Less than five years after dropping out of Lafayette, Michael Stocker, founder & CEO of Snowvation Inc., returned to what would have been his alma mater Monday night to talk to aspiring entrepreneurs.
Stocker, who was hosted by the IDEAL Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, spoke to around 30 students about his background, former education and how he was able to create his own start-up that eventually led him to success.
Stocker is a College Hill native, but he did not start his undergraduate years at Lafayette. He attended George Washington University for college until his junior year when he transferred to Lafayette College, but he did not graduate.
“That was when I realized school wasn’t really for me,” Stocker said “I was doing really bad, so neither George Washington nor Lafayette was the issue.”
Telling his advisor that he would take one semester off, Stocker moved to Los Angeles to take a step back from school and clear up his mind. As it turned out, he never came back to finish his economics degree.
Instead, the growing technology sector in Los Angeles held Stocker down and inspired him to initiate Snowvation, a cloud-based platform that manages snow school bookings, e-commerce and instructor availability that empowers ski resorts across the country and globally.
Snowvation was an idea Stocker always had in mind since he was a ski instructor in high school, but never really had the opportunity to execute.
“When I was in skiing instruction, the program my snow school was using was a mess,” Stocker said. “Around 9:15 or 9:30 a.m. every morning, there would be a long line of parents outside the door with children screaming, waiting to sign up for classes because they could not do it online. I looked at this and had a great desire to fix all of it.”
Creating a start-up was no easy endeavor, he said.
“I think a lot of people get into start-up with glitz and glamor in mind, but not everyone is going to be Mark Zuckerberg or Evan Spiegel,” Stocker said.
Before successfully raising his first venture capital from Ben Franklin Tech Partner in Fall 2016, he was turned down and ignored by countless investors.
Stocker said his “five keys,” which he learned from his mentors throughout his experience, have gotten him to where he is today: product market fit, #DWIFT (do whatever it takes), psychology management, human resource and relentlessness.
Members of the audience found Stocker both relatable and insightful.
“Since I’m into business and he’s not that much older than me, I [found] the talk really relatable,” Lily Logan ’18 said. “It’s also interesting because I’ve never thought about dropping out. I’m just on the track to finish school, so to hear something different like this was engaging the whole time.”
While Stocker wasn’t suggesting everyone follow his same path, he urged people to have determination in whatever they pursue.
“Being relentless is the number one thing I think about on a daily basis. Whatever field they’re in, not just start-up or business, I think being relentless in general is one principle anyone should try,” Stocker said.