2022 Most Disruptive Business School Startups: Drem, Santa Clara University (Leavey)


Santa Clara University, Leavey School of Business

Industry: Web3

Founding Student Name(s): Darius Johnson, Luke Poltorak

Brief Description of Solution: Drem is building one interface that connects you to all of web3. We developed simple tools for novice and experienced investors to interact with the web3 ecosystem. There is rapid growth in the protocols being built with blockchain technology, yet it’s extremely difficult for these protocols to scale with end consumers as the infrastructure is nascent. Drem solves this by creating the front end that aggregates these protocols into a single app. With this, we build custom tools on our platform to simplify and scale for users, which includes copy trading, monetizing investment strategies, earning points, low-to-no fee investing, content sharing, and easy onboarding. Drem is the next step in crypto, empowering crypto investors to become owners, and empowering protocols with scalability. We’re fueling the ownership economy.

What led you to launch this venture? We connected over a shared value of fostering financial inclusion and opportunity a year and a half ago. I had begun to dive deeper into the web3 ecosystem learning about the innovations that were happening around payments, stablecoins, decentralized finance, and decentralized autonomous organizations. My co-founder (Luke) had been in the space since high school. I had learned about the technology being developed in web3 and the potential it had to level the playing field of access and knowledge in financial services. Hence, I approached Luke to go on a thought experiment with me on how we could add value to this ecosystem and be a part of what we believe is not only a great wealth transfer but a socioeconomic revolution. We’ve iterated numerous times, but have kept the core mission aligned; Leveraging emerging technology to fix financial knowledge and access to foster financial inclusion and opportunity for everyone. These many iterations have led to what Drem is today.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? Our biggest accomplishment to date has been the buy-in of the vision we’ve received from early hires and early supporters. We understood that to build a viable solution that could scale, we needed to understand our consumers better than anyone else. As mentioned, Drem has been through many iterations, with a bulk of the credit for these interactions going to the hundreds of potential users we’ve gotten feedback from. Getting buy-in and excitement for such an early project and lofty vision has propelled us to build efficiently and effectively to create something our supporters want. On the flip side, we’ve made a few key hires that took months to complete. Finding great talent is extremely difficult, let alone great talent that fits the culture and buys into the vision. The four core members we’ve found fit our mission, buy into the vision, and have helped curate what we believe will be a top-flight culture. People make Drem what it is, and our biggest accomplishment is finding the right people early on.

How has your business-related major helped you further this startup venture? My major has been impactful in supporting me in developing the right skills and knowledge to start a venture. What’s great about the Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University is the holistic approach we have to education. I’ve had the opportunity to explore classes in a multitude of disciplines. For example, as a finance major I’ve taken marketing courses, accounting courses, management courses, and business technology courses. This holistic view of the world of business has equipped me with the foundational skills in each domain to feel confident applying them to my startup. As a finance major, I’ve dived deep into how businesses are structured, strategies for developing a successful business model, tools for managing risk, and a playbook for how to run a financially healthy startup. Furthermore, my discipline has opened the door to opportunities to build strong relationships. Through campus involvements—the individuals I’ve connected with and the institutes on campus—I’ve been exposed to a plethora of resources such as mentors, like-minded communities, and developmental training. I look forward to continuing to leverage the resources that are present in my environment to scale further.

Which business class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? Management of Organizations has been the most valuable course I’ve taken concerning skills learned for building. The Management of Organizations course focuses on developing the skills needed to become a more effective leader, skillful negotiator, and tactical visionary. Leadership skills are crucial when learning on the fly in a startup. From hiring to execution to building relationships, your ability to lead will be a crucial indicator of your success. I learned key negotiating and managerial skills that I use today. Negotiation comes up in every cycle and system within a startup. Learning skills on how to prepare, approach, and execute negotiations has impacted how well I can win over people, deals, and opportunities for my startup. On the managerial side, I knew very little about how to manage others (still actively learning), but this course helped me to understand the importance of being a leader vs. a boss. Show, don’t tell. Empower, don’t take over. Give, don’t take. To foster transformational leadership, I’ve learned how to inspire a shared vision and get others to overcome difficult challenges for a common goal. Without these core principles of leadership learned in my course, I wouldn’t have the confidence and knowledge needed to lead a team in the earliest stages.

What business professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Professor Hooria Jazaieri has made significant contributions to my plans. She has been more than one of my most impactful professors, she has also served as a mentor. As the professor of my Management of Organizations course, she has developed many of the key learnings I put into practice every day in my startup—transformational leadership, inspiring a shared vision, and leveraging negotiation tactics whenever feasible. When learning through her course, Professor Jazaieri took time during office hours to learn about my passions, what excites me, and what I’ve been working on. Having an intellectual ear from a decorated professor has been a great advantage when building. I credit my improving leadership skills to learning from her leadership skills. Professor Jazaieri’s impact goes far beyond the curriculum, and I plan on leveraging the knowledge I’ve learned for the foreseeable future.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? Along with building, I’ve spent time in the venture ecosystem as a partner at the student-run venture fund, Dorm Room Fund. At Dorm Room Fund, I get the opportunity to invest in student startups. I’ve had the privilege of seeing many startups and speaking to many great founders. One founder in particular that I met is Avante Price, CEO of POSH. He has inspired me to want to embark on my entrepreneurial journey. I had always been iterating and tooling with different projects since high school whether it was an e-commerce store, digital advertising business, or common app for jobs platform. I have always been working on things. However, it wasn’t until these experiences with Dorm Room Fund that I learned about startup scale and the difference in product, market, or vision it takes to build solutions that solve big problems.

Avante from POSH was one of my first encounters with this idea of a scalable startup. I was motivated by the passion of a young student wanting to take down large incumbents and build better products to solve problems. It was the passion for an idea that he closely resonated with that led me to explore my passions and interests. This led me to discover my deep affiliation with the digitization of financial services which can lead to many of the concepts I alluded to earlier (financial opportunity, access, inclusion, and knowledge). From having that conversation, I’ve gone from ideas to iteration to execution and I look forward to keeping pushing forward.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? The long-term goal for Drem is to become the democratized financial platform for the next generation. Transforming investors into owners. Creating unfiltered access to financial knowledge and opportunity. Imagine a world where no matter where you come from – your socioeconomic status, demographic, beliefs, location, or education level – you have the opportunity to achieve financial freedom. The future is a democratized financial system that is owned by you, a user. We’re aligning incentives for users and changing the financial landscape. Welcome to the ownership economy.