In their hometown of Acton, Seniors Billy Ma and Naren Inukoti have joined the country’s start-up movement. They’re not ready to go to Silicon Valley just yet, but if their company, Convenu, is a success, they could soon find themselves there. Convenu is a software that “will enhance the communication, efficiency, and quality of restaurant operations,” according to their website. Tablets with the software pre-installed will be accessible to use for all restaurant staff. Waiters, managers, and chefs will experience smoother communication that can be especially helpful during rush hours.
But the duo didn’t beget this idea simply out of the kindness of their hearts to help local restaurants. Billy Ma can personally relate to those which Convenu will cater to because, in fact, he is one. Billy finds his job as a restaurant waiter overly demanding. “It’s impossible to balance the right amount of customer service, while doing the other things you have to do,” He says. So the next time we see the waiter balancing the table’s empty plates on an arm while serving dessert and delivering the check (don’t forget to smile) with the other, remember that all we can do is watch pitifully. Convenu might allow those three jobs to be done by different people, alleviating the burdens of doing everything at once.
Billy and Naren have had little outside help in developing the company. But those whom they have sought for guidance have been integral to Convenu’s success. The two are co-presidents of ABRHS’s Future Business Leaders of America, or FBLA. The club has provided mentoring from seasoned entrepreneurs in the Boston area. FBLA’s teacher advisor for twenty years, Mr. Lochrie, was a businessman before becoming a schoolteacher. He has confidence in the boys and says he doesn’t see their young ages as any “handicap.” “They don’t see limits,” he adds. “They are willing to play in an adult world.”
The product is only a newborn from an entrepreneur’s viewpoint. But five restaurants, including Bertuccis, have already committed to buying Convenu’s product, and many others are interested in beta testing. If the product becomes a success, Billy and Naren are seriously considering deferral from college for a year to focus on enhancing their software. They are eyeing two elite “accelerator programs,” or entrepreneurial boot-camps of which they want to enroll. Techstars Boston is a program with a less than 1% acceptance rate; it produces 25 companies yearly. Y Combinator, originally in Cambridge but now operating in Silicon Valley, has nurtured companies such as the popular online file-sharing site Dropbox.
“I know they will be successful,” says Mr. Lochrie. The high-school seniors are incredibly ambitious, and with their level of passion and intellect, Mr. Lochrie among many others believes they can achieve their dreams. But Billy and Naren are cautious as not to be too optimistic, because failure is inevitable in the start-up world as well. According to Business Insider, 90% of start-ups fail. However, a research study by Harvard University proves that resilient entrepreneurs have a higher chance of success after facing defeat. Naren Inukoti doesn’t see failure as synonymous to the end. He says, “One of the most important lessons we’ve learned as entrepreneurs is if you believe in your idea, then never give up on it.”