An Ad Grad’s Hard Launch Lesson

Grads are learning that not every startup can succeed

Few comprehend the hyped-today, gone-tomorrow cautionary tales of tech startups better than Deanna McDonald, who’s struggled to bring her mobile app Metropoli to market.

A year ago, McDonald and her two co-founders—all recent Miami Ad School grads—tweeted out a one-minute YouTube video for their product idea then dubbed “Foursquareopoly.”

Blogerati quickly approved the concept, which is a mashup of Foursquare and Monopoly. The app concept was even a Clio Award finalist in the student category.

To avoid trademark tussles, the product was renamed Metropoli.

They got a few nibbles. Ad agencies and marketers from far-flung places like London and Bangalore emailed McDonald wanting to learn more.

But that’s as far as things went. McDonald & Co. failed to attract investors and were unable to afford a developer to build the app. “We are still really eager to do it,” she said. “But it’s definitely been hard for us coming from the advertising students’ point of view. We could have used someone with startup experience on our side.”

For every Foursquare, there are hundreds like Metropoli that arguably could succeed with a change in course. Tanya Menendez co-founded online vintage store Brooklyn Bakery two years ago, but recently pivoted to launch Maker’s Row, a Web-based firm connecting U.S. manufacturers with fashionistas. “If it isn’t working out, start something new,” she advised. “Focus on a project you know is going to click.”