Recent graduate, Riley Donelson (BASc, Systems Design Engineering ’14), shares with us his journey after Waterloo into the startup world. Based out of the Velocity Garage, his company Pout has already changed the face of beauty and fashion, and he is passionate to continue doing just that.
1) Can you tell us about Pout and what the company is all about?
Gladly! Pout is a social network for fashion and beauty; a mobile app community that lets you share photos and videos of your personal style with other fashion and beauty enthusiasts. It’s a super positive, supportive, and fun place where everyone can celebrate their own unique personal style. The idea came from my co-founder, Laura Smith. She wanted a simple app to find style inspiration from real people she could relate to, as opposed to what you might find in a typical magazine. Laura and I both graduated from engineering in 2014, and that summer we said “why not?”, and set out to build it. We launched Pout globally on the App Store in November, and we’ve now reached over 20,000 users across 125 countries!
2) Did you always know that one day you would start your own business?
No! I had always been really inspired by the many startup success stories that had come out of Waterloo while I was in school, but I knew that a startup isn’t really something you should force yourself into. There’s a certain alignment of timing, insight, and experience that needs to happen. So I’d say I was very open to the idea of it, and that path became much clearer the closer I got towards graduation.
3) What do you find is the most challenging and rewarding aspect of starting your own business?
I find that for me, the most challenging and rewarding aspect of entrepreneurship is actually the same thing. It’s this incredible diversity of tasks you need to take on throughout the course of a day that both challenges you to be constantly learning, and rewards you with experiences that you never would be exposed to otherwise. Being guided entirely by your own initiative is both a taxing and highly fulfilling responsibility, and makes for quite the roller coaster ride!
4) Was there someone or something during your time at uWaterloo that influenced you to get where you are today?
I’d say there are a number of people I met and experiences I gained while at uWaterloo that led me to where I am today. Co-op really stands out in my mind as a major factor in preparing me for a startup. Having worked at Communitech, Apple, and other amazing companies while still in school made a huge impression on my perception of a career, and the ingredients of a great workplace and a great company. These experiences allowed me to build a unique set of skills in both engineering and design that made the venture into a mobile app startup a natural progression.
5) What advice do you have for recent graduates?
Live with passion! You have a unique blend of freedom, amazing talents, and energy that will empower you to do remarkable things. This is the time to pursue what you truly want!!