WashU senior Peter Delaney is the co-founder of student-run strategy and development firm Bear Studios.
How did you come up with the idea for Bear Studios?
A friend, Will Papper, and I met the first week of school. He’s since transferred to Stanford, but we went to a lot of Skandalaris Center events when they were back in Simon Hall. The big thing we noticed was that although there were a lot of resources for students, there was nothing student-run. We saw a niche we could fill around development services for early-stage startups. We decided to focus on three silos: consulting, design, and technology. Universities are a special microcosm of students who come together and consolidate skills, so we wanted to work with that.
What was the process like at the start?
It was shaky at the start but we found our footing and partnered with organizations like Tamid to get our name out there. From there it was a matter of getting contracts and putting students’ skills to work with things like helping faculty and post-doc fellows commercialize their research. We met with Dean Malter [Assoc. Dean for Undergrad Programs] once or twice to get our name out there, and we worked with the Skandalaris Center from the start.
“There’s no harm in starting a business, trying, and failing.
Just go for it.”
Where did you find funding?
We don’t have much overhead at all. It’s very much done on a commission base. The Skandalaris Center has been a wonderful partner in providing us with the office space we use, but legal fees and everything else we needed to start was out of pocket. Our model allows us to basically run Bear Studios out of a dorm room if we really wanted to. But the Skandalaris Center is good because it’s a space you can meet clients in.
What were/are some challenges you’ve encountered while starting and running Bear Studios?
One challenge sticks out and it’s one we still encounter today: growing your workforce at the same time you’re growing the projects available for those fellows to work on. It’s a balancing act. If you grow your team to 50 people but you only have 5 projects, then there won’t be enough to delegate and fellows fall off the map. But the opposite is hard, too — if there are too many projects and not enough team members to work on them. We’re still trying to get it right. It’s hard to scale it up without having people with nothing to do or having unhappy clients. It’s about finding new avenues to attack and constantly chasing them. It’s about finding projects to work on and fulfilling the workforce pipeline.
What were/are your personal goals for Bear Studios?
It’s at a place today I definitely didn’t expect it to be. We knew initially that students could provide help and be a resource for startups within the community and the university, but we didn’t know the structure we would end up using. It basically started as just a Venmo account, which has obviously been rectified since. Long-term though, it’s about filling a niche for businesses who can’t afford to hire a large agency with huge fees and using students who are 2 or 3 years out from the market to assist these people. On one hand, it’s about allowing students to get great experiences and get compensated for them, and on the other hand, it serves startups with a more affordable option and bright individuals. We would love to grow nationwide and be in every city. That’s the long-term goal.
What advice do you have for WashU students considering entrepreneurship?
As soon as you recognize any opportunity that you could leverage or sell, jump on it as fast as you can. Obviously, I’ve learned a lot since I’ve started, but there’s no harm in starting a business, trying, and failing. Just go for it.