CWRU profs hint at who's next after grads sell start-up for $540M

Scout RFP, a company that simplifies business operations such as sourcing, pipelining and auctions, sold this month for $540 million.

The entrepreneurs behind the San Francisco start-up are 2007 Case Western Reserve University graduates Alex Yakubovich and Stan Garber.

Creators of Scout RFP and 2007 Case Western Reserve University graduates Alex Yakubovich and Stan Garber.The team's entrepreneurial spirit began before they created Scout RFP, says Michael Goldberg, professor at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University. The Mayfield High School grads started a company called Onosys, which is centered around online food ordering, earlier in their college days.

“They started Onosys when they were at Case doing web development,” Goldberg says. “It turned into a business they sold. After that, the good news is that they were ready and wired to roll their sleeves up around a real business.”

The school played a key role in helping the students develop their idea for Scout RFP and get it off the ground while studying.

“There were a number of different professors and resources around campus,” Goldberg says. “One big resource is the network of people. Networking with alumni and potential investors was a big help.”

Although the resources were vital for the Scout RFP entrepreneurs, their mind-set is one of the facilitating factors and drivers of their ambition.

“They had a lot of grit and determination,” Goldberg says. “It is hard to be successful as entrepreneurs. The most likely outcome is failure.”

Some projects are in the works now at CWRU that he could see taking off in the near future, Goldberg says.

“There are a couple start-up companies I see with potential,” Goldberg says. “The cool thing about teaching here is you can see who the next student entrepreneur is. There is a company called Boundary Labs here on campus focused on the manufacturing space. .... Most start-ups do not see the light of day.”

Boundary Labs helps companies gain insights into their factory floor performance. Its website says: “We're focused on using sensors and big data to automate workflows surrounding data collection, analysis, and re-ingestion for industrial factory floors.”

Scott Shane, professor of entrepreneurial studies at the Weatherhead School of Management..Starting a company in school is an “incredible indicator for the future,” says Scott Shane, professor of entrepreneurial studies at the Weatherhead School.

“I had Stan in class,” Shane says. “They were starting their previous venture. Starting a company as an undergrad and actually pulling it off and making money makes the chances pretty good that you are going to do well.”

Shane sees certain skill sets in most entrepreneurs that he thinks makes them successful. One is attention to detail.

“The people who go and take a handful of customers and see what they really want can help them get a lot of traction very quickly,” Shane said. “When they work hard and fast, that can be a big indicator for the future.”

Read more articles by Morgan Dunlop.

Morgan Dunlop, a Pittsburgh native, is a senior journalism major at Kent State University. He was a sports reporter for the student newspaper the Kent Stater. He also has covered public policy and administration and is a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success.