“I thought I was tied to climbing the corporate career ladder until I learned the building blocks of entrepreneurship in class and how the formation and fundraising process works. I didn’t think I would ever start a company because I just didn’t know how to do it. My MBA changed all of that.” - Becky Parker, MBA ’09
On Demand Photography
FocalPop founders Becky Parker and Brian Romanko launched the first crowd-sourcing photography web site in September 2009 for the custom photo-acquisition process. Instead of buyers searching through stock photography or spending large sums of time and money on a custom shoot, buyers request specific photos from FocalPop’s community of photographers. Photographers submit photos that fit the bill and the buyer chooses a winner, with the FocalPop site handling the exchange of money and image files.
When Parker and Romanko signed up for the New Venture Creation class along with classmates Ronnie LeBert, Eddie Howard and Libby Essinger, they knew they would be developing a business plan for the Texas Moot Corp Competition.
Romanko came into the MBA program with experience at several start-ups and was president of the graduate Entrepreneurship Society at McCombs. He planned his coursework so that he would be prepared for the Texas Moot Corp Competition in his final semester.
Parker’s initial mindset and experience were different. “I thought I was tied to climbing the corporate career ladder until I learned the building blocks of entrepreneurship in class and how the formation and fundraising process works. I didn’t think I would ever start a company because I just didn’t know how to do it,” she said.
“We ended up with a completely different product from our original concept,” Parker said. “It wasn’t any one person who came to the table with this idea. It evolved.” The team spent the first half of the semester refining the idea through market validation, where they did in-depth, first-hand analysis of potential market segments. The rest of the semester they focused on strategies for the business model, financing, marketing and operational aspects of the business.
In addition to core accounting, finance and marketing courses, the FocalPop team also took Entrepreneurial Growth, Innovations in Business Marketing and the Advanced Venture Development Practicum.
After winning the Texas Moot Corp Competition in February 2009, the FocalPop team competed in the Oregon New Venture Competition in April 2009. FocalPop also competed in the Global Moot Corp Competition at McCombs in May 2009. Winning the Texas Moot Corp Competition attracted a lot of publicity and gave FocalPop a future home to house their company at the Austin Technology Incubator.
“Every time we went through a competition, there was feedback from the judges that we hadn’t thought of before,” Parker said. We were really glad we heard it because we could address it. Later on, when others would question why we did something a certain way, we already had the solution in mind because we were prepared based on those previous conversations.”
Parker and Romanko launched a beta version of FocalPop in September 2009 with the full launch in December. They continue to build their photographer community before marketing to buyers. “The proof point of supply needs to be there before we start fundraising,” said Parker. “Then we will invest in marketing and software development and making FocalPop our full time endeavor.”