The Network Effect

This story has been updated since its original publication on May 21, 2020.

Richard O’Brien MBA’20 and Kaylin Goncalves MS’20 didn’t expect that their paths would cross at Babson.

Being in different graduate programs, on different timelines, with different objectives, they assumed they’d interact only with fellow students in their cohort.

Neither was prepared for the depth of the Babson experience and network.

Now, as they’ve completed their degrees, they’re collaborating on the same startup venture, proving that opportunities present themselves in dynamic and unexpected ways.

“One of Babson’s greatest strengths,” O’Brien said, “is its networking and community.”

Building a Team

O’Brien came to Babson’s MBA program to create a startup and build a team after two previous attempts at entrepreneurial ventures following his undergraduate degree. But, first he had to find a place to live.

The process of moving from Bedford, New Hampshire, to Greater Boston was so daunting and difficult, and when he learned his new classmates had similar experiences, he knew he had found a problem worth solving.

Richard O’Brien MBA’20

So, in his very first class of Entrepreneurship and Opportunity, he pitched an idea that eventually became Hoamsy, an all-in-one digital platform guiding students and young adults moving to a new city to their ideal apartments and roommates.

O’Brien was able to grow Hoamsy through nearly all of his graduate classes. But, as much as he wanted to cultivate a great idea, he knew he also needed to build a team of passionate and like-minded entrepreneurs.

“I expected that to be my immediate class of two-year MBAs,” said O’Brien, who did bring one of his classmates, Neritti Lakshman MBA’20, onto the Hoamsy team. “Really interestingly, all my other teammates came from other connections within Babson.”

O’Brien also credits the connections he has made by networking with Babson alumni and other entrepreneurs for influencing Hoamsy’s success.

“The networking in so many different ways and so many different dynamics,” he said, “has been vital to everything that we’ve been able to achieve so far.”

Finding Opportunities

Enter Goncalves, an energetic go-getter who graduated from Nichols College in three years, while playing college soccer. Goncalves came to Babson’s Master of Science in Management in Entrepreneurial Leadership (MSEL) program planning to narrow her focus to grow her entrepreneurial skills and pick only one or two activities.

“Then, I started to meet people, and I was like, well, this sounds interesting, let me see what this is about,” Goncalves said. “I ended up getting involved in a lot more things than I had originally set out to.”

Kaylin Goncalves MS’20

One of those things was the Babson Entrepreneurial Forum (BEF), the College’s flagship event, where she became the co-director of operations and startup pitch contest.

Sure enough, Hoamsy was one of the 10 rising startups invited to the BEF pitch contest November 8. And, a week after the event, Lakshman broached the idea of Goncalves meeting O’Brien and possibly joining the Hoamsy team.

It turns out that Goncalves actually met O’Brien on her first day on campus, when he was hosting a meet-and-greet at The Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship.

“You don’t usually get to do something from the ground up with somebody who is this passionate,” Goncalves said. “Richard has a lot of similarities to my personality. For him, the number one thing that he’s always looking out for is: Do you have the same passion he does.”

The two hit it off, and she’s now the director of operations at Hoamsy, throwing herself into a multitude of tasks, including establishing the company’s guide blog and reworking its user experience.

Exceeding Expectations

Hoamsy launched its full platform at the end of May, shortly after O’Brien, Goncalves, and Lakshman completed their master’s degrees with the celebrated Class of 2020. In response to customer demand related to the pandemic, Hoamsy added features for people subletting apartments. And, the company soon will be revenue bearing.

The progress has been even greater than what the trio expected. And, in October, Hoamsy was recognized as a 2020 Most Disruptive MBA Startup by Poets & Quants.

“For us, it was definitely a surprise, but it was awesome to be recognized,” Goncalves said of the honor. “It’s awesome that somebody values the work that we’re doing.”

O’Brien has been committed to his company 100% with the goal of integrating the core team full time, too. Goncalves also has been working on Hoamsy full time, even as she has been considering other full-time offers, “but I will always be part of Hoamsy regardless,” she said.

“One of Babson’s greatest strengths is its networking and community.”

Richard O’Brien MBA’20, founder and CEO of Hoamsy

It’s a dedicated, tight-knit team created through and reflective of the Babson network.

“It works really well,” Goncalves said, “and that atmosphere kind of reminds me of the program itself, because it has a diverse range of people working on this idea and bringing the venture to life.”

As for Babson, Goncalves says the experience exceeded all of her expectations.

“I got way more out of it than I ever thought, especially using an accelerated program,” Goncalves said. “Every day I was there, I was learning something new. … And, all of the other things that I did outside the classroom just helped me improve what I was able to do inside the classroom.”

Posted in Community, Entrepreneurial Leadership

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