It is rare to find an entrepreneur who will take full credit for a successful venture. A start-up is a massive ship that requires many different jobs on-board. Filled by the wrong people, and the boat can sink. Filled by no one, and the boat can remain stuck at shore.
Patrick Prioletti, 24, struggled with this entrepreneurial issue. The SU grad student, was researching his idea for a venture while applying to graduate school.
His venture is called Thinc-hub, a team-building and networking platform for start-up entrepreneurs. To be clear, Thinc-hub is not a job board site.
“Thinc-hub is collaborative.” Prioletti explains, “you can discuss the idea, an industry or a market segment to find people with different skill sets you might need for your venture.”
Prioletti knew his idea had potential and would solve a major problem. When he embarked on Thinc-hub two years ago, he also knew scaling Thinc-hub was going to be a challenge.
“I went through two different iterations of websites that just didn’t have the power or the functional requirements to make this feasible,” says Prioletti.
Faced with poor programming abilities, Prioletti plowed through roaring waves to find someone who could build a better application.
“I was going through hundreds of people,” Prioletti shudders. “Funny enough, if I had this platform out there, I wouldn’t need to be here asking for help to build it.”
Finding his now-partner Sultan Mira, was becoming tiresome.
“I was looking into studying data science at RIT and at the end of every meeting with a professor I told them I was exploring an idea and I want to do this,” referencing the skills he lacked. He asked professors, “do you know where I can look for any potential co-founders?”
Directed to the computer science school at RIT, Prioletti voyaged through the Rochester halls in search of a technical first-mate to start a company with. He started reaching out to students interested in software engineering.
“I emailed many students in the department and didn’t get any responses.” Prioletti continues, “Finally, I found Sultan’s LinkedIn and messaged him.”
After meeting over coffee, Mira agreed to climb aboard Prioletti’s vision. The almost-immediate agreeance shocked Prioletti.
“It took me a year to find him,” he laughs. “Why is it that hard? It should not be that difficult.”
Prioletti does acknowledge he was fortunate to be able to even commence a search for a business partner, however not everyone has the ability to play treasure hunt.
“A lot of people start going down that road and it takes so long and it’s too hard.” He says, “I was lucky enough that I was in-between a job and going to school, where I had a lot of time on my hands and could afford doing this.”
Prioletti made it his mission to change this overwhelming fate for most entrepreneurs.
“I can’t imagine how many ideas are just put on the shelf and left there to collect dust because people can’t find anyone who wants to work with them,” Prioletti preaches, “think about how much better human potential future could look like if we can bring people together to work on these ideas.”
It’s the golden apple idea that social networking sites like LinkedIn are not biting. Prioletti does not see Thinc-hub as trying to steal the business-networking giant’s audience.
“No one’s going to a platform like LinkedIn to start a start-up,” Prioletti explains. Instead, he notes that this is mainly a glorified rolodex for professional people you have met.
Therefore, you do not have to be a social butterfly to just to find your missing wing.
“The best way to apply good team building functionality is literally focusing on matching up complimentary skills.” Prioletti illustrates, “You’re a business person? Here’s a software developer. You’re both trying to target the same industry. We’re going to recommend this person to you.”
With a mission tied down and a small crew on deck, it was time for Prioletti to scale his service.
The site had already bridged an opportunity gap for future hopeful entrepreneurs. However, Thinc-hub needed another revenue stream that could literally, catch investors.
“We’re planning on monetizing via ads,” Prioletti says. “But another revenue stream would be from investors.”
Prioletti does not mean pitching Thinc-hub to prospective backers. Instead he means Thinc-hub will be able to connect its start-ups with investors.
For example, Prioletti says, “a start-up can have a page on Thinc-hub and an investor can watch their journey unfold in front of them as an omniscient being, but they can also pay on the platform to get analytical insights.”
While there are other sites that offer this feature, Prioletti says Thinc-hub is different.
“There’s no platform out there that has done this in a user-oriented way,” he continues. “Other sites just focus on data collection and investors.”
This is what makes Thinc-hub’s competitors, indirect competitors. For instance, Angel List is dedicated to providing a lens for potential investors to track the growth of start-ups in real time. Thinc-hub is providing that lens, but also allowing start-ups to develop by making it a social networking platform.
Prioletti chuckles, “That’s what I want, that’s a platform I want to have. I would use it all the time.”
Studying as an undergrad at Syracuse University, Prioletti frequently visited the Blackstone LaunchPad for entrepreneurial growth and counseling. Referred to as the entrepreneurship hub on campus, the LaunchPad supports hundreds of student start-ups with business, marketing and legal guidance. He knows that Thinc-hub can expand its value.
For example, Prioletti explains if you are seeking a coding partner, “you’re going to have to walk into this space at the same time as someone else you’ve never met or never heard of with the exact skills that you need coincidentally walks in here.”
Any student can walk in the LaunchPad. Much the same, anyone can join Thinc-hub. This open platform can seem like a hive for unmotivated entrepreneurs. Prioletti does not worry about his site becoming corroded with halfhearted hustlers.
“That’s something Algorithms are going to fix,” Prioletti figures, “we’re never going to shut anyone out of the platform.”
The Thinc-hub founder calls these people, “wantrepreneurs,” which is actually a dictionary-recognized word. It refers to those who have ideas for businesses but have not gotten off the ground.
“There are some people who just try to gain social media clout and they call themselves entrepreneurs, while they just work with people on marketing,” Prioletti exposes.
Many social media influencers claim they are in a particular industry, when in reality, they are just a marketing pawn. Often times this can be deceiving for true-entrepreneurs looking for co-founders.
“It doesn’t help you to say that you’re in software development when you’re really in marketing,” Prioletti says, “no one is going to want to talk to you because they are going to realize [the truth].”
As a person without the skills to launch Thinc-hub on his own, Prioletti needed a partner. However, before his technical partner came along, he attempted to tread on his own.
“I was literally thinking about a simple blog, but you have to be able to post a page for your start-up,” Prioletti expands, “People could come to a blog to talk about ideas, but that’s all they
would do. They would leave the page after they had an idea.”
Prioletti is in it for the long haul for his users and himself. The 24-year-old entrepreneur does not want to stop at Thinc-hub.
“That’s why I’m building this platform,” Prioletti says with enthusiasm. “Literally my entire plan is to get Thinc-hub to a self-sustaining point where it is not corrupted too much by outside influence.”
In the end, Prioletti wants to eventually sell his company through a buyout. However, he wants to wait until it fully morphs into the platform he wanted to use in the first place. Prioletti says he’ll need a buyout because he does not want to be at the helm of the potential-cross continental journey Thinc-hub may embark on.
“I’m a great speed boat captain, but I don’t know how to pilot a cruise ship,” Prioletti metaphors, “I can be this fast-paced, western-style cowboy, where I’m just shooting from the hip.”
Prioletti is attracted to the exciting start-up energy that surrounds new ventures. He is even ready for a buyout keeps him from jumping ship.
“If I decide to stay with the company, I’m not going to take a leadership position,” Prioletti clarifies, “but I’ll be there as a morale boost.”
At the end of the day, Prioletti started Thinc-hub to help lone sailors, like himself, launch into the sea of entrepreneurship with an ideal first mate. He says he’ll probably head another start-up.
“People say, ‘what’s your work-life balance?’ and I don’t believe that’s a very good thing to even strive for,” Prioletti ends with an advisory. “I want to make my life’s work and be remembered for something.”
Story by Benjamin David Goldsmith ‘22, VPA – CRS