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Startup supports the dreams of athletes

Alumna Emily White is the co-founder of Dreamfuel.

Having been a competitive swimmer herself, Emily White understands the quandary.

The only way to improve and gauge your skill against similarly talented, motivated athletes is to attend the best competitions. However, White noted, exceptionally talented athletes often do not have the financial means to fund expensive sojourns far from home. Some receive donations from friends and family, but the bulk of the cost usually fell on the athletes themselves.

White remembers thinking: there has to be a better way.

“Many athletes simply don’t have the experience of fundraising,” said White, AS’05. “And they don’t have the time because of the demands of training.”

When Anthony Ervin – a “rock star of swimming,” says White – was preparing for a trip to the 2012 FINA Swimming World Cup, Ervin was urged to begin a Kickstarter campaign to help defray the costs. He had never heard of crowdfunding and, as White described the process, Ervin grew excited at the prospects of not incurring thousands of dollars in personal expenses. But when Kickstarter rejected the campaign because it doesn’t work in sports, Ervin turned to IndieGogo, another crowdfunding site.

Launched just weeks before his departure, Ervin’s Kickstarter not only helped him surpass his fundraising goal, he was able to donate the excess to charity.

White sensed an incredible opportunity and, shortly thereafter, Dreamfuel was born. The year-old startup, of which White is co-founder, caters to athletes at all levels of competition, from a youth baseball team looking to fund a trip to a national tournament in Florida to a burgeoning sprinter chasing an Olympic dream.

Recognizing its immense potential, Dreamfuel recently received funding from IDEA, Northeastern’s venture accelerator.

“It’s a stark reality,” said White, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Music Industry and was a four-year member of Northeastern’s swimming and diving team. “The costs of getting to these competitions can be prohibitive.”

Dreamfuel is White’s second foray into the sports/entertainment world. In 2007, she co-founded Whitesmith Entertainment, a talent management company that represents musicians, comedians, and athletes. On the day fellow members of Northeastern’s Class of 2005 were getting ready for commencement at Boston’s TD Garden, White was at the Coachella Music Festival in California preparing to accompany Boston cabaret/punk act Dresden Dolls on a three-continent tour.

White had introduced herself to the Dresden Dolls’ Amanda Palmer at Northeastern’s afterHOURS two years prior.

“Northeastern opened so many doors for me,” White said. “It was a life-changing experience and an opportunity to meet people from so many different backgrounds and with so many different interests.

“I remember during my orientation, someone said, ‘make yourself indispensable,’” said White, who used that advice as the basis for writing “Interning 101,” a book that will be published later this year. “I feel by doing that you have a chance to stand out.”

Click here to read more Alumni stories.

published March 2016