Published: Nov. 19, 2019 By
david villalobos and david lopez in front of flatirons

<p>David Lopez, a junior majoring in business with an emphasis on real estate, has learned to not be afraid of failure. While his original startup idea (Airnovate) never materialized, he chose to rebound from his mistakes and start Internalyze. David reflects on his entrepreneurial journey, from failing and founding to everything in between:</p>

<p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>Q: What does your startup do?</strong></p>

<p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>A:</strong> I first started Airnovate in late 2017 with my three best friends. We were attempting to provide pollution masks with filters to people in and around Southeast Asia, using a buy one, give one model. Although we ended up failing with Airnovate, we learned extremely valuable lessons that allowed us to start Internalyze - my current startup - in April 2018. Internalyze strives to give companies access to an untapped talent pipeline, with a focus on increasing opportunities for minority students. Based on the skills we learned from Airnovate, we took Internalyze from idea to revenue in six months. </p>

<p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>Q: How did you come up with your business idea? What inspired you?</strong></p>

<p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>A: </strong>In one of our high school classes, we learned about the pollution that countries like India and China produce. The pollution was also overflowing into surrounding countries where they had a GDP per capita of $12 per year. The inspiration stemmed from our desire to help people, and we believed that this was a problem worth solving.</p>

<p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>Q: What was your role at your startup?</strong></p>

<p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>A: </strong>At Airnovate, I was one of four co-founders that was in charge of identifying our customers during market research and customer development. After Airnovate, I served as the Program Intern at <a href="">Catalyze CU</a>, CU Boulder’s very own startup accelerator. We started Internalyze quickly after, and I currently serve as CEO of Internalyze.</p>

<p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>Q: What CU Boulder entrepreneurial resources did you take advantage of to help you build your business? How did they help you test your idea or launch your venture?</strong></p>

<p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>A: </strong>When I was a freshman, I got heavily involved in the entrepreneurial community here at CU. My friends and I developed relationships with like-minded students, faculty and community mentors, and we found that using our “student card” has been incredibly impactful. We made a point to attend almost every program, event or student organization that was entrepreneurial related, such as <a href="">New Venture Challenge</a>, workshops, <a href="">Get Seed Funding</a>, <a href="">Now What?</a>, and Startup Club. I’m also in charge of hosting the <a href="">Validator</a>, which helps students think through their venture ideas. One of the most important aspects to my growth as an entrepreneur was deciding to join the <a href="">Innovation Action Team</a>.</p>

<p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>Q: What was your biggest challenge in running your startup? What about notable wins or successes?</strong></p>

<p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>A:</strong> We wanted to make sure that Airnovate was a company we actually wanted to start and that we would build the company the right way from day one, but our biggest win was deciding to stop working on the company. We stopped working on Airnovate when we analyzed our market research and customer development. Our results showed that the government in Southeastern Asia was already putting in a lot of effort to reduce their emissions. We also found that our customers were satisfied with the products that currently were on the market. It wasn’t a smart business opportunity to pursue, due to barriers to entry, as well as language and time zone challenges. It was a difficult but honest conversation that we had that ultimately ended up leading to us starting Internalyze. </p>

<p dir="ltr" role="presentation">We started Internalyze because as minority students, we found was difficult for us to find internships. That’s when our market research and customer development showed us that this problem and market are currently growing.</p>

<p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>Q: What did you learn?</strong></p>

<p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>A:</strong> We learned how to conduct market research, which is extremely critical to learning how to start a company. It doesn’t make sense to dedicate a bunch of your time to an idea that doesn’t have the potential to be successful in the market. We also learned the importance of market segmentation. Learning how to talk to potential customers was mission critical as well. We understood the importance of understanding a customer’s point of view and pain points in order to build a solution based on true feedback versus your own ideas. We learned how to work with a team and hold everyone accountable, and most importantly, how to separate our friendship from anything relating to the company.</p>

<p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>Q: What advice would you give to other students who are interested in starting their own businesses?</strong></p>

<p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>A:</strong> Get involved on campus. The resources that are offered to students are beyond amazing. There are plenty of workshops that are put on throughout the year, including the Validator, which helps students to think through their venture ideas with some of our rockstar entrepreneurial mentors. As you get more involved, you begin to see familiar faces, and this will allow you to find a community of like-minded individuals who are also interested in innovation and entrepreneurship.</p>

<p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>Q: What do you wish you knew then that you know now?</strong></p>

<p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>A: </strong>Failure is okay, ONLY IF… you take the failure, analyze it and grow from it. Yes, your ego will hurt a bit, but it’s so much more important to analyze why it didn’t work out and fix it. Learning from your previous mistakes teaches you how to avoid mistakes on your next venture. Also, team is everything. You really can’t build a large company on your own, and that’s why you need to find a partner that will compliment your skills. The relationship with your co-founder will be just as important to foster as with a significant other. Communicate and you’ll be fine.</p>