Published: Jan. 27, 2020 By

juan duque testing ilisto app on mobile phoneHailing from Colombia, Juan Duque has always had a passion for starting his own business. Moving 3,112 miles away from his home country to study business administration with an emphasis in strategy and entrepreneurship, he found a home within CU Boulder's entrepreneurial community. See how he's leveraging the university's resources to bring his startup, iListo, to life:

Q: What does your startup do? 

A: iListo is an app that enables a marketplace for local services in Colombia. Be it a DJ, graphic designer, or a handyman, users can easily get anything done by posting what they need and receiving multiple offers from skilled professionals. After comparing price and reputation, users can hire the best service for the best price. 

Q: How did you come up with your business idea? What inspired you?

A: Since I was a little kid, I always wanted to start my own business, and I have always been writing down a list of business ideas. After coming to study in the U.S., I encountered many difficulties in finding internships and job opportunities for being on a student visa. I decided it was the right time to take action and create my opportunities. In the summer of 2018, I started learning about government contracts and I was amazed by how the bidding systems work. In many developing countries like Colombia, there is a predominant bargaining culture, and I thought that bringing that bidding system into people’s daily life would be a great way to fit culture into a business. That gave me the idea of making an app where people could post a project and receive multiple quotes from local professionals. At the same time, I realized that this idea was a great of bringing the gig economy into Latin America and alleviate the rising unemployment in Colombia and the Venezuela Refugee crisis. I got in love with the idea and I decided to pursue it since it was a great way to help people accomplish their goals while providing opportunities to skilled professionals that cannot get a job.

Q: What is your role at your startup?

A: I am the CEO, but I wear all of the hats in the company. Currently, iListo is a one-man team, but I receive support from a third-party software developing company in Colombia, which allows me to focus on developing the business. For the moment I am trying to learn as much as I can from every role in the company, so when the moment comes, and I need to bring more people into the team I can know and understand the job description of the roles needed.

Q: What CU Boulder academic courses and entrepreneurial resources did you take advantage of to help you build your business? Are there any programs or other resources you look forward to utilizing or participating in the spring 2020 semester?

A: CU Boulder has a wide range of resources that have helped me build the business, but it is necessary to get out of your way and get involved in the entrepreneurial community. Even though I am studying business, most of the classes and career services resources are focused on helping students get a job rather than starting their own business. Fortunately, there are many events around campus where I have been able to meet like-minded people and get involved with the startup community in Boulder. “Startups & Sandwiches” are one of my favorite events hosted by the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship, and it is a great way to meet founders in the area. Also, there is a great program called Get Seed Funding where students can pitch their business ideas and get up to $500 of initial funding. This program gives the chance for students to get started and validate any project they are trying to get started with. This spring semester, I am excited to compete for the first time in the New Venture Challenge and learn as much as I can through this experience.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge in running your startup? What about notable wins or successes?

A: Since I formally started iListo in January 2019, I have been living in Colombia, China, and the U.S. Running iListo while constantly being on the move and being a full-time student has been challenging. Managing a business from abroad, working a part-time job to self-fund this project and doing schoolwork keeps me busy. Throughout this process, there have also been very positive results. First, I was able to run a successful pre-launch campaign which affiliated more the 6,000 professionals to the platform, I was able to make strategic alliances with online directories in Colombia and got second place in the Colorado Chapter of the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards. 

Q: What do you love about having your own company?

A: There are countless positive things that I love about running my company. One of the best aspects is being able to wake up every day with purpose and being happy to create something from scratch. I feel excited that I can take my fate into my own hands by working in something I love. I would rather hustle and work 100 hours a week and work in something that makes me happy rather than getting a job just to pay the bills.

Q: What advice would you give to other students who are interested in starting their own businesses? 

A: My first advice would be to find a project that you love and commit to it. Having a good idea is a good way to start, but what really makes you successful is the ability to execute it. Make sure that whatever you are trying to pursue is something you are willing to fight for and stick to it to the end. Nine out of ten startups fail, and the ones that survive do it by being persistent and curious about how to make their idea work! From the start, the odds will be against you and there will be a million reasons why your business can fail, but the most important thing is to focus on the reasons why it will succeed. 

Q: What do you wish you knew then that you know now?

A: I wish I knew that software developers usually take twice the time they say they will take to complete a project. Failing to correctly time a software developing project can be problematic, and it is necessary to learn how to properly manage them.

Q: What is your plan for your startup after graduating this spring?

A: I have every single intention of pursuing this project full time once I am done with my studies. Like Colombia, the are many countries with very similar needs, and it is my goal to take iListo as far as I can go.