3 Day Startup has plenty of successful entrepreneurs that come through the program, but 2015 took the cake. Four past 3DS participants were recognized by FORBES magazine in their annual 30 Under 30 awards. We’re going to spotlight each one of them leading up to our Global Roundup conference in July, learning a little bit about how they navigated their own entrepreneurial journey, and the lessons they learned from their 3DS experience.
Today, we’re featuring Borui Wang, the CEO and Founder of Polarr, an online advanced photo editor used by hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world. He stopped to chat with 3DS from a taxi in China, as he was visiting his family for the first time in four years for the country’s spring festival.
We’re not being modest, but you could say Borui Wang invented the startup scene in Madison, Wisconsin. As a junior at the University of Wisconsin, Borui was among a few students who started an organization called The Hub, an organization for people interested in entrepreneurship.
Before he created The Hub, Borui, along with a few friends, entered in the Nest Software competition, where the prize was $10,000. He had no idea, what to expect, and his team created what he called a “Foursquare for news” during the four-month-long competition.
Long story short, they won.
With $10,000 in hand, they sought out a way to connect Business School and computer science, and founded The Hub. It was a strong college organization, complete with online discussion forums and hosting several events.
That was where he connected with Joel from 3 Day Startup.
“He mentioned to me that you could find a cofounder in hours, and it was ok to have an idea coming in,” Wang said.
Excited, Wang used The Hub to promote 3DS Madison to the UW community. The problem? It was one week before final exams. Luckily, no students seemed to mind, as his team interviewed over 200 potential applicants and raised $10,000 from sponsors.
For his particular idea, Wang wanted to work on a company called Boomki.
“I saw that people had trouble finding tour guides, and wanted to create a platform for people to find miniature tour guides.”
Wang had five other people working with him and was in charge of most of the programming.
“It was such an intense process,” he said. “The mindset for my current company was grown out of my 3DS experience. We had to think extremely hard about our problems.”
Wang did not continue with Boomki post-3DS, but he did learn some valuable lessons.
“You have to be quick, there is no stalling for time,” he said. “Once you create something you have to test it out immediately.”
More importantly for Wang, he received a solid feeling for what kind of people he needed to start a company.
“I knew that I couldn’t hire people who said “what if this fails?” and needed people whose passion aligned with mine.”
That knowledge helped him find a co-founder when he started Polarr. Possessing an entrepreneur Gmail mailing list, he messaged other entrepreneurs who had skills that he did not. Luckily, his future co-founder was in that group.
“We made an agreement that within the first 24 hours, we had to get this done,” Wang said.
The company has grown exponentially since its founding in 2014. While the company has gone through a few employees, they were able to raise a seed round in January 2015, and have users all over the world, complete with an IOS and a desktop application.
Wang gives all the credit to his team, however.
“My 3DS experience taught me that you can build a product fast if you have the right team,” Wang said. “Not only that, but you have to be willing to hear people’s ideas and collect feedback from lots and lots of people, a central theme that I learned from 3DS.”
The company has moved fast, becoming the number one app on Product Hunt after their first day on the site, had 30,000 users within the 1st month of release, with over 4 million users to date.
Why has Polarr been successful so quickly?
“We have a product that people need, and found a way to make money early before venture funding.”
Some great tips for other aspiring entrepreneurs to heed!
We wish Borui the best with Polarr and thank him for his contributions to the 3 Day Startup program!
This is a guest blog post written by Adam Rosenfield. Adam is a writer based in Austin, Texas. He’s written about everything from startups to sports, and from software to science, and some education in between. You can catch him being a stereotypical Austinite, eating BBQ or fervently watching his favorite Dallas and North Texas Mean Green sports teams. Give him a shout on Twitter @adamrosenfield