iC Dingbat

Business Owners by 22

Story by: Alex Ojerholm '14

Entrepreneurship is booming at Colby. There’s a two-year-old program that includes workshops and training on how to start a business, and there’s a new competition at the end of the year that gives—wait for it—$15,000 to the winning business pitch.

Last year’s winner, Matthew Boyes-Watson ’12, started a website called RentPrefs that matches renters with apartments based on an algorithm he wrote. After working as a real estate agent one summer in Boston, Boyes-Watson realized how inefficient the system was. And sites like Craigslist just don’t do it.

RentPrefs helps renters find the best apartent by letting them choose based on more than money

With RentPrefs, renters enter their preferences on all kinds of things, from subway stop to amenities. Currently RentPrefs includes about 5,000 rentals in the Boston metro area, and, thanks to a partnership with yougotlistings.com, Boyes-Watson expects that number to jump to 180,000 in the very near future. This summer he and his partner, Raleigh Werner ’11, planned to begin working full time on the site and vying for venture capital funds.

So how did a liberal arts education prepare Boyes-Watson for this?

“I think that the liberal arts education is perfect for entrepreneurship,” he said. “What prepared me best for doing my business were a couple of the economics classes I took, for starters.

“More than that, one thing that is unique about small liberal arts schools is that we’re generally not accepted into the college if we do just academics well, or just sports well. Almost everyone on campus participates in more than two different things—I definitely did—and I think being able to do a multitude of things well and integrate them together into a successful student career is actually a lot of what makes you a successful entrepreneur.”

Two other students or teams who competed for the big prize also have viable businesses operating from Mayflower Hill—an online textbook reseller, and Qponify, a Groupon-esque discounter for Colby students at local businesses.

Alex Ojerholm '14
Princeton, Massachusetts
Major: Economic-Mathematics | Minor:...