First-year MBA student Colin Dreizin found his interest piqued by a court case, Tiffany v. Ebay, when he took the Entrepreneurship and Private Equity class in spring 2006. Of the many "Tiffany" items offered for online auction, more than 75 percent proved fake. Dreizin spotted an opportunity for a new business.
Every day, thousands of luxury items go up for sale on eBay – many of them counterfeit. Dreizin's company, Colinsworth Authentication [www.colinsworth.com], uses its nationwide network of experts to verify the authenticity of online-auction items. The company can be retained by either seller or buyer.
Colinsworth uses technology to insert itself seamlessly into the process, performing a mid-sale authentication. When the sale closes, the company holds the buyer's funds in escrow while the appropriate expert examines the item. "If he or she deems the item authentic, the item passes on to the buyer and the money to the seller," explains Dreizin. "We believe the 'threat' of authentication is a strong deterrent, resulting in counterfeiters refusing to pursue transactions through our service. This accomplishes Colinsworth's strategic goal, which is to save their customers time and money."
Dreizin spent the summer after his first year at the Johnson School researching the market, and launched Colinsworth Authentication during his second year. He consulted with Brad Treat, MBA '02, then the Johnson School's Entrepreneur-in-Residence, who remains a member of Colinsworth's advisory board. BR Legal filed the company's incorporation papers, and BR Incubator performed market analysis.
"I've been overwhelmed by the openness of faculty, alumni, and students to share their experiences and knowledge," says Dreizin. "Thanks to their input, I've avoided many mistakes and been able to get to market very, very quickly.