Aron Beierschmitt has packed a lot into his 24 years. Starting a company at age 19, growing it to 27 full-time employees spanning offices in three different countries, having multiple games reach the million-download mark, and most recently, receiving one of four 2014 Alumni Promise Awards from the University of Tennessee.
Fascinated with the concept of social media, Aron caught the entrepreneurial bug while still in high school. When he was only 19 years old he started his first company, a mobile game company eventually named Foundation Games. The company has developed and launched 7 games on iOS, Android and Amazon. Its biggest hit has been Lumi, which was named Apple Game of the Week and Editor’s Choice in 2012.
Since graduation, Aron has continued to be active with the Anderson Center, speaking to classes and clubs, serving as a judge for the Boyd Venture Challenge, and mentoring several students in their entrepreneurial endeavors.
Recently, Aron returned to campus and joined us in the Anderson Center for a Q&A.
Q: Where are you now?
A: I’m in San Francisco now – I’ve been there for 2 years. I’m currently the entrepreneur in residence for Codex Venture Partners, a division of Cleartalk Wireless.
Q: What do you do as an entrepreneur in residence?
A: Fifty percent of my job is evaluating companies for potential investment. Twenty-five percent is working on internal items for Cleartalk, and the last bit is working on my own projects.
Q: What is your personal project right now?
A: Postly, a social networking platform. Creating a better social networking experience is an idea I’ve had for years, but I only began actively developing it in January along with my co-founder Ryan Holoubek.
Q: How is Postly different from existing social media platforms?
A: The idea for Postly is based around contextual social. We give control over what you see and who sees what you share through the use of personal and group channels. We are aiming to bring intimacy and relevancy back to social communication. Unlike traditional broadcast networks like Facebook and Twitter, Postly uses group channels and personal channels to increase the contextual relevance of a user’s communications. It gives you more control over what you see and what you share.
Q: When did you first know you wanted to start your own company?
A: I don’t remember the exact moment, but I know I was in high school. At some point I realized there were a lot of people making money online. I became fascinated with the rise of Facebook, and I knew I wanted to do something in that space one day. When I was 16 or so I actually went online to LinkedIn and sent out all sorts of InMails to venture capitalists. I only got three responses – one guy told me to never contact him again, one guy told me that I had a lot of buzzwords but he had no idea what I was talking about, and one guy actually took the time to talk to me. He told me no on that idea, but he gave me feedback on future ideas and eventually became my first investor for Foundation Games.
Q: What’s the status of Foundation Games at this point?
A: I left Foundation Games in January. I still sit on the board, but I’m no longer with the company. After 4 years we didn’t have enough revenue for a sustained growth company. I started that company to be a high growth company, and in that space, it wasn’t sustainable, so I downsized and kept five of my first hires, and it’s continuing as more of a lifestyle type business. They’ll be launching another game later this year.
Q: What, if any, entrepreneurial classes did you take while at UT?
A: Well, none really. Originally I was a mechanical engineering major – I did that for 3 years before switching to political science. I did compete in the Undergraduate Business Plan competition and won $3,000, but I did not compete in the Boyd Venture Challenge because, at that point, I had exceeded the allowed amount of capital raised. While I didn’t take any entrepreneurial classes, I did get a lot of great advice from faculty like Tom Graves.
Q: What do you miss most about being on campus?
A: Not the heat and humidity (laughs). I guess just being surrounded by a community of people at the same point in life doing the same thing – we were all on a path to get a degree. With Foundation Games we had offices in Manila and Sydney, so I got to travel a lot, but I missed out on that personal interaction, and now, a lot of my work is done through telecommuting.
Q: So, what’s next?
A: In the immediate future, finishing work on Postly. We’re in the process of closing our first round of funding, and we hope to launch desktop version this fall with a mobile version will follow. I hope to leverage the community around the University to help seed the products growth.