Max Prilutsky (WG’09): at Revoluminary

2008-2009 AMBASSADOR OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Revoluminary (http://revoluminary.com) is an online global community to help people share knowledge and ideas about anything, from anywhere, at anytime.

During my first year at Wharton, I became intrigued by the concept of social entrepreneurship. The idea that an entrepreneur can take advantage of innovative ideas to create profits while making a positive impact on the world was just fascinating to me.

 

I was helping drive a pretty important shift in education.

My Recruiting Process
Like that of many of my entrepreneurial peers, my recruiting process was not traditional. I spent most of the fall talking to entrepreneurs about their businesses. I volunteered as a part-time consultant to several start-ups during school. I got smart about the different trends in web 2.0, mobile apps, crowd-sourcing, software-as-a-service and every other buzz word you might hear from a venture capitalist. However, my aspiration was to get involved in something that combined these innovations in technology with social impact. So when I heard about Revoluminary (“revolutionary” + “luminary”) from an old colleague of mine, I immediately knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.

The Start-Up

ambassador_revoluminaryRevoluminary is an online platform for people to find and tutor each other in various topics over the internet. The site (www.revoluminary.com) allows teachers to create virtual classes and charge any price for a block of available time posted on each teacher’s calendar. Students that need help with say, calculus or Italian, can find a teacher and set up a virtual tutoring appointment. When both the teacher and the student meet online, they are logged into a virtual classroom where they see and hear each other (by web cam and microphone), chat with an instant messenger tool, cover concepts using a virtual whiteboard and go over pre-set lessons with a file-sharing tool.

What I Did
As is the case with many start-ups, my role at Revoluminary was not well defined. I knew our goal was to drive user growth, but wasn’t given any specific instructions on what to do. I spent the few weeks developing a proposal for the CEO that detailed everything that I thought should be done in the areas of marketing, partnerships, fundraising and website development. I then turned this report into a comprehensive to-do list with hundreds of very specific action items. The rest of my summer was spent executing on this list. Here are just some of the things we accomplished:

  • Got featured on 12 third-party websites about college life, start-ups and e-learning
  • Increased monthly website traffic by 7x
  • Recruited over 450 members from around the world
  • Redesigned the home page and optimized site for search engine compatibility
  • Worked with developers to design two new tools for our students
  • Launched partnership effort with study-abroad providers
I got to apply the marketing frameworks we learned in school to real life and realized their true potential.

Social Impact
Through this start-up, I was helping drive a pretty important shift in education. Not only were we providing access to tutoring for students, we were creating employment opportunities for many developing countries. Over the summer, tutors from China and India accounted for a significant part of our growth. My personal contribution to the social impact effort was in lobbying the CEO to remove Revoluminary’s minimum class rate of $20 per hour. Through financial sensitivity analysis of an alternate revenue model, I showed that we could reach more people and make a greater impact without sacrificing our profitability. This opened up our website to many more students that could not afford our minimum and, arguably, needed it more than those that could.

What I Learned
First of all, I learned a ton. I learned more about starting a business this summer than I ever could in a classroom. I got to apply the marketing frameworks we learned in school to real life and realized their true potential. I got smart on internet marketing and discovered how businesses gain, lose and manage their popularity on the web. I learned to systematically analyze the usability of websites and understand the psychology behind the user adoption process. Most importantly, I gained an appreciation for the hard work and the challenges that underlie every business’s operations. It is a perspective that is often lost on those running valuation spreadsheets or drawing supply and demand curves, but is one that I think everyone at Wharton should experience first-hand.