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49er Foundry Spotlight: Raymond Ferrell
February 22, 2017 at 8:21 AM
Raymond Ferrell, a computer science major from Raleigh, N.C., graduated in December from UNC Charlotte. While a student, Ferrell co-founded and served as president of Advancing Innovative Minds, an entrepreneurial student group. Additionally, his start-up company, YouXpert — a user experience and software engineering design team — is part of the 49er Foundry, Ventureprise's student incubator located in the PORTAL building. Ferrell recently took time to answer some questions about his experiences as a student entrepreneur.
Was co-founding Advancing Innovative Minds a natural extension of your involvement with the 49er Foundry? Or vice versa?
I co-founded Advancing Innovative Minds (AIM) before my team joined the 49er Foundry. I had an interest in education and a few friends that were interested in entrepreneurship. I used my passion in education to create AIM to help people learn about entrepreneurship and how to become entrepreneurs.
How do you define innovation?
I define innovation as experimenting in ways of doing conventional things differently. A start-up is a business that tries to make a profit in a different way than normal.
What are three tips you would give fellow students who think they have ideas for start-up companies?
- Sit down and make a business model/plan. This will help you get an idea of what you want to do with the company and where you can take it.
- Go out and interview others. Talking to other people helps you find people who want to help you and who you want your customers to be.
- Start building a small prototype and start experimenting. People ask, "Is my product what the people want?" but no single person will know if your product is what people want. It will take you many iterations of your product before you get something that works.
In what way did your participation in the 49er Foundry enhance your time at UNC Charlotte and develop your skills as a student entrepreneur?
The training program taught me how to approach potential customers and business partners to ask questions about my product; the office space provided us with a quiet, dedicated place to focus and collaborate; and the presentation at the end improved my pitching skills.
What is the next step for YouXpert?
Right now, we are focusing on consulting and helping customers. Part of YouXpert creates software for clients, but we outsource all of our developers. We hope to be able to hire a team of developers to work for us and help create new products. We are interested in artificial intelligence, virtual reality and augmented reality.
Where do you see yourself professionally in the next 10 years?
Within the next few years, I see myself as a mentor first and an entrepreneur second. I want to spend my time helping people get where they want to be as an entrepreneur. I'm also interested in education and video game design for augmented reality.