College students, especially those at elite universities, are starting new businesses at rapid rates in an attempt to positively impact the world. Many of these startups include a development team that focuses on implementing AI and machine learning into their products.
Rohan Gurram, a junior at Yale University, is surrounded by several students trying to establish tech-based startups. However, he noticed many of the ideas were abandoned after a few months. In fact, in his freshman year at Yale, Rohan was a member of an abandoned startup. Before college, Rohan had co-founded a music festival called GuruFest and a concert production company called Guru Presents. He then went on to start other businesses in a variety of industries. Throughout his journey, Rohan gained valuable experience that allowed him to determine what was needed to establish a successful startup.
In order to limit the number of college students that abandon startups, Rohan founded a consulting company called ColdStart. Since May 2019, Rohan has been working with college students both internationally and in the US. He believes that many students have great ideas but do not focus on the operational side of the company. As a result, they experience a “cold start”. The firm helps startups in three main areas: social media/public relations, coding and app development, and general advising. Through ColdStart, Rohan is getting the luxury to work with several startups every day. Most clients pay an hourly rate for the firm’s services. However, if Rohan sees potential in the startup, he offers to work for free. In these cases, taking a small percentage of equity, ColdStart fronts all advertising and marketing costs for the startup. The firm then works extensively with the startup as an in-house consultant.
Internationally, ColdStart is working with startups in Cyprus and the Netherlands. Rohan’s first client was allthewayApp, a startup based in Cyprus. The startup was founded by Nicholas Koundouros and Konstantin Rolf. Both Koundouros and Rolf are students majoring in AI at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. In 2016, Rohan met Nicholas at Harvard University and they became close friends. Amazingly, they remained connected over the next three years via social media. Their bond was so strong that Nicholas contacted Rohan to help him with his startup. ColdStart is providing allthewayApp with social media, public relations, and strategic advising services. Rohan believes ColdStart’s success is due to the strength of his bond with Nicholas. As a native of Cyrpus, Nicholas has an extensive network all over Europe. With Nicholas’s help, Rohan has already started working with startups in Cyprus and is looking to gain new clients all across Europe.
Rohan’s greatest challenge so far is the sheer amount of clients he has. As a single founding member, Gurram likes the control of picking which startups to work with. The drawback is everyone’s specific idea requires careful attention. ColdStart is hiring like-minded college students in all departments to help manage the workload. In the coding and app development department, Gurram is extremely selective. He is looking internationally for the best college programmers in the AI and machine learning fields. Furthermore, on the client end, there is a great business opportunity in connecting brilliant international college students with the US consumer market. Gurram recognizes this gap and hopes to continue his success by expanding ColdStart into a global consulting firm for all startups.