When Amanda Quick first arrived to Syracuse’s campus she was dead-set on pursuing a career in broadcast journalism. But like most bright-eyed freshman, life happens and dreams evolve. After spending several summers interning for media companies like NBC, Amanda made a startling realization: there are lots of publications talking about the start-up industry, but very few dedicated to reporting about student innovations. With an effervescent smile and gutsy ambition, Amanda pulled together a team that would help her road trip around the country — all in hopes of finding the next big idea birthed in a college dorm room. In this month’s BAUCE feature, find out how this 21-year-old pooled together her skills to create a unique career experience that would inspire her and others.
Occupation: Founder, The Next Zuck
Education: Syracuse University, Broadcast and Digital Journalism Major
When did you start The Next Zuck? What motivated you to start The Next Zuck?
Amanda: The idea for the Next Zuck began during my junior year of college Syracuse University. The Next Zuck began as my senior capstone project for an honors class, but it has turned into something much more. While I started talking to one of my advisors Sean Branagan during my junior year, I started traveling to campuses and created the website during my senior year. The Next Zuck is a website dedicated to connecting and telling student startup stories through video, blog posts and articles. So far, we have featured students at Syracuse University, Ithaca College, Cornell University, Columbia University, RIT, Michigan State, Ohio State, Miami University (OH), UPenn, Villanova and Bucknell University.
I have a number of friends that have started their own businesses, but I found that there were a number of students who weren’t getting any coverage or press. Because many of young entrepreneurs are just starting off, they can’t always get major press from big organizations such as Forbes or CNBC. Our goal is to serve as an outlet to tell their stories and spread the word about what they are doing.
It seems like there are so many students and people out in the world now starting their own “tech” businesses. It’s been reported that 90% of startups fail. From your conversation with student founders, what gives people the drive to keep building their ideas despite these stats?
Amanda: A number of startups do fail, but I most student startup CEO’s and founders say they are driven by passion, their team and persistence. In college, I think a number of people are willing to take risks that they might not take in the real world, but the support systems and resources offered by college entrepreneurship programs are amazing – most colleges have incubator programs, entrepreneurs in residence and funding from outside organizations that help students grow their businesses. By the time some students graduate they have created more than one company and at least have the business, technical skills and entrepreneurial mindset even if their businesses fail.
What has been your most memorable student startup that you’ve covered to date?
Amanda: I’ve covered so many different startups that I don’t have a favorite – they are all different! I’ve covered apps, sports apparel, and a few wearables. I’m always amazed by the ideas that were created in college dorm rooms or classrooms. Here are some of the startups I’ve covered:
- Regattable from Syracuse — foldable sailboat that fits in two suitcases
- No Mercy Customs from Ohio State – customized wrestling headgear
- TempoRun from Michigan State – an app that let’s users run to the beat of their music.
You’re currently a college student that travels across the country to feature startups on your site. How do you find time to balance between your classes and The Next Zuck?
Amanda: It’s definitely a hard balance and it was extremely hard to manage in the beginning. I traveled more during my first semester – I was flying or driving almost every other weekend. I would leave on Thursday afternoon after my 2:00 class and wouldn’t get back until Sunday evening. It’s all about planning – I had to get most of my school work done during the week, as well as set up interviews and edit video. While my schedule was very busy, I was able to connect with the students I interviewed even more. As a college student who covers students who have startups, I was really able to relate with what the college founders were going through… I think if you ask anyone, going to school and running a business is a challenge and I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to handle the balance. My parents told me to do what I love, work hard, but also have fun.
What has been the most challenging part of managing The Next Zuck? What has been your hugest highlight so far?
Amanda: I hate to sound cliché, but running a business is like riding a roller coaster – there are so many ups and downs that it’s hard to keep track. But one of the biggest challenges has been creating a fast workflow – as a website that offers content, it’s challenging to create interesting content on a weekly basis that’s from different regions of the country. While we are still growing our team, but it’s definitely been a challenge to edit videos, create stories, travel and promote The Next Zuck all at the same time.
The highlight is meeting the student entrepreneurs. For me, I’m interested in journalism because I want to tell people’s stories – when I interview young CEO’s I understand that the story is not just about the business, but the person behind the startup. Everyone has a different story and I always love hearing about a person’s background, childhood and motivation for starting a company. I also love that I have the chance to tell a person’s story to an audience.
How important would you say teamwork is to developing a business? What lessons have you learned from running your own and from interviewing other startups and founders?
Amanda: In a startup, teamwork is everything. I would be nowhere without my team or advisory board, a group of faculty members at Newhouse who offer advice. As a founder, I am only one person with a specific set of skills, but different members of my team have business, public relations, social media and production experience. Our advisory board is also very diverse with some members who are serial entrepreneurs and others who have extensive digital content curation skills. I love working with my team and this experience wouldn’t be the same without them.
What are your future goals for The Next Zuck? Do you plan to continue working on it post graduation or pass it down to other students at Syracuse?
I received the Entrepreneurship Engagement Scholarship for the iSchool at Syracuse University. I will be working on The Next Zuck at least for the next 12-18 months and we will be traveling to campuses next year. Looking forward, we would love to partner with a media organization that has a business focus that we could work with to tell student startup stories.