Episode 17: Business Owner Interview

Starting a business with Mimir’s Jacobi Petrucciani
Episode 17: Business Owner Interview

SHOW NOTES

This episode, Mak & G are joined by Co-Founder of Mimir Jacobi Petrucciani, to discuss how he started a business while still in college, the ways he got funding for his startup, and the things he wished he knew at the beginning of his entrepreneurial journey.

 

Jacobi Petrucciani co-founded Mimir out of a Dorm Room with his friends Prahasith Veluvolu and Colton Voege.

 

Over the next 5 years, he built a product to help instructors teach computer science, got accepted to YCombinator, raised funds, and then had his company acquired by HackerRank.

 

This episode Mak & G talk to Jacobi about the lessons he learned from starting a company from scratch, things he wished he’d known when starting out, and how he managed to raise funds at such a young age…

 

“It did really help that I started programming so young and I had a lot of experience.” – Jacobi Petrucciani

 

“There are a lot of expenses in a startup.” – Jacobi Petrucciani

 

“Make something people want.” – Jacobi Petrucciani


Time Stamps:

00:20 – How we got the opportunity to interview a business owner.

03:18 – How Jacobi became the co-founder of Mimir.

03:42 – Who buys Mimir’s computer programs.

03:57 – What feedback means.

04:10 – How Jacobi got his idea to start a business in college.

04:59 – Important things to know when starting a company.

05:15 – What Jacobi spent his first paycheck on.

05:25 – How taxes affect startups.

05:50 – How to fund a startup company.

06:15 – What ‘raising money’ involves and how much money Jacobi raised.

07:08 – The difficulties with raising money.

07:25 – Joining a startup group in Silicon Valley.

08:00 – What angel investors help with.

08:19 – Advice for people starting a business.

 

Resources:

Mimir Classroom

 

Connect with Jacobi Petrucciani:

LinkedIn

 

Connect with Ben Jones:

Quiz

#1 Where are higher-income families more likely to do most of their Christmas shopping, compared to lower-income families?

A) At a pet store
B) At the North Pole
C) Online
D) At a yard sale

#2 What are lower-income families more likely to use to pay for Christmas shopping?

A) Home-grown vegetables
B) Compliments to the store clerk
C) Monopoly money
D) Credit card

#3 How do 29% of Americans plan to pay off their holiday bills?

A) By doing the dishes for six months
B) By joining TikTok and hoping they go viral
C) Using their tax returns
D) With money from generous strangers

#4 How long did we calculate a typical $1500 credit card bill would take to pay off at average interest rates if you only paid the minimum amount?

A) 44 months
B) Forever
C) Ten years
D) Never

#5 Prices today are around 50% higher than 20 years ago because of what?

A) 44 months
B) Forever
C) Ten years
D) Never

TRANSCRIPT

MAK: We’ve been working really hard to get our business to grow. And while we love our Dad. We thought it’d be fun to learn from some other smart people.

 

GRANT: Ya, there’s still so much we need to learn – especially about growing our pet services business.

 

MAK: So, we asked our Dad if we could talk to another business owner.

 

GRANT: You know, so we could learn more about bringing in the green.

 

MAK: So, he helped us set up and interview!

 

GRANT: That way we can ask all the questions we want!

 

DAD: That’s right. I know I haven’t told you much about the guest, because I wanted it as a surprise, but you’ve sat across from him a Thanksgiving dinner

 

MAK: Really dad?

 

DAD: Yep, and he is crazy successful. Among other things, he’s received an award in a magazine called “Forbes”. It’s all about business and has over a million readers. He was recognized as one of the 30 people under 30 years old, who is influential in the business of education.

 

MAK: Education can be a business?

 

DAD: Yep!

 

GRANT: So, out of the millions of people under thirty, he’s really special for what he does in education? And we know him? Are you sure? 

 

DAD: You absolutely do. It’s Jacobi Petrucciani.

 

MAK/GRANT: Awesome, COBI !!!! 

 

MAK: What a great surprise!!! We’re so happy you’re here Cobi. We’ve heard stories that you are doing really well in your business. I guess I never asked.

 

GRANT: And, since we’re always playing video games in the basement, we just haven’t had time to talk about what you do. I still need to beat you in Rocket League! You’re going down.

 

MAK: Grant, you could be sitting next to Donald Trump playing Fortnite and wouldn’t say “hi”.

 

GRANT: That’s not true!! What’d you say?

 

MAK: Anyway, let me start this off right. Mr. Jacobi Petrucciani, welcome to Money with M & G! I’m you’re hostess with the mostess, and that’s your video game buddy that you beat on a regular basis. Thanks for joining us!

 

JACOBI: Thanks for having me Mak & G. I’m really happy to be here. I love your show, and think you guys are doing great work!

 

GRANT: Thanks Cobi! We are working hard to learn more about finance and help others. Sounds like you could really help our listeners.

 

MAK: And, we’ve got a few questions for you. BUT before we begin, can you tell our listeners one thing… Do you like chocolate brownies with chocolate chips and chocolate icing, or cotton candy better?


JACOBI: Makenna, I know that’s a trick question, because you love everything chocolate. I’ve seen the way you eat mom’s chocolate chip cookies!! So, I’m going with the triple chocolate brownies!!


MAK: I told you Grant, he likes chocolate the best!!!


GRANT: Not fair. How about this one? Cobi, if you got stranded on a desert island, which video game would you choose to pass the time for 3 months?


JACOBI: Minecraft or Factorio – both games that you can play for a crazy amount of time without getting bored since they’re both sandbox games.


MAK: Wow, all about the video games, G. You’re going to go cross-eyed one day!

 

GRANT: Maybe, but I’ll have a lot of fun. Ok, I have the first question. Cobi, can you tell our listeners what it is you do? And who do you do it for?

 

JACOBI: I’m one of the co-founders at Mimir – we create tools for computer science courses to help them. A CIO is normally in charge of the higher level computer/technology stuff.

 

MAK: So you grade papers like our math teacher Mrs. Johnson?

 

JACOBI: Well, I don’t actually grade them – I wrote software that grades other computer programs – isn’t that crazy?

 

MAK: That sounds super cool. Who buys this computer program?

 

JACOBI: Universities/Colleges and some High Schools (MSU, OSU, Park Tudor). Our software allows instructors to save time, giving the teacher more time to teach!

 

GRANT: I know when you help me, it helps a ton. I moved from beginner to expert quickly with your “feed me back”.

 

JACOBI: It’s actually “feedback”, it’s a fancy way of saying to give you hints about what you’re doing well or not so well.

 

MAK: Well, we’re trying to get our bizznizz “on” as young as possible. So, when did you start your business?


JACOBI: I started it with my two friends back in 2014, in my second year of college!

 

GRANT: So how did that happen? Were you brushing your teeth and it came to you?

 

MAK: Did you wish upon a star?

 

JACOBI: I was sitting in one of my computer science classes, waiting for feedback on the latest assignment that we turned in. We started discussing how weird it was that we still had to wait for teachers to hand grade our code, since it could sometimes take a long time to get a grade! We decided that we wanted to make something better.

 

GRANT: Wow, so ideas for businesses can come from anywhere and anyone. And, if you’re good at something, it makes more sense?


JACOBI: Absolutely! It did really help that I started programming so young and had a lot of experience.

 

MAK: As you know, we are pretty new to this whole entrepreneur thing. So looking back on when you started, what’s something you wish you knew?

 

JACOBI: I’d probably wish I knew how important it is to manage the daily activities of running the company.

 

GRANT: And, what did you buy when you got your first ‘real’ paycheck? Was it that wicked portable computer with the two power sources??


JACOBI: Haha nope – that came later after I had saved up quite a bit of money! I think my first real paycheck went straight into my rent, for where I lived.

 

MAK: How do taxes impact your company? What should we know about them as business owners, and as people who get paid?

 

JACOBI: Tax wise, startups generally don’t pay as much in their early years – normally startups aren’t profitable, so we have no profits to tax! Do you remember what profit is? Businesses have other taxes – things like employment taxes – but you don’t have to worry about that, not yet anyway.

 

GRANT: When you have a new company, did you ever need money, because you were selling less than your expenses? What’s a new company called again?

 

JACOBI: In our case, it’s called a startup. Yep – when you’re starting out like this, you do need money. Oftentimes you can’t sell enough to support all of your expenses in the early stages.

 

MAK: Did you say “up start”?

 

JACOBI: No, “startup”.

 

MAK: So, how did you get money that you didn’t have?

 

JACOBI: You have to raise money – that can be from investors.

 

GRANT: Sounds like you’re growing the money? Is that what “raise” means?

 

JACOBI: Nope – when you’re raising money, you’re talking to investors and angels to get them on board with your idea, and convincing them that your team is the one to make it happen. If they like your idea and team, they may put money into your company!

 

MAK: How much money did you raise, can we ask?

 

JACOBI: You can always ask – I can’t tell you exactly, but we have raised a few separate rounds, anywhere from $120k to $1.5mm!

 

GRANT: So you’re super rich!!!

 

JACOBI: Well, as you know, that money goes into the business to pay for growth like new employees, more computers, paying for travel and many more items. There are a lot of expenses in a startup!

 

MAK: Sounds like it can go fast.

 

JACOBI: It absolutely can go fast – and normally when you take money, you’re expected to spend it quite quickly. Part of the reason some startups take investments is to rapidly scale their company.

 

GRANT: Was it easy getting money? Can you get it based on an idea?

 

JACOBI: I wouldn’t say it’s easy! It can take quite some time. You can get some investments based on just an idea – it’s not common, but it does happen.

 

MAK: I heard you had to live in Pelican Valley for some special help with your business. Is that true?

 

JACOBI: I didn’t go to Pelican Valley, but Silicon Valley, that’s in California, in the San Francisco Area. Myself and my other friends were asked to be a part of a startup group. They give you advice and help you improve yourself and your company.

 

GRANT: Sounds like it speeds up your success. What is Silicon?

 

JACOBI: Silicon – it’s an important part of any computer like your computers, phones, and tablets. Many computer companies started in this area of California. That’s how it got its name. I think you’ve probably heard of Apple, right?

 

MAK: Did you ever get help from those investors called Angels?

 

JACOBI: We have had quite a few angels invest in our company. They’re generally involved in the earlier stages of raising money. They give helpful advice, and investment money.

 

GRANT: What was the best piece of advice you received while starting your business

 

JACOBI: That’s a tough one… I think the best piece of advice I received was ‘Make something people want’. It seems very common sense, but I think that it’s good advice to keep in mind while building something.

 

MAK: Ok, last question, what’s your biggest piece of advice for your own personal finances to be successful?

 

JACOBI: I think it’s a pretty basic one that a lot of people overlook – don’t spend money that you don’t have! Credit cards can be useful, but they can also be dangerous!

 

GRANT: Cobi, you’re the best!! Thanks for teaching us so much, and letting us know what you do. I think this is going to make the holidays much more interesting.

 

MAK: Yeah, you rock. You’ve done a lot, and I feel so proud to be your cousin. Thanks for being here.

 

GRANT: Thanks Cobi, from all of us here, and from our listeners, we wish you the best, and hope you’ll check in with us in the future, as you grow.

 

JACOBI: Thanks for having me.

 

MAK: Hey Dad, I think you know I love Angel’s and heard about Angel Investing. Cobi used, and I want to know more about Angel investing because they help new businesses.

 

GRANT: Yeah, is there anyone we could interview next to learn more about that, maybe for our business?

DAD: As a matter of fact, I know just the person.

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