Hoya Highlight: Reilly Davis (B’12)

Reilly Davis is the Co-Founder and CTO of PeopleGrove, the platform on which the student-alumni networking platform Hoya Gateway is run.

Career Reflections

What is the best career advice you have ever received?

Your narrative is the most important thing you can present about yourself. I left a two-year finance program after only one year, and I was really nervous about doing that—how it would look and how it would be perceived. But, I learned that if I told my story in a way that showed I left the program to pursue my passion, people understood and were willing to listen. You can’t live your entire career not being flexible or trying to push forward with something that does not work.

What has been the most rewarding moment of your career?

It’s hard to point to just one moment, so I’ll share two of my favorite parts of PeopleGrove that are super rewarding:

1. Always having something new and exciting to work on and a new problem to solve.

2. Building a successful and enjoyable team culture. As a startup where we are doing everything ourselves, it’s vital to focus on building the right team in the right way and setting that team up for success. Continuing to perpetuate positive team culture and bringing on the right people is incredibly rewarding.

What do you wish you had done earlier in your career?

My first job was in finance and investment banking, and I got into it because I didn’t know what else to do and because it was an easy path to take as a business school graduate. I wish I’d done more career and self exploration earlier. I always knew I was interested in startups and tech, but wish I’d talked to more contacts who could have given me the inside scoop and opened me up to that world earlier.

What is the hardest thing you have ever done professionally?

My first startup was a mobile app that was basically Tinder for job hunting, matching job searchers with employers. We built and raised seed money from angel investors and hired good people onto our team. But, the app just did not work out. The hardest thing we had to do was to be honest with ourselves and our employees—we had less than $5,000 in our business account, and so we had to let some people go, and others stayed on to work with us knowing they wouldn’t be paid for at least a month. It is so important at a startup to recognize and to be honest with yourself when things are going wrong. That’s the moment when you have to make dramatic changes, or even to give up on the initial idea. It definitely is not always the glamorous startup lifestyle people imagine.

Your Time on the Hilltop

Favorite professor or class at Georgetown?

“Entrepreneurial Finance.” Every course was a case study of a startup, and by the end of the class we’d studied 20-30 different startups.

What is your favorite Georgetown memory?

Weekends with my roommates my senior year. I’d lived with basically the same four guys my whole time at Georgetown, and our senior year we lived off campus on Prospect Street. Some of our most fun nights weren’t spent hosting raging parties… instead we’d play Settlers of Catan. Being surrounded by good friends who were always up for hanging out was just the best.

How has Georgetown shaped you?

One of my very first entrepreneurial endeavors was at Georgetown: I ran a textbook buyback business. I learned the realistic challenges of business, why having a great team is important, and how to deal with regulations and restrictions (the university administration was not happy with me for competing with the bookstore). Georgetown also gave me a great network of classmates and professors who have helped to shape my experiences since leaving the Hilltop. One mentor, David Walker, helped me by opening up his own network to me and putting me in touch with some really helpful people.

A Day in the Life

What is on your desk right now?

Our office is super tight, so we all have very tiny desks in a very collaborative environment. We’re surrounded by flags of the schools we partner with, which reminds us of why we do what we do. Though I don’t have a whole lot of space to spread out, it’s essential that I have what some call my “command center”: my ergonomic keyboard and big screen monitor. And, coffee and Red Bull are always on hand to keep our team going.

What is one part of your daily routine you couldn’t live without?

I literally eat lunch at the same place every single day. I don’t waste time or energy thinking about lunch all day or trying new places.

Who or what is a source of inspiration in your life?

I recently married a double Hoya (we met in high school and went to Georgetown together), and she keeps me motivated by bringing perspective to my day. She’s a doctor, so hearing about her day forces me to pull my head out of the weeds and focus on things other than my job. She has incredible empathy for others, which is very inspiring.

Who is your favorite author?

Eric Reese’s The Lean Startup is one of the most valuable books I’ve read.

Words to live by?

It’s important to find something that you are passionate about, that you want to work on, and to not worry about deviating from established paths. There are so many opportunities and roles to be created—forge your own path!

Experience the PeopleGrove platform Reilly helped to build for Georgetown and join Hoya Gateway today to network with fellow alumni and current undergraduate students! 

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