Building businesses has become cheaper by several orders of magnitude. Josh Levy and his team took just over $2 million in angel financing, and has built a profitable business in New York. For those entrepreneurs facing the Series A crunch, this is an important story to follow. You will do fine if you have patient angels, and just use their investment to bootstrap to profitability.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your story. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Josh Levy: I was born in New Jersey. I went to high school in New Jersey. I went to the University of Maryland for college where I got an undergraduate degree in Finance. I also did a minor in entrepreneurship. I now live in Brooklyn. BeenVerified is headquartered in New York City. I’ve been on the East Coast my whole life.
Sramana Mitra: Then you came back to Brooklyn and worked in New York.
Josh Levy: I worked in New York pretty much right after college. I worked in Finance for a while. I had startups in high school. After my freshman year in college, we raised about a million dollars in venture capital for a business. I took a year off from school roughly around the dot-com boom and bust. I, then, went back to school for Finance. I’d say that the Internet, entrepreneurship, and finance are my passions. I went into Finance for a little while but didn’t feel like I was building value or building a product. I got tired of watching numbers flashing on a screen. I wanted to build something. I’ve been the co-founder and CEO of BeenVerified ever since.
Sramana Mitra: When did you start BeenVerified?
Josh Levy: Around 2007.
Sramana Mitra: Tell me a little bit about what the idea was with which you started BeenVerified. What did you want to build?
Josh Levy: My co-founder and I had been building various Internet companies and business. We’d always hire freelancers online from oDesk and Elance. We wanted to build a verified community of online freelancers so that if you brought somebody on that you contracted with, you could trust that they were who they said they were. If they had certifications, portfolio, or experience, they were what they said they were.
When we dug into that problem within the freelance community, we realized that it didn’t just apply to freelancers. It was everybody online – dating, Craigslist, eBay. Even in 2007, we thought peer to peer was going to be huge. Our original business model and idea was we didn’t even intend to be a destination for end customers. We wanted to be a verification mechanism – sort of a seal or a badge that people would take with them wherever they would go. That was our original business idea and here we are eight years later.
We still think that idea is rather obvious. For various reasons, we weren’t able to get it to work but we knew the core problem was there. How can I use data and publicly available information to make more informed decisions about the people, businesses, houses, phone numbers, and all of this stuff that I come into contact with? We went direct to the consumer where we built our own site. People can come and access information on their own.