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Student Spotlight: Julian Rachman Ready to Launch Startup
A passion for programming and interest in entrepreneurship led Julian Rachman to double major in computer science and business information management. As he navigates through UCI’s Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS) and Paul Merage School of Business, he is continually searching for ways to combine his two interests. Now, only two years in, he is already finding success in his endeavor as he gears up to launch his own startup, Ripplink, which aims to help professionals automate their networking.
Can you talk about your path to UCI and decision to double major?
Ever since the beginning of high school, I was obsessed with programming. The thought of “if you can imagine it, you can build it” was a motivating factor for me. As programming became my passion, I got to do some amazing things like work with rockets and AI. I always knew that I wanted to go to a school that took pride in their computer science department and that would allow me to explore things outside of my comfort zone. UCI was that school, and deciding my primary major was an easy one.
As a tinkerer and builder, becoming an entrepreneur was also an interest of mine. I had only seen what entrepreneurship was through movies about Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs. When I got to UCI, I remained proactive and got involved with the Paul Merage School of Business, joining multiple clubs and organizations to expand my knowledge of entrepreneurship. This motivated me to launch initiatives focused on finding ways to intersect business and computer science. Since then, my team and I have been able to host amazing speaking events and panels with startup incubators such as Science (which incubated Dollar Shave Club, Bird and Medium) in collaboration with the ICS and Paul Merage schools. Being the ultimate motivator, it felt right to add business information management as my second major.
Can you talk about Ripplink and what prompted you to start your own company?
Ripplink is a platform that helps professionals automate their networking workflow effortlessly. By integrating your LinkedIn, Twitter, email and other third-party applications, we help users add contacts in only three clicks, provide actionable insights they can use to interact with their network, and prioritize people who will help them achieve their current business objectives.
Most people agree that professional networking is one of the most important measures of professional success. However, a majority of those who agree have misaligned attitudes and behaviors toward networking. They say that it is an important activity for their career, but they don’t have enough time, think it’s hard to stay in touch, or find it uncomfortable. We have the opportunity to “activate” these kinds of people and turn them into serial networkers through a platform that breaks those three barriers.
Since joining UCI, I have worked at several early-stage startups in data science and data engineering, learning about the ins and outs of running a company. These experiences and one particular event motivated me to get started. Last summer, I visited a mentor of mine who works at GitHub. I told him about an idea I had for solving problems I saw in professional networking and he told me to just do it. As a first-time founder, it is very common for most to just think about doing something without ever actually going out and doing it; my mentor gave me the push that I needed. The next day, I had published two sentences about my idea and three intern job postings on AngelList and had over 300 applications within 48 hours. That moment brought Ripplink to life.
What challenges have you faced in starting Ripplink, and how is your UCI education helping along the way?
The two biggest challenges that I faced in starting Ripplink were identifying my initial target customer and putting together the business plan. There are a ton of moving parts that go into launching a startup other than just building the product itself. I needed to learn all of these things rapidly while also staying in line with my development timeline. Along the way, my education at UCI has contributed to my understanding of general fundamentals necessary to having a successful business.
Have you had a favorite ICS professor or class so far?
Hands down my favorite ICS professor is Michael Schindler. He taught my ICS 46 class and made a hard course about data structures and algorithms fun, interesting and engaging.
Has the pandemic affected your business or plans?
The pandemic has actually positively affected my business plans. We were already a remote team and this shift actually gave us the opportunity to pivot our product into something that better aligned with our vision and customer needs. Within the next two to four months, we hope to officially launch Ripplink to the public for everyone to use. If you visit our website and click the Request Access button, you can sign up to join our beta-test team! We would love to get your feedback and have you join us on our journey.
What are you doing to stay motivated during the pandemic?
The biggest motivator for me during the pandemic is staying busy. From talking to potential users to working on new features in our platform, these tasks bring me one step closer to launching and helping people easily form stronger professional relationships with Ripplink. I just learned that Ripplink will be part of the second U.S. cohort for Antler, which means I will be a Founder In Residence working to accelerate the company’s growth over the next six months. I’m also part of the big data team at Amazon Web Services in San Francisco this summer, and I have a summer fellowship with Type One Ventures.
What do you like best about UCI?
This is a cliché answer, but it really is the people. By surrounding myself with like-minded individuals, I learn so much from their perspectives, passions, and ambitions. If it weren’t for them, I would not be the friend and professional that I am today.
— Shani Murray