University of Colorado sophomore invests in an unusual education
By Andy Vuong The Denver Post – November 28, 2011 - To read this article at its original source, click HERE.
Over the years, Mike Abdy has sold real estate, founded a snow-plowing business and dabbled in day trading.
Today, Abdy runs a $3 million venture capital firm with large investments in two startups, one aiming to establish a new social network for musicians and the other to perhaps disrupt an online payment industry dominated by PayPal.
Oh, and the 19-year-old is a sophomore at the University of Colorado at Boulder majoring in sociology.
“I’m a little sporadic,” said Abdy, a New Jersey native. “When I got out to Boulder, I didn’t want to just do college the normal way — you know, take 16 credits and sit in the library . . . until 10 o’clock at night.”
Abdy is in a position to be a wunderkind of sorts thanks in large part to family connections.
Those ties have hooked him up with the likes of serial entrepreneur and promoter Jack Wishna, who was credited several years ago with encouraging pop legend Michael Jackson to return to the United States after living overseas for more than a year.
There may also be a little bit of Doogie Howser, Donald Trump and Steve Jobs in Abdy.
“I’ve been surrounded by a lot of individuals in my life, whether it’s Donald Trump or Richard Branson, and probably when they were 19 years old, they had a lot of elements that you’d find in Michael,” Wishna said. “He can run circles around some of my executives that are 40 or 50 years old. He has a confidence about him.”
Wishna sits on the advisory board of Abdy’s Boulder-based Tiforp Business Ventures.
Two weeks into his freshman year at CU, Abdy received a call from a close friend who had inherited a few million dollars after the death of his father. Abdy flew to Los Angeles to console his friend and advise him on how to manage the money.
Abdy ended up creating Tiforp, using a portion of the inheritance as the seed capital for the venture capital business. His friend serves as an investor in Tiforp and wishes to remain private, Abdy said. His friend’s father owned an airplane chartering company in Switzerland, Abdy said.
Tiforp’s investment model will be to take fliers on startups.
“Risk isn’t a word in my vocabulary. I’m willing to take it,” said Abdy, whose family is in real estate development. “I’ve got nothing to lose. That’s kind of the way I invest.”
In addition to investments in a couple of iPhone apps, Tiforp has dropped $100,000 into Boulder-based InspirePay, which bills itself as a “doorway into the different payment options.”
“Every day, it seems like there are new payment methods coming out that I’ll call PayPal knockoffs,” said InspirePay chief executive Mark Fischer. “And so we’re looking at the industry and saying, ‘How can we be different?’ ”
InspirePay has developed a platform that aggregates all forms of electronic payment options, such as PayPal, Dwolla and Google Checkout. Merchants and nonprofits that sign up for the service receive a branded, online payments page that can accept payments from multiple options.
Tiforp also has an $850,000 investment in Rock City Club, a Las Vegas-based social music network started by Wishna.
“Where ‘American Idol’ and ‘The Voice’ and MySpace and all of those companies are looking for the needle in the haystack, and they let the haystack kind of just fend to themselves, we go after the haystack,” Wishna said.
Artists and bands pay a subscription of $12.95 a month to create a hub on the website where they can share their music. In addition to providing musicians with a platform to distribute their music, Rock City Club can connect them with partner music producers, Wishna said.
The company is currently beta testing its site and plans to launch in January.
As for Tiforp, Abdy said he will operate it as a “social virtual connection incubator.”
The company will make investments based on business plans submitted through a website that’s slated to roll out next year.
It’s a model that’s left some scratching their heads. When told of the system, one established venture capitalist said he’s “never heard of anything like this.”
“I don’t want to just grab 3,000 square feet on Pearl Street and incorporate a VC (venture capital) firm and throw checks at technology companies,” Abdy said. “We’re going to do it a different way. We’re going to have an online hub where we’re going to make actual investments through a virtual enterprise.”
Read more:University of Colorado sophomore invests in an unusual education – The Denver Posthttp://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_19422267#ixzz2DT6p0Alh