Tim Sestrich loves to tinker and fills his time creating side projects. This has always been true, even as an undergraduate where he devoted his senior project to building and launching an apartment search website that would compete with Craigslist for the University of Pittsburgh’s student body. Tim drew inspiration from the first post-dotcom bubble unicorns like Twitter and Facebook. “Entrepreneurship represented an avenue for success, where there’s an opportunity to be ‘successful’ in just a few years, rather than having to wait for a whole career to play out. The idea of not having my career success tied to a regular day job was appealing,” said Tim.
- BS, Computer Engineering, University of Pittsburgh, 2010
- Master of Business Administration, Duke University – The Fuqua School of Business, 2016
Post-graduation, Tim joined Deloitte as a consultant, where he continued to explore side projects and tinker with new ideas. One of those projects, a user experience (UX) prototyping tool, showed some promise. He continued working on it when he started his MBA at Fuqua, by participating in Fuqua’s New Ventures program. “I was excited to go to Fuqua because I was looking for a program that had a large emphasis on interpersonal dynamics, entrepreneurship, and a place where I could have the potential to transition to the tech industry after grad school.”
After bringing his UX prototyping tool into New Ventures, Tim quickly determined that there was not a viable market for the UX product at the time. However, Tim did run into his future co-founder, Brian Liebert, a New York CPA, through Fuqua’s Tech Club. Together, Tim and Brian founded Taxaroo, initially conceptualized as the “Uber for tax preparation.” During his second year at Fuqua, Tim committed his free time to building out Taxaroo – a web-based platform for professional tax preparers to allow firms to meet and conduct business with clients virtually.
During New Ventures, Tim greatly benefited from the classroom sessions and coursework that pushed him and his co-founder outside of their comfort zone. “Part of every session was going around the classroom to each team and determining what they were struggling with. Getting feedback from classmates and advisors who were successful entrepreneurs helped us focus on solving our largest problems first.” Many of the decisions made in New Ventures at the small scale are highly tactical and forced Tim to become a salesman, as well as a developer. “If you want a successful business, you need to find a market and customers, not just build a great product”, said Tim. Tim credits the entrepreneurship principles learned in the New Ventures course with helping drive the growth of Taxaroo, from building partnership with other firms to honing the soft skills of marketing and sales.
In 2019, Tim and Brian sold Taxaroo to focus on other opportunities.
As for how the entrepreneurial mindset has impacted Tim beyond his time at Taxaroo, the tenants of being an entrepreneur have been applicable—from his time as a consultant to his current role as a Product Manager at Google. “The mentality of being scrappy and willing to be hands on is valuable across all industries, even at a large company when you’re in the process of building a new product.”
When asked if he had any words for aspiring entrepreneurs, Tim emphasized how important it is to take the leap! The programs at Fuqua give entrepreneurs a safe space to go all-in on their ideas. Tim noted how he “had a tendency to read about entrepreneurship, thinking about all the things I would do when I started a company, just assuming an opportunity would fall in my lap. In my experience, executing on my ideas led to something more interesting. Even if the first thing you work on is not successful, you’ll reach new opportunities and meet new people, so get out and do something.”