Ever since he saw March of the Penguins, Mark Rosenberg '11 has been a big fan of the birds who seem to go everywhere in formal dress. It's fitting, then, that the new business Rosenberg has helped create brings together his love for movies and penguins.
The idea for "PenguinShare, Inc." was born when Rosenberg and Dan Turcza were sitting around the backyard in their hometown of Oak Park, Ill. The two new high school graduates were preparing to head off to different colleges in the fall, and they wanted to pick up one more big project together.
They decided to start a business. Along with David Garson '11, they came up with the idea of a DVD sharing online community for college students (physical DVDs, not digital copies). Though all three were "gung-ho," Rosenberg says, "we were unsure of where to start, to be honest."
At Grinnell, Rosenberg found resources to help. "I spoke to Doug Caulkins, who was incredibly helpful," he explains. Caulkins is the director of the Wilson Program in Enterprise and Leadership at Grinnell, and he helped the students get in touch with Clint Korver '89, a trustee and businessman. Korver gave them guidance on the logistics of starting a business, as well as encouragement. Korver told them even the worst possible outcome -- failure -- would leave them with a lot of good experience.
They named their community "PenguinShare." Here's how it works: similar to Facebook, students register with their college e-mail addresses and become members. They list the DVDs they own and are willing to loan to other members at their college. In return, they can borrow movies listed by others on their site. The user never pays anything; revenue is generated via advertising.
PenguinShare has a social component as well, bringing together people who like similar movies. "It helps people meet people," Rosenberg explains.
The team developed a penguin logo for the company, and with Korver's encouragement, entered their project in the Yale Business Plan Competition. Rosenberg, Turcza, and Garson worked hard on a comprehensive business plan to enter in the competition, and although PenguinShare was not a finalist, Rosenberg is glad they made the effort. "This is a learning experience for us," he says.
PenguinShare launched in September at 18 colleges and universities. Rosenberg says he's "incredibly optimistic. The site has 164 users on the Grinnell campus, with more than 450 unique DVD titles available. "Other campuses are coming along a little more slowly," Rosenberg says, "but we expect a few to start doing pretty well in a matter of weeks."
Originally published as an online web extra for The Grinnell Magazine, Fall 2008