Snapshot of a Rising Young Star(Street): Startup Lessons from Jeremy Levine

3/31/11Follow @gthuang

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general manager of a major sports team (preferably in Boston). He also wanted to create the digital equivalent of baseball cards. Throw in the huge market for fantasy sports and online entertainment, and you have the genesis of StarStreet.

Levine graduated from Syracuse University in 2009 with a degree in entrepreneurship. But the most useful thing he ever did in class was read startup blogs, he says. In other words, it’s questionable whether you can really teach entrepreneurship to college kids in a classroom. Levine says he was idealistic enough to think all he had to do was e-mail venture capitalists and wait for his check to come in.

When he moved back to Cambridge in the summer of 2009 (he’s a native), he says he was “rejected from every incubator.” He realized he needed to learn as much as possible about startups, as quickly as possible. So he went to every tech event he could and got better at networking. He learned the ropes of social media. He started building a group of informal advisors and mentors. (He’d probably agree with recent advice from Seattle entrepreneur Bob Crimmins on that front.)

Mostly, he was tenacious. “No matter what happened, I was not giving up,” he says.

His three pieces of advice for entrepreneurs who are in a similar spot: One, “make sure you learn as much as you can as fast as you can.” Two, “hustle like crazy, try everything, and don’t quit.” Three, if you can, “stop whatever you’re doing and learn to code.”

Levine made it into the second class of TechStars Boston, but he still didn’t have the fundraising mojo. He says he talked to about 200 investors, and went approximately oh-fer-200. The problem was he didn’t know exactly what he wanted, in terms of how much money or from whom. It was only in the past few months that he took a more confident, assured approach—figuring out what the company needed, saying, “This is what’s going to happen,” and drumming up commitments from five out of the top seven investors he wanted. (Having revenues and a more proven business model certainly helped too.)

The plan from here is to scale up to thousands of traders, he says, and eventually more. StarStreet could own the back-end infrastructure for sports stock markets, he says, assuming they really take off. As for exploring other types of stock markets, Levine says, “We’ll get sports right and go from there.”

Levine is committed to “building the best team in Boston.” So here’s one case of a young, local Internet startup that’s not in any danger of moving to New York. There are way too many Yankees and Jets fans there, he agrees (with me).

Nice to see the younger generation upholding some old Boston traditions.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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