Venture Corner: Vaiad in the Business Plan Competition
An Interview with Omar Restom (NF)
What is your business?
Vaiad is a system for websites to handle inbound advertising inquiries. If a smaller advertiser wants to advertise on a website directly, he has to contact the website by phone or email, going back and forth for days or even weeks. It takes so much time that individual smaller advertisers are not worth dealing with for most websites, even though, in aggregate, these smaller advertisers could add up to a significant amount of revenue.
This is where Vaiad comes in. Vaiad is an interface that websites can use to sell their ad space. Instead of calling or emailing, advertisers can use the Vaiad interface to place ads on these websites. This streamlines the process—all the website has to do is approve the ad, and Vaiad takes care of the rest. Vaiad interfaces with the website servers and automatically places the ad on the website instantly. This is a win-win for the website and the advertisers. The website gets the revenue without much effort, and the advertiser gets the placement he wanted.
How was the Business Plan Competition?
The Business Plan Competition was a great learning experience. It helped improve my pitching skills, and forced me to perform due diligence on my target market as well as solicit feedback from customers.
What would you improve about it?
The program could provide more formal structure and mentorship. Professors and other staff are so busy that it is hard to set up regular meetings. It would be great if there was a way to meet with an advisor or mentor once every two weeks to help set concrete goals and receive more direction.
How can HBS encourage more entrepreneurship?
The current RC curriculum makes starting a business difficult. It would have been great to have had a chance to take a tech or programming class this semester in order to better prepare me for the summer. Though I understand that this would be difficult, it may be nice to allow 1 or 2 electives along with a few required courses in the second semester of the RC year.
In addition, I’d love to see more interaction with the technical schools at Harvard. Finding a technical cofounder and other technical resources has been difficult. I’ve started organizing three-on-three dinners, involving three HBSers and three individuals with technical backgrounds from across the river to draw our communities closer together. So far, feedback on the dinners has been positive, and we hope to expand the program.
Further, if HBS had a pre-vetted list of contract programmers that could work with students on specific projects, it would make the process of starting an online business much more efficient.
What are your next steps?
I’m working on Vaiad full time this summer. I hope to start testing in June with two or three alpha customers. From there, we’ll see…
About the entrepreneur: Before HBS, Omar was the Online Marketing Manager and one of the first employees at a fast growing internet startup called JustAnswer. Recently, he was awarded funding from HBS’ new Minimum Viable Product Fund to build a prototype of Vaiad. If you would like to learn more about Vaiad, please contact Omar at email@example.com