Graduation day from Stanford GSB was a very big day for Alex De Simone, MBA ’16: On that day, his first company was acquired and his second company received funding.
De Simone’s entrepreneurial journey started in earnest in 2011, when he was a consultant at Accenture and got his first exposure to the high-growth software companies that the firm served. With a Stanford master’s degree in mechanical engineering under his belt, he decided to start learning to code on his own and looked for a startup that would take a chance on hiring him as a new developer. De Simone was hired by Moovweb, a company founded by Ajay Kapur, MBA ’07, that aims to improve mobile transactions.
Within a week of joining, De Simone and two teammates started building a mobile commerce website for clothing store The Men’s Wearhouse. The site was finished a month later, and De Simone watched millions of people use it. After creating 10 more websites and building his confidence as a developer, he started to consider his next move.
“There were five people at Moovweb who had gone to Stanford GSB, and they kept talking about what a fun experience it was. I had never thought a graduate program could be fun, and I was intrigued to find a program that could prepare me to start a business and that I would also really enjoy,” De Simone says.
Meanwhile, however, he had already been thinking about starting a company. After De Simone was accepted at Stanford GSB, he decided to leave Moovweb and launch his first enterprise in the months before school began. Together with his roommate and a Moovweb colleague, De Simone started Jobr, a simple job search app. Jobr was modeled on popular dating app Tinder: Users could swipe right to apply for a listed position and swipe left to skip it, much as one scrolls through prospective Tinder dates.
The co-founders launched the company in three months, and were met with an unexpected avalanche of press and investor interest.
“At that point, I had to decide if I was going to go to school or stay with Jobr,” De Simone says, “and I decided that I couldn’t pass up Stanford GSB.”
He fully committed to the Stanford GSB experience, while still providing support to Jobr. Although his plate was already full, he opted for what he calls the most exciting path forward: starting another business.
De Simone founded Avochato during the summer after his first year of business school. The company, which provides conversational text-messaging software to businesses, took shape in the co-working space at the Stanford Venture Studio, which offers student teams connections to entrepreneurial expertise; peer and alumni support; faculty members, industry leaders, and investors; and other resources.
“I made the most of the summer between my first and second years of the MBA program,” recalls De Simone. “I asked for advice from faculty and industry experts, interviewed businesses to understand their pain points, and programmed the core product that would soon lead to acquiring the company’s first paying customers.”
Hard Work, and Completed Circuits
De Simone devoted his second year to getting the most out of school while continuing to work on his new venture — skipping some extracurricular activities and working through school breaks. He laid plans to help scale the technical side after graduation, teaming up with co-founder Christopher Neale and seeking out other people he knew from Moovweb.
Shortly before De Simone graduated, he joined other current students in pledging future equity to Stanford GSB, a feature of that year’s MBA Class Gift campaign. He pledged 2.016% of his equity in both of his companies in honor of the MBA Class of 2016.
“Stanford GSB has given life to my new venture,” De Simone says. “Pledging to give a piece of my equity stake back to the community was the least I could do.”
On the very eventful day when De Simone graduated and Avochato received its first round of funding, Monster.com bought Jobr Inc., and immediately integrated the Jobr app into the Monster platform. As a result of the purchase, De Simone’s equity pledge was the first of its kind to pay out.
In this way, De Simone was able to give back to the school that started him on his journey from employee of a Stanford GSB alum, earning his stripes as a developer, to tech company co-founder and CEO.
— Dana Mauriello, MBA ’09