Running a Startup as a Boothie: Navigating the Entrepreneurial Journey at Booth

Running a Startup as a Boothie: Navigating the Entrepreneurial Journey at Booth

Guest Blog by Edward Gao

After 4 years in Strategy Consulting at Accenture, I knew how to analyze tough problems and develop hypothetical solutions, so I came to Booth focused on gaining as much experience around building and executing on ideas. Coming into Booth, one of my goals was to jump into startups, either by joining one or founding my own. Early on, I was lucky enough to meet June, a Booth alum who was working on a new way for people to build good financial habits, and even more lucky that I was able to join her as a co-founder of Commas.The inspiration behind Commas stemmed from June’s personal experiences as a financial coach for her friends and family and a big gap in the market—existing personal finance apps fail to instill lasting habits and behavior change. We built Commas to leverage behavioral science on a digital platform that leads users through a multi-pronged approach combining habit tracking, financial literacy, and behavioral interventions. Our philosophy is that everyone deserves to be good with their money.

The growth at Commas has been super exciting and rewarding. Last year, we had a successful beta test with 50 users, in which we tested using SMS (texting) as a fun, easy way to track spending. The texting experience proved really effective, giving our users a low-friction experience to track spending and reflect on their behaviors. It also helped our users increase their financial confidence by 25%! Last spring, we participated in Booth’s New Venture Challenge, pitching Commas to investors and Booth’s entrepreneurship professors. It was amazing getting invaluable coaching each week, from how to improve our business plan to developing our go-to-market strategies and pitching our product, ensuring our progress week by week.Commas is currently gearing up for a second beta test, through which we’ll test two main products. First, a user-friendly online dashboard further empowering individuals to visualize and reflect on current spending habits. Second, an enhanced SMS product that builds on our current offering by allowing users more ways to track their spending behaviors and reward positive changes.

Moving forward, we plan to develop additional modules based on user feedback, such as saving and investing, goal-setting for big financial decisions, and how to build a personalized money system

When asked about what I’ve taken away from this experience so far, one key thing is that failure, big or small, is an inherent part of the entrepreneurial journey. Every day presents a new problem to solve, and we’ve learned to fail fast and fail forward, quickly moving on while extracting valuable takeaways. I also quickly realized the importance of a strong and cohesive team, as this makes it so much easier to weather the ups and downs that are inevitable as an entrepreneur.Balancing academics, leadership roles, and running a startup has been made easier by Booth’s flexible curriculum. I love the ability to tailor my class schedule to give me free days to dedicate to Commas while allowing me to build a strong entrepreneurial skillset.

For aspiring student entrepreneurs, my advice is simple: start as soon as you step on campus. You have nothing to lose – treat your 2 years as one big sandbox and experiment and fail.If you’re interested in joining us at Commas or learning more about our product, feel free to visit or reach out to me at [email protected]!