Darden Alumna Spotlighted for ‘Most Disruptive’ MBA Startup
By Dave Hendrick
Poets & Quants included Trulli, a travel startup founded by University of Virginia Darden School of Business graduate Amanda Joseph (MBA ’19), in a feature on the 22 most disruptive startups from the Class of 2019.
Joseph started Trulli while at Darden, eventually winning UVA’s Entrepreneurship Cup competition. Billed as “Instagram-level inspiration meets Tripadvisor-level logistics,” the platform helps travelers plan trips based on recommendation from trusted friends and is aimed at MBA students and alumni.
In Poets & Quants, Joseph answered a number of questions about the launch and growth of her company.
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with your venture? My biggest accomplishment to date was winning UVA’s E-Cup Competition. The win not only meant funding and recognition, but it also drove user sign-ups and led to valuable connections.
This accomplishment was especially meaningful to me as a founder, as it taught me important lessons stemming from an initial setback. I had not placed in an earlier E Cup round because the judges were not convinced that my target audience would use this type of platform. In the four months following that loss, I finished building the site and arrived at the next stage of the competition with hundreds of dedicated users and inspiring itineraries. The experience taught me the importance of not simply explaining why your business will work, but demonstrating that it does.
How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? Darden has been instrumental in transitioning Trulli from an idea into a viable business.
Darden’s commitment to entrepreneurship provided access to invaluable resources like the i.Lab, which offers workspace and community to accelerate new ventures, as well as a formal incubator program in which Trulli participated for the Summer 2019 cohort. Darden’s strong entrepreneurship curriculum allowed me to refine and develop my idea through classes focused on approaches like Design Thinking and Effectuation. It also enabled me to connect with inspirational faculty-turned-mentors like Damon DeVito, who always encouraged me to push myself beyond what was comfortable – such as making the decision to invest in Trulli’s technology and work on my venture full-time.
Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? My most valuable class in building Trulli was “Innovation and Design Experience,” taught by design thinking pioneer, Jeanne Liedtka. The most valuable lesson I learned is that an entrepreneur’s primary focus should lie in defining the problem because too often we are creating perfect solutions to problems that customers don’t feel. I spent ~80% of the class focused on defining the true issues related to travel planning through long-form ethnographic interviews, journey mapping, and assumption testing. I was then able to spend the remainder of the class designing a solution that I could be confident my target audience actually wanted.
Read the full startup profile on Poets & Quants.
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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