There once was a time, though it may be hard to believe, when it was physical books, found at the library or in stores that sold only books, that were what people turned to when they wanted to learn something new or get more information.
“I remember when I was first interested in coding, I literally was used to this mentality of ‘go pick up a textbook and start learning’ because that’s kind of what school had taught me. So I saved up $54, went to Barnes and Noble and actually bought a book on HTML CSS and just kind of went through one weekend and went through that entire book with my laptop open,” said Stacey Ferreira, who, with her older brother Scott, used that book to teach themselves how to code, which in turn enabled them to create their own website, and eventually, their own business.
At the ripe old age of 18, Ferreira and her brother founded MySocialCloud, an online storage for passwords and sensitive information that users could take and access anywhere.
“I actually owe a lot to my brother,” explained Ferreira. “The two of us were always really interested in technology from a young age, we both played a lot of video games growing up and were always kind of interested in how do we go create our own technology or our own website online and so in middle school and high school the two of us kind of tag teamed together and really sat down and said, ‘you know, how do we build something that’s our own?’ And started Googling and realized, alright we’ve got to learn how to code.”
It was her brother’s misfortune that led to MySocialCloud. He had created a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet with all of his usernames and passwords, but unfortunately lost it all when his computer crashed. Like the beginning of all entrepreneurial stories, he thought, ‘there has to be a better way.’ After about a month of working on building their site, the siblings brought in another cofounder, Shiv Prakash, who had gone to the University of Southern California (USC) with Ferreira’s brother and earned a Masters in Computer Science and specialized in security. With Prakash, MySocialCloud gained some security credibility as Ferreira quickly realized that if her website would be dealing with highly sensitive information, they needed to make sure they were doing all they could to protect it.
Though they had a solid startup team, what they really needed was continued capital to keep up operations as well as to grow. But, then a tweet changed everything.
“It was kind of one of those luck meets preparation scenarios,” said Ferreira, who remembered seeing a tweet from celebrity entrepreneur, Richard Branson, looking for donations for charity in exchange for the opportunity to meet with him.
“The tweet said, ‘Come meet me in Miami for intimate cocktails, donate two thousand dollars to charity’ and then gave an e-mail address. I took that e-mail address and e-mailed it and said, ‘Hey, I’m 18, not old enough to legally drink cocktails in the U.S. but would love to come and meet you and learn how you grew your businesses’. To make a long story short, I got an e-mail back from his secretary and I answered to that e-mail and she was like, ‘great, if you could donate four thousand dollars, two thousand for you and two thousand for your brother, and be in Miami in 48 hours you can meet with Branson’,” recalled Ferreira. “I was a broke college kid at the time but again, to make a long story short, I ended up borrowing four thousand dollars, got on the next plane to Miami, flew out there, met with Branson and then a few weeks later, he and two of his buddies invested.”
Ferreira’s four thousand dollar donation paid off. With an investment of $1.2 million, Branson made it possible for Ferreira and her brother’s vision to come to its full potential.
“For us, we were like this is really a big, big opportunity and to have their backing — I mean as young kids I think a lot of times it’s hard, you know, a lot of people would say, ‘oh you’re young – that’s fun’,” said Ferreira. “So that’s just additionally validating for us to have people who looked at our age and said, ‘hey it’s fine that they’re young. They have an idea here that has merit and they’ll figure it out.’ I’m just grateful to them at the time for believing in us.”
After only 18 months, companies began to approach Ferreira, interested in integrating the model of MySocialCloud with their own businesses. In 2013, MySocialCloud was acquired by Reputation.com for an undisclosed amount. Ferreira was just 20 years old at the time.
“One of the things that’s interesting about security businesses, now that I’ve been through it, a personal thought that I have is it’s really hard to be in a security space as a startup, especially when you’re storing extremely sensitive data and you’re not extremely well capitalized,” Ferreira said. “So one of the questions we had as we were running the business was, to be able to be capitalized enough to fight off — we had gotten to a point in the business where we were storing a lot of sensitive information and we were spending about 50 percent of our time fighting off threats — people trying to come in and get access to that data — and as a startup, $1.2 million is a lot of money but it’s not that much money when you talk about security and privacy.”
“One of the thoughts that we had was how can we partner up with a company that has the same vision in mind for our product and will allow our product to kind of live on but at the same time have the resources to be able to do that product justice by keeping it safe for all of our users,” said Ferreira. “And so that was really the goal with the acquisition, which was to ensure that the product had a great home but that also all of users data and privacy was kept safe.”
Though many people her age would have celebrated such an accomplishment with the thoughts of coasting for a while or even very early retirement, the thought never crossed Ferreira’s mind.
“I think it’s really, really hard to go from a place where you’re literally thinking about something 24/7 and you’re building it as your baby to then nothing,” said Ferreira, “When you think about what’s next, at least for me, it was, hey, my brain is already used to being occupied, it needs something else to think about and so then that’s when I decided to look at what are the other options, what are some of the other things that I’m interested [in] and want to explore and learn about.”
After the sale of MySocialCloud, Ferreira wrote the 2015 best selling book, “2 Billion Under 20: How Millennials Are Breaking Down Age Barriers and Changing The World,” in which she delved into the future of work and what her generation is looking to get out of it.
“For me, one of the big highlights that came out of that book was that when we think about how younger folks today want to work, people want a lot more of work-life balance, they want flexibility — they really kind of, in some sense I think, want to be their own boss but at the same time make sure that they’re salary is getting paid so that they know they’ve got a reasonable paycheck coming in,” said Ferreira.
“Go out there and do it. And if someone tells you, you can’t, prove them wrong.” — Stacey Ferreira
With this mindset, Ferreira found herself at the beginning of yet another startup, becoming cofounder and CEO of Forge, an enterprise workforce management software company whose goal is to afford hourly employees the flexibility of choosing their own shifts.
“All the folks that are working on the platform are W2 employees of the companies that they work for. So, for example, we work with — hospitality is a big sector for us — so we work with like a Residence Inn, Springhill Suites by Marriott — and so all of the employees that pick up shifts at those locations, are, for example, a W2 employee of the Springhill Suites by Marriott or a W2 employee of the Residence Inn, but Forge is just the application that allows them, to see all the shifts that are available and then book what shifts they want to go work,” Ferreira said. “And on the employee side, they can be W2 employees at multiple places. So you can be a part-time employee for two places or a full-time employee for one place and a part-time employee for another so you can have, kind of different, legal contracts with each employer but then just have access to all of your shifts through Forge and Forge makes sure that you’re never double booking yourself.”
Currently being utilized by mainly hospitality businesses like hotels and restaurants, Forge enables hourly employees to clock in and out with the ease of an app on their phone and as Ferreira put it, bring them “into the digital age.” Though the benefits are not just seen by the employees, insists Ferreira, as employers are said to see increased employee satisfaction and reduced turn over.
Ferreira admits to having “aggressive goals” for 2018/2019, mostly, if not all, involved in growing her new venture at Forge. Now at the wise age of 25, it’s safe to say that we can expect her to achieve her goals while also expanding upon them.
When asked what one piece of advice she’d give to anyone holding on to an idea, she simply stated, “Go out there and do it. And if someone tells you, you can’t, prove them wrong.”
Or go get a book and learn the old-fashioned way. It seems to still hold some merit.