Dave Muench, DMSB’14, has launched a mobile application called Skimmin that allows users to browse the top headlines of the day in just 60 seconds. The app will be on display on March 26 at NEXPO, a biannual event at Northeastern that highlights up-and-coming ventures and connects budding entrepreneurs with seasoned industry professionals. We asked Muench to discuss the evolution of the idea, the lessons he learned, and how Northeastern has supported him along the way.
What made you start your app and how did you get to where you are now?
The idea for the app was born three years ago over a few late night conversations with my brother Andrew about the news industry. We had both been working strenuous hours—he on Wall Street and myself on co-op at Liberty Mutual—and we were really frustrated about our inability to sit down and in just one minute a day stay informed about major current events. We found ourselves neglecting important issues because we were too busy and the time commitment was far too great. In other words, we felt there was a need to lower the barrier to entry for people who wanted to stay informed, but didn’t have the time or energy to pour over the news every day. It sounds crazy, but we wanted to change the world.
What were the biggest lessons you learned while trying to build your app?
It would take an hour to talk about everything we’ve learned. There have been countless lessons, so I’ll narrow it down to three.
First, it’s imperative to find something you’re passionate about. Trust me when I say that if you aren’t 100 percent committed, and you don’t eat and sleep your venture, you’ll quit. It’s inevitable. Second, design isn’t just a few colors thrown on an interface. Nor is it how an algorithm selects news stories. Rather, it’s a philosophy of thinking about how things work. People don’t like flashy products; they like products that work. Third, seeking investment isn’t always your best option. In a business culture that glorifies million-dollar venture capital deals, many aspiring entrepreneurs have the mistaken belief that if you want to succeed, you need investors. And that just isn’t true. Keep bootstrapping your business, focus on your product, and acquire more customers. Once you get to the point where your venture isn’t sustainable anymore due to capacity issues or a lack of resources, that’s when it’s time to talk to the venture capitalists.
How has Northeastern helped you along the way?
The Northeastern faculty and the co-op program have been an enormous help. For instance, I took one international affairs class my third year with professor Denise Horn that opened my eyes to all the untold issues unfolding around the globe. And that is actually the ultimate goal of Skimmin—to bring important issues to the forefront rather than those on Washington’s agenda. The media has such a huge impact on society—arguably more than Washington—and we’d like to begin mending it for the better.
Also, in Fall 2013 I took a new product development course taught by professor Rosanna Garcia. It was a great experience and I learned a ton about the critical components of success when introducing a new product into the market.
Finally, many thanks should go to my co-op advisers who gave me the green light to use two co-op cycles to work on Skimmin. Northeastern places great emphasis on entrepreneurship and for that I’m extremely grateful.