BY DIANA MAZZELLA
We have this idea that entrepreneurs are sun-kissed by luck. Instead, the creators of one of the newest social networks will tell you about the fear and the hunger for results.
In the fall of 2013, Bubblews co-founders Arvind Dixit, BA, ’10, Biology, and Jason Zuccari, BMdS, ’10, Multidisciplinary Studies, had a year-old business and were putting their website into a more aesthetic beta version.
Dixit turned to Zuccari and said they needed to move to San Francisco, the haven of tech in America.
But Zuccari said their business was online, so they should be able to make it in D.C., right?
Dixit said, “No, we gotta go out there.” “Avi was absolutely right,” Zuccari said, “as we have learned firsthand how much Silicon Valley has to offer from the talent, electricity and vision in the social space compared to that of the East Coast.” They flew west. Weeks later, they were living there. Dixit says their lives are like awakening to run on a treadmill at high speed. Zuccari says it’s like riding a bike with no shocks.
“It’s truly uncomfortable to just get up and leave everything you know and move so far from home,” Zuccari said. “ ... Sometimes all you can do is jump—no matter how uncertain it may seem.”
This summer Bubblews was listed by Forbes as one of “6 Backstage Social Media Platforms Every Marketer Should Be Using” beside companies such as Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr and Snapchat.
The company’s story of being a social media network with a consumer revenue-generation twist has appeared in Fast Company, CNET, Inc, Motley Fool,Business Insider, Mashable and Bloomberg.
The two met in dorms during their freshman year, reconnected after graduation at National Capital Area Alumni Chapter events and got to talking in 2012 about one of the issues on everybody’s minds these days: Why were the sky-high profits of social media going solely toward the social networks rather than the users creating the content? They thought there was another way. So they created Bubblews, which rewards users for posts and comments with financial returns.
Now, Bubblews has more than 300,000 users bringing in tens of millions of visitors to the site a month, and the two hear from users thankful for the extra cash to go on dates with their spouse or give to charity. They have a group of employees that includes WVU alumni chief technology officer Tyler Pearson, BS, ’09, Accounting, and press coordinator and executive assistant Mia Campano, BA, ’10, Communication Studies.
One of the toughest moments for the 26-year-olds was when they were starting the business and still working their day jobs, Zuccari at a Web-based quality assurance company, and Dixit at the Food and Drug Administration.
“You have to have that dedication,” Dixit said. “You have to really want it more than you want anything else in life. It was difficult. It was not impossible but definitely difficult.”
The treadmill is still at full speed.
Though their first angel investors made the company possible, the two will be opening it up for series A venture funding — a startup’s first significant round of venture funding — and taking steps to enhance the user experience, such as offering the service in languages beyond English and creating a mobile application.
Dixit calls the project the most exciting thing they’ll do with their lives.
“Sometimes when a good idea strikes,” he said, “you either run with it or you let somebody else do it.”
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