Student created social media marketing tool makes waves
Two Memorial graduates are finding success with a new social media management tool they created for marketing agencies and freelance marketers.
Sahand Seifi and Joseph Teo are the co-founders of HeyOrca, the online tool allows marketers to build social media campaigns and collaborate with other members of the company or team.
A campus entrepreneurship program Mr. Seifi completed in 2012, shortly after arriving at Memorial to begin a master’s degree in computer science, inspired him to pursue entrepreneurship after graduation.
“I attended the Division of Career Development and Experiential Learning’s Entrepreneurship Training Program (ETP) in 2012,” he said. “After that I was more exposed to local businesses and things that were happening around the city in the start up community.”
Mr. Seifi then met Joseph Teo, a business undergrad student, while working at an on-campus job and together the pair began brainstorming on ideas to bring their interests and skills together.
“We started thinking about the things we like and technology was one of them; starting a company was another,” he said. “We decided to dedicate one day a week to work on an idea.”
The first company they started, StudentFresh, tried to help students find meaningful jobs by connecting them with local businesses. They worked on the company for a few months before deciding it would be a better fit for a non-profit organization to pursue.
In the meantime, to pay their bills, the duo had been assisting local businesses with their social media presence by writing and posting content for them.
“We noticed there was a tool missing to make that work easier,” said Mr. Seifi. “Since I had a computer science background we decided to build our own.”
They were soon approached by a local marketing agency wanting to know what tool they were using.
“We gave them a demo and they were very interested,” he said. “We also talked to other agencies and determined it was a common problem. So we created a new business to build on our tool and sell it.”
Mr. Teo came up with the name, combining a way to greet people with one of the most social animals on the planet, to form HeyOrca.
The company is currently housed in office space provided by SIFE Memorial’s student business incubator, Launch Pad. For the next three years, HeyOrca will also be a client of the Genesis Centre, Memorial’s University’s business incubator for technology start-ups.
They now have approximately 300 users from all over the world and with both co-founders now finished their programs at Memorial, they are actively looking for investors to help grow their company. They recently hired their first employee.
Although the pair not from this province, they hope to continue working and living in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“Many people advise against it, they say it’s busier in other parts of Canada,” said Mr. Seifi. “But the local government is very supportive of small businesses and there is a lot of help from the community itself.”
Mr. Seifi strongly encourages other students to think about forming their own companies and hopes that Memorial continues to build an environment that supports student entrepreneurship.
“One of the problems I see is that science and engineering students don’t often have opportunities to connect with business students,” he said. “They might be great at building a product, but they might not know how to make those connections or sell the product. We need more ways for these students to cross paths with each other.”
“Entrepreneurship is a valid route for students,” he added. “Usually when you graduate you already have a loan or you have very little money and you want to find a job right away,” he said. “But the province and the community is very supportive for entrepreneurs both financially and non-financially and students need to hear more about those opportunities.”