NEWS

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February 24, 2009

Entrepreneurial alumni, students tackle unique business challenges

When Geoff Domoracki (A.B. ’07) and third-year Brian Mayer hold a party, people don’t show up with three dollars and a UCID; their guests are looking to make a couple hundred thousand dollars.

They held one such party on Friday, bringing entrepreneurs and web designers together to celebrate and promote their company, midVentures.

MidVentures aims to help others bridge the gap between brainstorming and execution by helping Internet companies implement new ideas for their sites. “When people have a venture idea, I want to be the first person they call,” Domoracki said.

The company, which has many U of C students and alumni among its clients and employees, finds its connection with the University invaluable. “When you put enough brilliant people into one campus, ideas start to evolve fast,” Domorocki said in an e-mail interview. “My circle of developers, designers, and potential investors emerged from the College. It’s a gift and a curse, since U of C people tend to be some of the most critical and analytical people I meet.”

Much of midVenture’s talent in spotting new ideas goes back to the core principles of the University of Chicago, programmer Mike Damian said. “If it wasn’t for the entrepreneurship the U of C instilled in Geoff, midVentures wouldn’t exist,” Damian said.

Domoracki founded the Entrepreneurship Club while at the University, and he credits his background at the U of C for his experience in entrepreneurship. “MidVentures is nothing more than my philosophy about new venture incubation, emerging from my undergraduate entrepreneurship experience, brought into the Chicago business world,” he said. “People tend to ‘start their careers’ in midVentures by getting involved in projects for fun;or for the learning experience. As projects get larger and generate revenue, those students get hired. Perhaps U of C people are good at spotting an opportunity.”

Domoracki hoped the event would foster a stronger network for the technology industry in Chicago. “Chicago needs more of a community on what people are doing with technology,” he said.

Damian said that Chicago businesses like midVentures can help “tell people that Silicon Valley is not the only place to turn for brilliant websites. Chicago is on the map. There is a lot of great creative talent in the city.”

Friday’s event gave guests the opportunity to network in a Loop penthouse prior to presentations given by some of midVenture’s most interesting clients. “Our attendees got to mingle with some of Chicago’s new entrepreneurial all-stars, professional investors, and programmer-geniuses,” said Damian.

Fourth-year and midVentures client Justin Savage outlined ideas for his business, T1track, which aims to organize and streamline relations between property managers and their service providers. Savage started another successful business in spring 2006, checksense.com, which this past month alone has processed over $380,000 in payments. The event, said Savage, was “a great opportunity to network, to pitch, and get feedback. The people that are here have an unusual ability to do projects. For the area of business that is entrepreneurship, that’s a rare thing.”

Domoracki was excited about clients RemixGalaxy, a program that allows users to customizes songs; CommonGrants.com and GiveForward.org, which connect donors to a variety of causes; and ThePoint.com, which Domoracki said “entertained us with the micro-funded project of covering Chicago in a glass dome.”

Domoracki, who started midVentures last summer after returning from India, said that the business’s next step is to continue to grow while staying flexible. “Now that we have roughly seven full-time people in midVentures, including [first-year] Alex Wilhelm, the largest challenge to me has been charting a long-term course while admitting to myself that ‘the next big thing’ might cross my path any minute. The larger our company becomes, the more challenging it is to turn on a dime. Our ability to mobilize fast is one of our biggest assets.”