Entrepreneurial Edge

By Dana Wilson
From the May 2013 issue of Columbus CEO

With several startups under his belt, Eric Corl aims to help other companies grow.

Eric Corl thrives on new ideas.

He and his staff sort through thousands of them each month at Fundable, a crowdfunding platform for startup businesses. Many are rejected, but the most promising ones launch on Fundable.com, where companies create profiles and offer backers rewards or equity in exchange for capital.

The list of successful clients—those who met or, in some cases, exceeded fundraising goals—runs the gamut, from a line of natural skin-care products to a convertor that turns any TV into a 3-D device.

Corl says he finds satisfaction in helping entrepreneurs like himself grow their companies. “Bringing something to life and helping them create something, I love it,” says Corl, 27, president and co-founder of Fundable. “It’s just very, very rewarding. I see new ideas all the time. Our office is like ESPN for startups.”

Fundable, a startup itself, launched in May 2012. The Powell-based company is the latest in a series of collaborations between Corl and veteran entrepreneur Wil Schroter, Fundable’s CEO and co-founder.

Corl and Schroter met in 2004, when Corl was a freshman studying business at Ohio State University and Schroter was developing the Go BIG Network, his original fundraising platform for small businesses. A mutual friend from the Business Builders Club at Ohio State introduced them.

“It was rare to find, first off, somebody who had no Internet experience but got what we did so quickly,” Schroter says of Corl. “And at 18 years old, how many people are thinking, ‘I want to go start a company?’ Now, more than in the past. Back then, not many.” He pauses, then jokes, “It was Eric and Mark Zuckerberg, I think.”

Corl worked on marketing and product development, and became an integral member of Go BIG’s founding team. “I worked seven days a week,” he says. “I worked ridiculously long hours. I still love it, I loved it then. I didn’t think about it in terms of working hard, just creating something.”

The Go BIG Network has since rebranded as Startups.co, which together with Fundable has helped more than 400,000 entrepreneurs raise tens of millions of dollars in funding, according to the companies.

“It kind of opens up the startup landscape nationwide,” says Laura Moller, Fundable’s media relations coordinator. “Historically, there have been these startup hubs where startups launch and get funded. But great ideas come out of Minneapolis. Great ideas come out of Columbus, Chicago. So it kind of evens the playing field on some levels, where innovation is innovation, and people are going to find out about great ideas and fund them even if they’re outside of Silicon Valley.”

Corl’s success comes as no surprise to one of his former professors, who describes him as a standout student. Corl’s passion and drive are inherent, says Michael Camp, executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at OSU’s Fisher College of Business. “He was already just wired that way, and none of us doubted that ultimately he would be running his own company,” Camp says. “It was just a matter of time and what type of company.”

In 2007, during Corl’s junior year, he debuted his own venture: Idea Buyer. IdeaBuyer.com is an online marketplace to license and sell patents that has served clients such as General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Johnson & Johnson and 3M. Later that year, Corl left OSU to focus on his business.

“When I think back to my time at Ohio State, the key things I remember are the companies I was working on and the people I met,” Corl says. “It certainly was not the traditional college experience. I had my head down and was focused on working to build companies.”

After living in Houston, Texas, for two years to manage the purchase of some intellectual property for Idea Buyer, Corl returned to Central Ohio. In 2010, he and Schroter formed Virtucon Ventures, an incubator for early-stage Internet companies. From there, the two launched Fundable.

Corl still devotes much of his energy to work—12-hour days are the norm—but spends time each day with his wife, Lindsey, and their toddler daughter, who often stop by the office.

Corl recently garnered national recognition from Empact, which honored him and Idea Buyer on its list of “Top 100 Companies Started by Young Entrepreneurs.” A panel of accomplished judges, including the founders of Living Social, Priceline.com and Redbox, chose the honorees. Corl attended a ceremony at the White House in September to accept the award, which he describes as a humbling and inspiring experience.

“I really see this as the future of how companies get started,” he says.

Dana Wilson is a freelance writer.