Paolo Fornasini, Master of Business Administration, 2023
In today’s crowded arena of digital products, from news sites to productivity platforms, the question of monetization weighs heavily on the minds of the companies behind them. Traditional wisdom leans towards the subscription model – a steady income source providing a seemingly reliable stream of income for businesses. But does the ‘one-size-fits-all’ subscription truly capture the needs of the modern digital consumer? These were the questions I sought to answer for both media companies as well as consumers when I founded Keye – a platform that gives users bite-sized access to premium content & tools that typically require upfront subscriptions. So many friends and colleagues have told me about their frustrations of wanting to access a report or article to complete their research or assignments, only to learn that the text required an expensive membership with a journal or research database. I wanted to empower them to glean the information they needed for their one-off use case, at a fraction of the cost.
The need was clear. I started working on Keye as a first-year MBA at Wharton, and within weeks of launching the platform, hundreds of my classmates were using it to request one-day passes to content and tools to help them do better in school and supercharge their career searches. On the one hand, working on Keye during the semester was the perfect opportunity to launch the business. We got help from Wharton’s librarians and career services team to craft the portfolio of services we would partner with, and had a built-in audience of students to test the product. On the other hand, balancing a challenging curriculum with running a business wasn’t easy, so I was excited at the prospect of dedicating myself to the venture for a full summer.
This summer, I really had the opportunity to take Keye to the next level. With 100% of my attention focused on the business, plus the stipend provided by Career Services, my team and I were able to bring over 40 different subscription services onto Keye, including household names like Grammarly, Masterclass and Crunchbase. During that time, I also moved to New York and I was able to interview customers in banking, consulting and professional services. Armed with the insight that professionals had an even stronger need to access and pay for data on demand, we launched a new iteration of our platform that enabled independent investors and consultants to access the same caliber of services as their counterparts at larger firms.
As we delve deeper into the economics of digital content monetization, it’s clear there’s a complex interplay between Keye’s value proposition, the value our users get from digital services, and the monetization model used by those companies. While the journey has been challenging, being able to dedicate myself fully to this venture has felt like the embodiment of everything I learned during my time at Wharton so far. Every learning experience with Keye has helped me both grow as a person, as well as help the entire company progress along our growth journey. We would not have gotten to where we are today without Penn’s support and I am excited to continue working on Keye after graduating.
Note: MBA students are served by MBA Career Management, who can be reached here: https://mbacareers.wharton.upenn.edu/
This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2023 GAPSA Summer Internship Funding Program that is coordinated by Penn Career Services. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.