Our Bright Ideas series asks successful entrepreneurs how they came up with their great business idea, and what advice they'd offer other entrepreneurs. Today we hear from Abi Mandelbaum of YouVisit.com – a six-year-old company that creates virtual walking tours for universities, businesses and businesses.
Business News Daily: What does your business do?
Abi Mandelbaum: YouVisit is a technology company that develops first-of-a-kind, life-like Virtual Guided Walking Tours complete with rich media, video content and 360-degree panoramic views, for companies and institutions in varied industries, including education, travel and leisure, hospitality, healthcare, real estate, and manufacturing. As a noted technology innovator, the company developed the world's first comprehensive online virtual-tour destination, YouVisit.com, where visitors can search, filter and view Virtual Guided Walking Tours of businesses and destinations worldwide. In addition to [on] YouVisit.com, the Virtual Guided Walking Tours may be accessed anywhere online, including other websites, Facebook, mobile devices and the Oculus Rift [virtual reality] platform. The Virtual Guided Walking Tours help businesses and institutions drive online engagement, quality inquiries, physical visits and measurable results.Abi Mandelbaum, Taher Baderkhan and Endri Tolka of YouVisit.com
BND: Where did you get the idea for your business?
A.M.: While attending Brandeis University as an international student, I met Taher and Endri, who were both international students, as well. During our college years, we all discussed the frustrations of having limited resources available to research colleges and universities as international students. After realizing this was an unsatisfied need for not only international students, but also out-of-state students in the United States, we established YouVisit in 2009.
BND: How did you go about figuring out if your business idea was viable?
A.M.: After nearly a year of long hours working late into the night following our respective full-time jobs, we released a prototype of the Virtual Guided Walking Tour technology and showed it to colleges and universities throughout the country. The responses we received were overwhelmingly positive, and that's when we knew that it would be worthwhile to dedicate ourselves full time to YouVisit.
BND: Did you test your business idea? If so, how?
A.M.: Absolutely, we created Virtual Guided Walking Tours for three universities initially and carefully reviewed the results with them. It became clear that out-of-state and international students loved the tours, as they were spending more than 10 minutes on them, which is an eternity online. The universities were thrilled to see that there were students from more than 120 countries taking the tours, engaging with the university and, as a result, deciding to physically visit the university, apply and enroll.
BND: What advice would you give to someone who thinks they have a great business idea?
A.M.: First, great execution is more important than a great business idea. Secondly, if you are inclined to start your own company, don't jump into it right away and quit your full-time job. Find the time after work to move your idea forward and come up with something you can actually show your prospective customers. Listen carefully to their feedback, and if it's overwhelmingly positive, you know you're on the right track.
[For more business ideas, visit our Business Ideas Section.]
BND: Where do you look for inspiration when you are trying to find new ideas or ways to grow your business?
A.M.: Too many potential entrepreneurs worry too much about others stealing their ideas, but what they don't realize is that it's all in the execution, and great execution isn't easy. Talk to as many people as you can about your ideas. They will help you improve them and put you in touch with other people who may be able to help and steer you in the right direction. In terms of growing a business, always listen carefully to your clients and employees. They are very close to the action and have great ideas, but you have to create processes and feedback loops that enable them to bring those ideas forward.
YouVisit execs Taher Baderkhan and Endri Tolka also contributed to these answers.