For most high school girls, prom plans, college applications, pranks and puppy love are what make up the majority of senior year. But 20 year-old co-CEO of MySocialCloud, Stacey Ferreira was too busy launching her own business. She may have missed prom but she turned a tweet from Sir Richard Branson into a million dollar investment, so things worked out pretty well.
Though Stacey never pictured herself being an entrepreneur as a career (and admittedly didn’t know what that word meant until a couple of years ago) she sees now, in retrospect, that she did many things as a little girl that reflected the qualities of a CEO, playing games like “restaurant” and creating a newspaper with her brother, now co-CEO.
But, it wasn’t until her brother’s major computer crash a year and a half ago that the idea for the L.A.-based MySocialCloud was born. Having always saved their usernames and passwords on protected excel spreadsheets and bookmarked websites on browsers, Stacey and her brother lost most of their virtual information and vowed to build something that would prevent this from ever happening again to anyone. They began to build what you might be using now – a safe and remotely accessible “cloud” that houses your personal password information …in between college classes and taking exams, of course. Now, she sits down with The Grindstone to tell us how she did it, how to network with billionaire investors and why she doesn’t recommend college to all aspiring entrepreneurs:
We hear a lot about men launching businesses in college. Why do you think fewer women do this?
I’m not exactly sure why fewer women start businesses in college. I would think that more women would want to start businesses in college. It is the opportune time to start a business when you don’t have to worry about raising a family or some of the other responsibilities you have as you grow up.
Why did you decide to launch your business while still in school?
Timing is everything when you’re starting a business. The idea for MySocialCloud (auto-login to all sites and storing your favorite content from online) is one that is needed now, while there is this overload of information. I personally was going crazy with the amount of usernames and passwords needed for everything, and keeping all my online research and favorite online things organized – so, at the very least, I knew it was a problem that needed to be solved today – not in 4 years. I think both Shiv and Scott felt the same way when we founded the company. We received investment from Richard Branson and Jerry Murdock last summer too [summer 2011], right before I went to NYU Steinhardt. That was an even more encouraging factor that told us we couldn’t wait
Did owning your own business separate you at all socially on campus? Did you feel bored with your classes because you knew first-hand what it was really like?
I think owning my own business definitely changed my college experience. While a lot of my dorm-mates were going out to parties, I mostly spent my nights speaking at different tech events, networking events or working in the library. I also sat on the executive board of four Technology/Entrepreneurship clubs during that year at NYU – so I didn’t have the “go out, party and meet other kids” experience and most of my friends tended to be older entrepreneurs who lived in the city. I still met a ton of amazing students from NYU though, so I wouldn’t change a thing!
Also, I wasn’t necessarily bored in my classes – most of them were extremely interesting, but I always found myself jotting down business ideas in my notebooks instead of notes for class. I’ll never forget sitting in one of my Humanities classes during the second week of classes, and one of my friends asked for notes after class saying “I saw you writing so many notes in class, would you mind if I borrowed them to study?” and I just showed her my notebook full of website sketches and the look on her face was priceless. (She was a little confused and thought I was a little crazy, but we’re good friends now!)
It was very difficult balancing classwork and a business – but I have two great co-founders, my brother, Scott [Ferreria], and Shiv Prakash who helped me through it! Yet, I feel like I basically spent all of freshman year in NYU’s library!
Do you recommend four-year colleges as a necessity to serious young entrepreneurs?
The debate about whether or not to go to college is a huge one these days. I think the choice to go to college or start your own business (learning from experience) is something that is completely up to the individual and the field that they want to go into. For some fields, like the medical field, I would most definitely want the entrepreneur to go to college and learn before starting something. But for other fields, I would say that a four year degree is definitely not necessary today and doesn’t have to be completed before you start your own business.
I do see the value in a college education, and I know for a fact that some of my freshman year classes at NYU were definitely informative and taught me to think about situations and life in a different, more interesting way – something I’m extremely grateful for.
But I also understand the “opportunity knocks” idea, and the fact that college isn’t as hands on as I know I would have liked (but that may just have been the fact that I only attended one year of college and never made it to the higher level classes). If young student entrepreneurs have an awesome idea, some validation and a plan to execute on it (and a reasonable amount of resources to be able to do so), they should pursue their idea. At the very least, taking the leap to take a break from school and starting a business is one of the best learning experiences anyone could ever ask for. And what’s the worst that happens if you fail? You go back and sit in the classroom like the rest of your peers.
What class in school (high school or college) would you say prepared you the most for what you do?
Some of the best classes that I took in both high school and college were my English courses. These taught me how to consume information, think critically about it, form opinions and then voice those opinions in concise ways. And more than anything, they taught me what a “work ethic” really was. I remember multiple nights in high school, where I was assigned 150 pages to read and at least 5 worksheets to fill out – on top of all the other classes I had homework for. Those days taught me how to not stress out over work, manage my time and prioritize.