By: Ethan Bledsoe ’26
Guest speaker Yasmeena Faycurry, Weinberg ’22, joined Residents at The Garage at Family Dinner last week. Yasmeena is an investor at Chicago Ventures, specializing in all things consumer and B2B. Outside of Venture Capital (VC), Yasmeena has been growing her startup Unfound – an online community where people share and discover local gems (think antithesis of Yelp). At Northwestern, Yasmeena studied economics, marketing, and entrepreneurship, in addition to participating in the Propel, Residency, and Jumpstart programs at The Garage.
Having been both a founder and an investor, Yasmeena has a unique perspective on startups and what helps set them up for success. She spent the majority of her presentation answering questions from current residents. The key takeaways are outlined below:
- Unfound was successful on TikTok because it figured out a content template to maximize views while sharing information about Unfound. First, include a hook at the beginning of the video and introduce interesting and digestible information throughout. Then, make sure to include a catchy one-liner that encompasses your startup and its mission before the end of the video, as the user is more likely to click away the longer the video is. For example, Unfound’s one-liner is “Download Unfound – where people share and discover local gems.”
- Unfound used to be called Nooks, but due to trademark issues, the company had to change names. Yasmeena suggests not being too emotionally connected to a name until you know it’s a name you are legally permitted to use.
- A founder should develop a strong business model early on. A startup can scale without a business model— as Unfound has — but it will be more risky.
- For student startups (where salaries and employment perks aren’t offered), it’s important to have a deep understanding of why your teammates are joining your startup if you wish to retain them. For example, someone might want to grow a startup’s social media presence to show future employers their marketing skills. Another person may want to contribute to a tech team with an existing codebase and older, more experienced members so they can develop the proper skills for a Big Tech internship. Yasmeena recommends creating passion projects for each team member so that everyone can feel good about what they’re working on both in the short term and long term.
- In the age of AI and ChatGPT, VCs are now expecting a new level of technical capabilities baked into startups that can benefit from the tech. While figuring market size calculations, a founder should also consider their startup’s place in the market: who is the target user, how is your startup useful to consumers, etc.?
- VCs appreciate smaller amounts of consistent growth and engagement rather than one big burst of immense growth that lacks continuing engagement.
Ethan Bledsoe ‘26 is a Mathematical Methods in Social Sciences (MMSS) major from West Lafayette, IN. He is a student aide at The Garage, tasked with managing different administrative, marketing, and operations projects. His favorite thing about The Garage is the welcoming and vibrant community of entrepreneurs.