2023 Most Disruptive Business School Startups: Minno, Cornell University (Nolan School of Hotel Administration)

From left, Alex Barr CEO, Jan Bobrowski, software engineer and Jude Rizzo, advisor


Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business

Industry: Financial Information

Founding Student Name(s): Alex Barr, Jude Rizzo

Brief Description of Solution: We enable retail investors to analyze a company in a few minutes by providing critical information for free.

Funding Dollars: < $250k Raised to date

What led you to launch this venture? After starting a finance club in the first semester of my sophomore year, we realized that it was very time-consuming to determine if a company was worth researching and that it was difficult to have meaningful conversations about stocks with someone. We began developing a tool that would aggregate, analyze, and display stock information in an intuitive layout so that both previously mentioned problems could be solved. We then also realized that there were likely a lot of other people facing these same problems, so we decided to form Minno and put this on the App Store.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? We think that the biggest accomplishments that we have achieved are different from a company development standpoint to a product standpoint. From the perspective of turning this venture into a sustainable company, the ability to raise outside capital feels like the most significant thing we have done because it means that this venture can grow and scale as we continue to develop our products, even after we graduate. From the product standpoint, presenting to financial clubs at colleges, such as the Cornell Alpha Fund, has been instrumental in what we are developing for our second-generation product. Additionally, the feedback we have gotten from these student-run organizations, combined with external capital, has enabled us to hire a software engineering firm that will cater to the demands of our earliest users and transform our product from a software beta to a fully scalable financial information platform.

How has your business-related major helped you further this startup venture? In terms of building the business around the product we are making, it has been instrumental. It has taught me how to manage people, navigate funding, accounting, and partnerships. Specific to the Nolan Hotel School, I learned about how people value the level of service you provide – in terms of hospitality. However, I believe that this can be transferred to software, and we have proved that by making a financial information product that truly values the user experience and the demands of our users.

Which business class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? I took a corporate strategy class called Executing Strategies to Win last year and the lessons that I have learned from it are applied every day I work on Minno. Even though Minno is still in its infancy and that class is more applicable to large and well-established companies, many of the concepts and knowledge I acquired can be scaled down to our size and used effectively. The biggest lessons that I learned were how to manage people, evaluate different opportunities, motivate employees, and analyze situations. It has allowed for an “outsider” perspective on all the decisions we make as a company and got us through the boot-strapping phase of building this product on a budget of $0. Most importantly, as the name suggests, it taught me how to establish a plan, set goals and incentives, enforce deadlines, and figure out every step in between. Thank you, Professor Asis!

What business professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Neil Tarallo.

In the first week of his class, I spoke with him about Minno and how we were struggling to identify our key customers and grow as a result. Immediately he turned around, drew a bell curve on the whiteboard, and labeled “innovators,” “early adopters,” “early majority,” “late majority.” He told me that I was trying to go after the early adopters and early majority without even considering the smallest, yet most important user group: “innovators.” He told me that I needed to find the people who would have “pain alleviated” by using my product even though it is still early and not even a perfect solution for them. Since that conversation, our userbase has nearly tripled in size and we have received critical feedback that has helped shape the development priorities for Minno.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? RJ Scaringe, CEO and Founder of Rivian.

I have always been passionate about the automotive industry and a fan of vehicles of all kinds. When I came across Rivian quite a few years ago, I spent a whole day researching the company. That day, RJ became an inspiration to me. Once he graduated, he spent the next 12 years building an electric car company before a vehicle hit the road. Reading about this taught me that persistence, patience, and the right team are three of the most critical ingredients to building a company. More than that, I went to an open Rivian event in NYC to go see the cars in person for the first time and I met RJ! We talked about what it was like to build a car company, nerded out over the specs of their vehicles, and discussed how he inspired me to become an entrepreneur. I showed him Rivian’s financials on our app, and he said, “This looks great, oh wow,”. We shared how the market is likely misinterpreting the true value of his company because of the amount of cash that they have on hand. This entire conversation felt surreal and motivated me like nothing else.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? Becoming the “Google” of financial information.

Right now, Minno can only provide information on stocks, but we plan on expanding into other verticals such as credit and real estate. A long-term goal is to become the first place to get financial information on any asset. If you put an address into our search bar to get the information, you would need to decide on investing in real estate. You can also look up another startup to get their funding information or going deep into a public company to understand the value of their stock. Either way, this outcome for Minno would make it the first place to gather financial information.

As the financial information industry stands now, it is very segmented and specialized, with each company dealing in only one asset class. Either through in-house development and aggregation or M&A, this is a direction that we would like to head in.

How has your local startup ecosystem contributed to your venture’s development and success? At the Nolan Hotel School there is an entrepreneurial organization called the Pillsbury Institute. We entered their business plan competition with a different venture and won. This gave us two things that have been instrumental in our success. First, we won a $25,000 grand prize – this was our starting capital for Minno and helped us get our first data provider for our product. Second, it gave us the reputation that we could commit to an idea and pull it off successfully over an extended timeline. It has opened many doors, and we are still very close with the Pillsbury Institute while working on this venture.


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