To most, Kahmali Rose is just a Computer Science grad at UMass Boston. However, to the people who have worked with him, Kahmali Rose is more than that; he is an ambitious, interesting, and tenacious young entrepreneur. Co-founder of NimbleNotes, Rose has spent the last two years of his undergraduate career amassing a resume of experience that any undergrad, no matter their major, would love to have. He has worked in local tech companies, such as Dispatch Technologies, and has also lent his skills to the UMass Boston community as a Math/Java Tutor and Peer Mentor; all this while maintaining a superb academic record and tending to his own startup, NimbleNotes.
From Student to Entrepreneur
NimbleNotes, formerly known as HazelNotes, was Kahmali and co.’s startup idea that won the penultimate business competition at UMass Boston. As Rose describes, “NimbleNotes is a collaborative note-taking platform that allows students to convert those notes into flashcards with just a few clicks of a button. Eventually, students will be able to buy and sell notes and study materials via our online marketplace. We’re currently targeting law, nursing, biology and chemistry students, based on their penchant for taking lots of notes and studying with flashcards.” While not an entirely unheard-of business, Rose says it’s a new concept and the response has been encouraging. “The feedback from other students has been pretty much completely positive, across the board.” Recounting how he went from Kahmali Rose, Computer Science major, to Kahmali Rose, Computer Science major & co-founder of NimbleNotes, Rose described a journey I had heard before. It was the journey of almost every student who had made contact with the Venture Development Center.
“I found out about the VDC through another student and good friend, Ivan Bogojevic. He was an economics major and had attended multiple seminars at the VDC, and he encouraged me to attend a lecture by Dan Phillips.” Rose continues, “At the end of the lecture, Dan spoke about the annual Business Launch Competition, which piqued my interest. I decided then that I wanted to participate, and I kept my eye out for news on when the next one started.” Rose, along with co-founders and fellow UMass Boston computer science student Anthony Reid and Mass College of Arts graduate Tim Hicks, entered the Business Launch Competition with (what Rose refers to as) “little more than an idea.”
That little idea won them the Business Launch competition. As part of the grand prize, the NimbleNotes team gained access to mentorship, networking events, and other valuable resources at the VDC. On his time at the VDC, Rose remarks “the experience has been invaluable. The space is amazing…and then there’s Bill. Bill Brah, our mentor during the competition (and beyond)…has always made us feel right at home, and guided us in what we believe is the right direction, for which we’re eternally grateful.”
Bridging the Gap Between Talent & Opportunity
When I asked Kahmali Rose what makes Boston a great location for entrepreneurs, as well as those aspiring to work in a startup, his answer came from personal experience. “I think that rich higher education community makes for a lot of promising young talent to serve as co-founders and key contributors in any startup. There’s no shortage of talent and ambition here.” His statement rang true but also gave me some pause. Boston, a quintessential college town, has no shortage of higher-ed communities that serve various parts of the city. Yet, in recent years, the noticeable gap between talented college students and opportunities within the startup community has drawn scrutiny from companies and media alike. So much so that some entrepreneurs have created companies geared towards bridging that gap. Companies like Launchsource, whom we’ve featured before, are connecting those talented students with opportunities by providing access and exposure to some of Boston’s startup companies. The key concept to remember here is exposure. One of the biggest reasons for the gap between talent and opportunity has been a lack of exposure. Entrepreneurial, ambitious college students like Rose are not often exposed to opportunities to work in startups. They are more often knowledgeable about opportunities within larger companies. That’s understandable. A student could have thousands of dealings with a large company but never interact with a startup, or someone who works in one, for that matter. But exposure can also lead to a solution for the talent gap. In my experience, having a reference group of entrepreneurs and startups sparks the imagination and ambitions of students who, otherwise, might pursue opportunities within larger or more established companies. Immersing students in startup culture and exposing them to members of the startup community is beneficial for both sides. Students have a chance to explore a different path to success they may not have been aware of while startup founders gain access to a community of “promising young talent.”
I asked Kahmali Rose where he sees himself in a year. Like the ambitious, talented, and tenacious young entrepreneur that he is, he answered, “If all goes according to plan, NimbleNotes will have achieved product/market fit (i.e., we’ll know if we have something that enough people want), and our focus will be on scaling. That almost certainly means securing investor funding and growing our team, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. For now, we just have our sights set on a successful September 1st launch!”