Santa Clara University alumna Brienne Ghafourifar, ’12, is celebrating her 18th birthday at the end of April in a way not many of her peers can match: Checking off a goal of raising $1 million in venture funding for her mobile-communication startup, Entefy.
For Ghafourifar this milestone is the latest in what has been a string of outsized achievements for this preternaturally bright Bronco:
*Attending college at age 14, check.
*Getting accepted at SCU as a 15-year-old transfer business student, check.
*Graduating at 17 with an economics degree, check.
*Co-founding a startup with her equally precocious brother Alston, check.
*Setting up shop on Page Mill Road, a mecca for tech startups, check.
A cool million for said company?
Ghafourifar views her rapid graduations from high school and college not so much as a sign of her brilliance, but rather an expediency—a way to get right to her and her family’s longtime passion for pursuing something that really has an impact on the world. “I’m really into efficiency and optimization,” she says.
Her father Mehdi, is a veteran capital, management adviser, serial entrepreneur, and author of a book on global progress. Her mother Jillayn has been working in partnership alongside her husband for decades. Her 20-year-old brother Alston—Entefy’s CEO—also sped through high school and college and became president of a nonprofit, Schools for Humanity, before teaming up with his sister.
Ghafourifar said she came to Santa Clara University after hearing from a counselor at a community college that SCU excelled in things she cared deeply about: social entrepreneurship, innovation, and networking among global leaders trying to effect social justice through business. After being accepted as a transfer student, she started attending networking and entrepreneurship events offered through places like the Center for Science, Technology, and Society’s Global Social Benefit Incubator and the Global Women’s Leadership Network, affiliated with the business school.
She hung out for fun with professors like management professor Jennifer Woolley, veteran economics professor Mario Belotti, and microeconomics professor William Sundstrom—each of whom she credits with supporting and nurturing her passions and ambitions.
“That was really important, and now that I’m out of college I’m still keeping those connections close,” she said.
“Connections” loom large in Ghafourifar’s priorities, and Entefy is her and her brother’s effort to make it easier for others to find connections that can change their lives, she says.
Entefy’s product—which she sometimes calls an “uber app”—seeks to make each person’s communications life more efficient, integrated, and connected: Instead of having to hopscotch around your computer or smart phone between your phone mail, social media, professional connections, voice mails, or cloud storage—Entefy bundles it all. The key is centering the offerings around the people—not the technology—that are most important in your life.
“We like to say it’s people, not protocols,” said Ghafourifar.
The company is housed on the third floor of a building on Page Mill Road that’s straight out of a young startup entrepreneur’s dream: An array of startups populate the ultra-hip, modern space complete with a fish-tank pillar; airy lobby with layered, carpeted pallets for seating; loft-style open plumbing adorning the ceiling; large flat screen TVs flashing colorful signage; and, of course, foosball. Entefy and the other startup tenants provide a 24/7 energy that is highly contagious and invigorating.
“It is dreamy,” admits Ghafourifar. “Our investors can come here at 10 p.m. and know that we’ll be here.”
Entefy means “bring to life” she says, and the product—to use Silicon Valley parlance—is still in “stealth mode,” while they meet with investors and advisers to finalize their launch plans. So only a select few get a peek at the prototype. But those who do, she says, often delight her by saying “why isn’t this around yet?” or even better, “I want it!”
Woolley told the Palo Alto Daily News, which wrote a story about the siblings, that Brienne “is going to achieve a lot. This is just a milestone. She is going to be tremendous."