Alumni Success Stories
From New Graduates to Entrepreneurs, Computer Science Alums Talk their Business Journey
October 04, 2021
Matt Shaver and John Spencer both graduated from Grand Valley in 2010 with their bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. The two now find themselves as business partners after co-founding BrainGu, a company that was originally dedicated to making cybersecurity easy and accessible for all, and now is focused on developing mission-critical solutions based on DevSecOps and cloud-native innovations. Friends throughout their time studying, Matt and John took many classes together, worked on the same final project for graduation, participated in the competitive programming team together, and contributed to the accreditation of the Computer Science program.
While both John and Matt commented on how much they enjoyed their time at GVSU, they spoke about how valuable they found both their coursework and the relationships they were able to build. The alums noted that it was often the courses they liked the least, such as advanced math classes and classes involving programming in Assembly, which proved to be the most beneficial and foundational in building their business.
When discussing how they got from graduation in 2010 to establishing BrainGu in 2012, the two noted that this idea began during the middle of their educational career. Even though they were excited by cybersecurity as an up-and-coming field, Matt and John agreed that it would be a good idea to gain real-world experience after graduation. They took jobs in the corporate world. John specifically was connected to his job through a fellow Computer Science major that graduated a year before him. After two years of corporate experience, Matt and John circled back to their business idea and began to make plans. When giving advice, one of the biggest comments they gave was to work hard “after hours” and on the weekends, maintaining your day job until you know your business is successful.
Matt and John were able to quit their day jobs and fully commit themselves to BrainGu in mid-2013. The company first began doing cybersecurity analytics for other businesses such as Fortune 500 companies. As they grew in size and saw the demand change, the company shifted its focus to developing its own software for other organizations to utilize. This is now BrainGu’s biggest source of business; they provide and support software development that helps other organizations develop better cybersecurity. Their newest endeavor has been contracting with the Department of Defense on “Project WIDOW”, which you can see featured on their company blog.
In closing, Matt commented that “Grand Valley is a great launching pad for whatever you want to do in your career.” Both individuals found many opportunities through internship work, classes that they took, and people they met while attending GVSU. They have since hired many other GVSU alums, and also run a Summer Internship program for students.