July 26, 2012
Sometimes finding your million dollar idea can be as simple as connecting what otherwise might be considered un-connectable dots. This is the ambition of Elise Moussa. After turning down law school due to the exorbitant investment, Moussa wound up taking a job in finance.
“[I was] developing affinity credit card rewards programs and then one day, I had this ‘AH HA moment’! Why not apply this rewards model and mash it up with how internet companies generate revenue to help students out?”
And so BE was born – a rewards program for students to earn money for college and other scholarly programs.
Tech Cocktail caught up with Moussa to learn more about her company, starting up in Boston, and going into a family business.
Tech Cocktail: What is BE and who is it for?
Elise Moussa: BE is for high school and college students to learn and earn rewards (such as: money for college, free school related products, and special deals) via a quiz application.
Tech Cocktail: Who is your greatest competitor, and how do you differentiate yourself?
Moussa: We don’t have a direct competitor since no other company is enabling students to earn points for correct quiz questions and then cash them in for products. For example, some of our indirect competitors whom we hope to partner with to provide rewards is Coursera, MITx, Edx, and Khan Academy, all of which provide free education online but without rewards. BE is unique because we reward students for their smarts. This way you can be smart and be rewarded!
Tech Cocktail: What is the biggest advantage and disadvantage of starting up in Boston?
Moussa: The biggest advantage of starting-up in Boston is the thriving startup community, especially at our office in the Cambridge Innovation Center in Kendall Square, which has been incredibly supportive. The only disadvantage is the high cost of living, and that means relying on the MBTA [Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority] which is, well you know….not reliable.
Tech Cocktail: Describe a challenging moment or a crucial decision for your startup. How did you deal with it, and what did you learn from it?
Moussa: A challenging moment was last month when BE competed against 300+ companies to be featured at the Launchedu event in Silicon Valley at the Microsoft Campus. While we made it to the list of top 30 startups, we didn’t make the cut to present on stage – but we did win a demo table. We realized that we actually gained more traction by demoing for a total of 15 hours during the 2 day event, rather than just being able to present on stage for a total of 15 minutes.
Tech Cocktail: What’s one quirky fact about you, your team, or your office culture?
Moussa: We are a brother and sister team, we went to grade school together and then college, and we started BE from the heart, because we experienced first hand the pain college students face around affording tuition, so we came up with a solution to help address part of the problem.
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