October 6, 2015
Startup Spotlight: bistara - Be Your Own Boss

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 15.5 million people are self employed in the United States. This means that 15.5 million people have become experts in specific fields and are choosing to make a living working short term gigs rather than full time. The “gig economy” is getting more and more prominent and it’s creating a new digital channel for freelance work.

Platforms such as ELance, Udesk, and Guru have allowed professional programmers and designers to make a living competing for short term work assignments. However, despite the gig economy’s rapid growth, students have not fully tapped into the peer-to-peer marketplace.

Two talented Berklee and Emerson entrepreneurs decided to tap into this statistic and change the mentality of their peers around them. Founders and freelancers themselves, Maya Rafie (Emerson ’16) and Zac DelVecchio (Berklee College of Music ’16) both recognized a gap between what students learn in class and how they can apply that knowledge to outside projects.

Maya, a professional photographer and Zac, who specializes in building guitars and amplifiers, loved being their own boss, and as freelancers wished there was a way to help more of their friends do what they were doing. They realized the remarkable talent and passion that lurks in both their colleges in the fields of arts and communications and decided they wanted to give their fellow peers “the power to be their own bosses” and make money doing what they do best. So they set out to create their own company, bistara, to do just that.

          Bistara Founders

bistara, a word in Bengali that means “to spread,” was founded on the underlying mission to provide students with the opportunity to spread their talent. Today, bistara launches to be “the world’s first college freelance marketplace that connects college freelancers to other students and communities nationwide.” It is where the college freelance community comes to life and a place for this talent to breed.

     bistara homepage

bistara homepage

Students who join can upload their portfolio, list and price their services on the platform and add to their resume while making money and gaining experience before graduation. “College students have a hard time in general being freelancers because it’s a lot more risk than getting a side job at a local coffee shop or retail store, says co-founder Maya Rafie. There aren’t a lot of platforms today that focus solely on college peer-to-peer sharing or peer-to-employers and I hope bistara can be just that.”


     bistara screenshot

bistara sample profile

The idea was founded in Fall of 2014 and both Maya and Zac pitched it to the Emerson Accelerator, a two year extracurricular program designed to help students build a business before they graduate. With access to workspace, mentors and startup funding, the Accelerator is an incredible opportunity “to help students turn their passion into a profession.” Currently in their second year of being a part of the accelerator, today marks the official launch day for the beta version of bistara!

Manisha Tolani is a Senior at Emerson College studying marketing, communications, and entrepreneurship.  She is also Emerson's Student Ambassador for VentureFizz.