LGBTQ BUSINESS STUDENT BLOG

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Nov 2014

LGBTQ MBA Alumni Profile: Justin Belmont, Columbia Business School ’14

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Do you feel like you might not be a traditional MBA candidate who wants to go into finance, marketing or consulting?  This post is for you!

Justin Belmont is a class of 2014 alumnus of the Columbia Business School (a partner in the Reaching Out LGBT MBA Fellowship program, which provides scholarship and leadership opportunities for LGBT business school applicants) and received his undergraduate degree from Swarthmore College.  While in school Justin founded a startup called Perk.la, which won the 2013 ROMBA Startup Pitch Competition and earlier this year was acquired by ID.me.  Check out the interview below to learn what his journey was like as an entrepreneur in business school, resources for LGBT entrepreneurs in b-school, and how it feels like to sell your company!

Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your background and where you went to
business school?

I’m a 2014 graduate of the MBA program at Columbia Business School. Before school, I was a product manager at Merchantry, an B2B eCommerce software startup in New York City.

Tell us a bit about what Perk.la is. When did you come-up with and develop
the idea?

Our team discovered that the breadth of perks and discounts offered to students in stores was not offered online. In 2013-14, while full-time students in business school, we created Perkla to solve this problem.

And this big update for Perk.la is that it was…

Perkla has been acquired by ID.me!

Now that you’ve been acquired what happens?

As part of the sale, I’ll be joining ID.me as Director of Product Management, leading product development for ID.me’s gamified shopping site targeting students and millennials.

While still a student, you were the winner of the 2013 Reaching Out MBA Conference Startup Competition, which came with a $7,500 prize. How did winning that help you really get Perk.la off the ground?

That was the very first capital we received. So, it was hugely helpful! With it, we were able to hire a lawyer to help us set up a
structure for the company, do some online advertising, and build out a nifty competition which helped to juice our user base.

How have your fellow MBA peers provided support for you and Perk.la as you launched the company? Could you have had the same success outside of business school?

Having access to “the network” is hugely helpful. Most of our initial retail partners came through Columbia MBA students and alumni. I’ve been blown away by how much the Columbia family is wiling to do for each other.

What advice do you have for prospective LGBT MBA entrepreneurs?

What a great time to be an LGBT MBA entrepreneur! The community is growing like crazy — so be sure to tap into all the resources out there (especially StartOut and ROMBA).

READ MORE ABOUT PERK.LA’S ACQUISITION

Yahoo! Finance
Washington Business Journal
Tech Cocktail DC
InTheCapital
CR80 News
Technical.ly

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