Fieldr of Dreams

Employment readiness via a South Florida startup.

Connor Firmender [PHOTO: Brian Tietz]

FOUNDERS: CEO Connor Firmender and CFO/COO Natalie Finazzo

YEAR FOUNDED: 2019

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: Three (including founders)

Description of Business: Fieldr is a web-based application that helps students find career-readiness opportunities posted by employers, such as internships, mentorships, project-based or course-based learning, subcontracting, apprenticeships and more.

The Idea: Firmender, 22, who recently graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University’s School of Entrepreneurship, developed the idea during a business incubator class in January 2019. “My mind was racing one day, pinpointing the problems I was experiencing and seeing around me,” he says.

The Background: By the end of that semester, Firmender had a business plan and a team ready to move forward. “We had no choice,” he says. “We just incubated a startup. We would regret not even trying.” He held focus groups with local business leaders to understand their needs. He formalized the company in July 2019, and Fieldr Senior Developer Wali Jafferi launched the website, fieldr.app, in late August. The company’s advisory board is Karl Gibbons, Geoff Evans and Steve Becker. “They’ve been phenomenal helping us get this far,” Firmender says.

The Money: Fieldr raised an initial $25,000 from family and friends, and is in negotiations with an angel investor for $150,000 more to pay for software development, staffing, marketing and more. Use of the service is free for students. For businesses, Fieldr has switched from a subscription-based model to pay-perpost. The first post is free, then each three-month post is $120.

The Results: “We have an important partnership with FGCU School of Entrepreneurship,” Firmender says. “We wouldn’t be where we are without them. That they’re still supporting us as alumni almost a year later is amazing.” He said 300 FGCU students and more than 52 local employers are using Fieldr, with more than 25 successful matches by early 2020.

What’s Next: Fieldr is making updates to its website based on user feedback. Improvements include automated matching, advanced user search and direct messaging. Android and iPhone mobile applications will launch this summer. “We want to get 1,000 users from FGCU before we expand to other college campuses,” Firmender says.

Also scheduled to launch in early March is Fieldr’s high school portal. The company partnered with the Lee County School District, which will pay an annual licensing fee to make it available to all district high schools, as well as to a certain number of selected businesses.

Lessons Learned: “There is no one-size-fits-all way to approach things,” Firmender says. “You need to trust your instincts and trust your customers—especially your unhappy customers, because they are the greatest source of learning. Don’t try to avoid making mistakes, because they’re inevitable. Take on your mistakes and failures as they come; that’s how you’re going to grow as a company. Learn from it.”