For a class assignment in one of Shaun’s entrepreneurship classes, he was told to walk around campus for a day and write down any issues he came across. He noticed that many college students are unable to attain part time jobs during the school year for a variety of different reasons, but still needed extra cash. This problem sparked the basis for Shaun’s startup, Backyard gig.Meet Shaun
Shaun Gupta, the founder of Backyard Gig, identified the issue of students needing extra cash without having to commit to a part time job. After a lot of research and interviews, he brought about a solution with a platform called Backyard gig.
Backyard Gig allows students to earn some extra cash by finding small gigs around their area when locals are in need of help, which can align with their busy schedules. Being a full time student, it can often be difficult to obtain a part time job since it is a relatively big commitment and they have very busy schedules. However, students all over the country find themselves in a position where they feel like they need to make more money.
The Summer of Shaun’s freshman year, he joined UD’s summer founders program, a 12-week program designed for students with early stage startups to work on their ventures and receive a stipend, mentorship and education sessions. During this time he worked on building his connections, growing his startup, and practicing his pitch. Shaun also participated in Hen Hatch, a startup funding competition, and resulted in being a finalist in 2020. While developing Backyard gig, Shaun found the class ENTR456- Startup eXperience 2 to be the most valuable.
External competitions and awards:
Throughout Shaun’s journey to expand his startup, he began attending pitch competitions outside of UD, which allowed him to gain experience, mentorship, and compete for prizes.
During April 2021, Shaun Gupta was selected to take part in the Global Startup Showcase at eMerge Americas 2021 conference startup which took place in Miami Beach, Florida. He competed in the University Track section, where he pitched his startup, Backyard Gig.
Shaun headed to Tampa, Florida during October 2021 for the 38th Annual Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization (CEO) Conference and Pitch Competition, which is a competition designed specifically for college entrepreneurs. This allowed him to meet other like minded students and see what their ideas were, while also pitching his own startup on stage. During this conference Shaun won Collegiate Entrepreneur of the Year.
Alumni Ventures venture capital fund selected Shaun as one of 25 entrepreneurs in the country to receive a grant funded by them. These grants are given to entrepreneurs who are either working on their own startup or at another startup throughout the summer to help fund the process.
Overall Shaun has won around $35,000 in prizes and he plans to expand backyard gig into the Philadelphia area.
Through Shaun’s experience in building his startup, participating in pitch competitions, and attending networking events, he has gathered quite a bit of knowledge of what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur. Building foundational relationships with people and maintaining these positive relationships is something he found to be very valuable. Not being afraid to introduce yourself to people is important in order to achieve this. A good example that Shaun gave of maintaining these relationships can be to “simply comment on their linked posts to congratulate them on their achievements.”
I had the opportunity to chat with Shaun about his journey with Backyard gig and he agreed to do a Q&A
Q and A:
Did you have an entrepreneurship minor? How did you take the entrepreneurship classes?
Shaun: No I didn't have a minor. The most important thing with entrepreneurship is just getting involved and once they see you're involved, many opportunities open up since now people know you're going to take the class seriously and not waste the professor's time. They're going to see you're doing taking the classes because you're interested
How did your venture change and develop?
Shaun: Backyard Gig's overall mission has stayed the same, the idea to create a platform that connected locals with college students was the motivation from the beginning. Ever since I first came to UD and saw many students having the problem of needing to make extra money but not having the time to get jobs. However, small things have changed throughout this journey, such as the strategy to market, ways to provide the most value to users with the most efficient use of resources, etc.
I believe that changes like these are natural when starting something from scratch because you can't internalize every scenario before something happens. Sometimes it takes an event to happen in order for one to see in what ways it could have been done differently, which is why reflecting on your progress is important. Doing this helps you come up with future possible situations to account for, which makes changes much easier to deal with.
For example, I remember when Backyard Gig first launched, when users would sign up it would just be a simple name, email, and password form. But after getting a few users, questions like "is this user a student or household?", "how did this user hear about us?", etc. started to come up and in which case, I added those fields to the form. It is all about iterating once you try something new and get feedback.
Would you recommend external activities to other students? Why or why not?
Shaun: I would recommend students to first take advantage of the resources that Horn provides (VentureOn, e-Club, ENTR classes, etc.), and once they have a good base and have started to build their startups, then it would be a good idea to look into other competitions that are around the country.
There are a lot of opportunities for student entrepreneurs to pitch and raise money so it is definitely worth a shot to apply. However, I would not recommend applying to those external competitions until you are at a stage where you have received a good amount of traction since most of the people applying to those competitions already have something up and running.
How can you convince investors to invest in you?
Shaun: “Having a solid business plan and having an important understanding of the problem you’re going to solve is very crucial. Being able to explain why one's startup is going to be important to the world is a key part of convincing investors to spend their money on you.”
About Horn Entrepreneurship
Horn Entrepreneurship serves as the creative engine for entrepreneurship education and advancement at the University of Delaware. Currently ranked among the best entrepreneurship programs in the US, Horn Entrepreneurship was built and is actively supported by successful entrepreneurs, empowering aspiring innovators as they pursue new ideas for a better world.