Ben Drucker is looking to follow in the footsteps of Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates.
Drucker, formerly CC '15, has dropped out of Columbia to work full-time on Valet.io, the startup he co-founded. The company creates a mobile platform to collect and follow up on donations from fundraising events.
"You have a very short window of time to capture people from when they are inspired by a speaker, a cause, and when they want to give," Drucker said. "With our applications, you can follow up automatically to collect those."
The company has already attracted several high-profile clients, including Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark and Senate candidate for New Jersey. Other clients include the anti-poverty organization Bronxworks and the Center for Architecture Foundation.
Drucker, who announced his decision to drop out of Columbia on Monday, is currently the company's chief executive office, lead developer, and sole full-time employee. The other co-founders, Jake Silberg and Ben Donald, will remain in school at Harvard while working for the company part-time.
“This is a product that's important to me, to organizations that do something important, and also it makes money,” Drucker said. “It's not some crash course that I'm embarking on. This is something that's a lot more stable.”
Drucker said that he and his friends have been thinking about this kind of startup since high school. Still, he didn't arrive at Columbia planning to found a company right away.
Drucker was an economics major at Columbia. A significant factor in his decision to drop out, he said, was what he considered the lack of a developer or entrepreneurial community on campus.
Although the Application Development Initiative received Special Interest Housing space last semester, Drucker felt that there wasn't a strong enough space for students to work together on these types of projects at Columbia.
“Anyone who's active in this space at Columbia will readily admit that compared to Harvard, and MIT, and UPenn, and even Michigan, Columbia has been comparatively weak on that front,” he said. “The biggest thing it can do as a school, to have successes like this, is to encourage people to build things and to pick up skills that they're not going to get from the classroom.”
In addition to the absence of a strong developer community on campus, Drucker said the amount of work required to keep up with both school and the company was too much to handle.
“There are times when it feels great but the valleys are just as deep, in that there are going to be times where you dreamt up something you thought was going to work and it falls flat, or you have money you thought was surely raised and an investor pulls out at the last moment,” Drucker said. “You just really have to work through those, you have to work hard. And if you're doing something else full time, like going to school, you just don't have the energy.”
Drucker also hopes to find enough money to hire staff in New York and other locations. The company will pilot this in Boston, letting Silberg and Donald manage some staff there, before looking to expand to cities such as Chicago or San Francisco.
Even though he has big plans for the company's future, Drucker remains open to change.
“I don't think this is permanent at all. Basically, the attitude I have is every six months I'm going to take stock of where we are and what we need to do,” he said. “That's something that tends to trip people up before they make a decision like this. People want to make a permanent decision, but so much has changed for me in the past six months, I have no idea where I'll be in six months.”
firstname.lastname@example.org | @abby_abrams