitlist of 250. Our launch date was set for the next week.
As we onboarded the first few students, however, we realized that bug submissions and feature requests were coming in faster than we could fix them. We had one week before launch, and it was apparent that the product wasn't ready yet.
We decided to delay our launch date until the following semester when we had more time to prepare. On our end, this meant going back to the drawing board - but on a larger scale, it meant that we needed to expand our tech team to handle the quickly ramping workflow.
Chapter 5: From war room to warpath
The fact that we paused our launch meant that we suddenly had time to spare in order to perfect Latte. We took this time to brainstorm and develop our roadmap, create better prototypes, build a stronger tech team, and refine our marketing strategy.
In particular, we conceptualized a token system on the app- where users can earn tokens, and then redeem them to speak with mentors. In essence, this solved for one of the value propositions of Latte- it commodified mentorship, making it accessible to students and monetizable for mentors. Moreover, this system still works at a smaller scale, enabling us to test out different strategies for optimizing Latte and refining its user experience.
Here are a few early UI concepts:
To help us integrate the system, Fabian recommended a senior frontend developer and a senior backend developer from his network. We're onboarding them for Jan. to May.
You can reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.