Manick Bhan always wanted to be a rockstar. And while Manick may not be a rockstar in the musical sense of the word, he’s a rockstar in so many other ways.
After graduating from Duke in 2009, Manick worked at a little investment bank called Goldman Sachs. But what makes him even more of a rockstar is that in September 2011, he left Goldman to start his own company: Rukkus (www.rukkus.com).
Rukkus wears many hats. It’s the “Kayak.com” of the event ticket world – searching through all of the second market ticket sites to find you the cheapest tickets for concerts, sports, art & theater of all kinds. It recommends shows and events in your area, based on information it pulls from your Spotify and Facebook accounts. It allows you to see the events your friends will be attending. It helps you to identify with your favorite artists and teams by showing you their pictures. And so much more.
There are other sites on the web that do small pieces of what Rukkus does, but as Manick told me, “there was nothing out there that combined all of my ideas… and I thought that I could do it better.” Ultimately, Bhan hopes Rukkus will dislocate parts of both StubHub’s and TicketMasters’ market shares – he thinks big!
So how did Manick come up with this complex and innovative idea, and then make it happen?
The concept was born when Manick wanted to combine his love of the music industry, and his skills at finance into a way to make money. Many people buy tickets from primary music sites and then “flip them” by selling them at a higher price on the secondary market. Bhan considered gathering data about all these different transactions to create a trading platform which he could use to buy and sell tickets himself.
But as a music-lover, Bhan ultimately wanted to make music and event experiences better for fans, not charge them higher prices. He took his trading platform idea and began brainstorming how he could turn it into something valuable for the music and event-going community. Thinking back to at time at Duke when he missed a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert simply because he didn’t know that they were playing nearby, the ideas began snowballing.
“What if there was a site that could tell me what concerts there are near me?”
“What if it told me where to buy the cheapest ticket?”
“What if all my friends were connected to it so they could see the concerts I’m going to?”
“What if…?” – “ What if…?” – “What if…?”
It was three weeks of evolution, a series of “ah-ha” moments, a totally covered 4’x6’ whiteboard with very tiny writing, and the concept of Rukkus was born.
And then Manick took his idea to the next level, and actually made it happen.
Bhan had no experience in web development, so he posted his requirements on various online web developer communities to hire a team. His big secret: he hired 5 teams simultaneously to see which would be best. Unfortunately none of them successfully created his vision. So Manick took it upon himself to teach himself how to code. It took four months of self-imposed 18-hour day programming boot camp, Google searches, and trial and error, but Manick sat in front of me grinning and said, “I figured if I could learn finance, I could go learn something else too. And I did!” It’s that kind of attitude that I know will ensure Manick’s success.
By December 2011, he had a working GUI (graphical user interface – or a mock-up, to us lay people). His friends were feeding the fire, and the support was nothing but encouraging. Manick pulled together a team through word of mouth, Craigslist postings, and advertising at NYU.
“On day one it was just me. It was pretty lonely,” he said.
But now Rukkus has a team of six. They have been working hard since December to prepare the site for launch, overcoming various obstacles along the way (almost getting sued, for example), and constantly coming up with new ideas, such as a widget that Bhan hopes will, “even the playing field between established and emerging talent.”
Today Rukkus is available to the Teams’ Facebook friends, and has several hundred users. In the next two weeks to a month, the site should launch to the general public (so be on the look out!).
I asked him how he had the courage to leave his job and immerse himself in bringing his idea to life. He had an easy answer.
“When you graduate from college,” Manick said, “it’s really an identity discovery process. You feel the need to figure out what your career is going to be. It’s easy to wear the label of ‘doctor’, ‘lawyer’, ‘investment banker’ and to forget that you’re capable of doing so many other things.”
After all, Manick never studied finance at Duke, he simply had the dedication to learn the necessary skills to succeed in the field. So Manick looks at it this way: instead of assigning yourself to a label, you are first a thinker, or a visionary, or an entrepreneur, or whatever you want to be. Take that, and believe in that. Don’t pigeonhole yourself.
He took those thoughts and embarked on his adventure.
Manick’s Tips for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
- Google is the best university out there (teach yourself how to do what you don’t know how to do).
- Investors won’t take you seriously until you have something to show, so bring a mock-up, or even better, the real thing.
- Be stubborn – stick with what’s true to you.
- If not everyone thinks it’s a good idea, they might just be missing the big picture. Don’t give up.
- Don’t rely on external validation.
- Bottle the happiness you feel when things go well and keep it with you. You’ll need it one day.
- Plan for the worst, even from day one.
- Protect yourself, financially and legally, even if you’re working with your best friends.
- If you can’t do what you want one way, look for another path to achieve the same end goal.
- Always be open-minded and listen to feedback.
- Think big. Dream big. Be more creative than your competition.
- Always believe in yourself.
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