They say there’s no such thing as a free meal. Former UTD roommates, Chandra and Abinav, would have to disagree. The two hungry entrepreneurs have created a thriving business based on free deals and discounts offered on college campuses across the globe. We asked them to share with us the trials and tribulations of their growing successful enterprise.
Could you explain the research that you have done or are currently doing for a lay audience?
Abinav: What we do is called Unibees—it’s a mobile application that helps students find events, free stuff, deals and discounts, and provides learning opportunities to part-time gigs. So in the past two years we’ve built an algorithm that catalogs all of the information about campus events. Today’s calendars and other systems that are used outside our infrastructure are filled with irrelevant information. So, we saw an opportunity and started researching a bit out there and we’ve been able to build an algorithm that’s able to catalog all this information and tell us where the free stuff is; where the movies are; where the campus activities are going on, so that’s been the main focus of our research and we’ve grown a lot during our past two years at UTD.
We’ve been able to scale this program to hundreds of schools just in the last 15 days. So fall is big launch for us, our research is paying off, and we’ve progressed quite a bit.
Chandra: The algorithm is kind of like a self-algorithm. Like you can actually put a pin anywhere and it kind of gets what all of the events [are around it]. So it is pretty well-versed algorithm, I would say.
Abinav: So when we finished the research about the events it was pretty manual. But in this last two years we’ve doubled up software and AI that’s able to gather all of this information at scale. At scale, meaning, if you point out Australia and say that you want to go be in Australia, we can be in Australia. We can be global right now. It’s pretty amazing what we can get.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced? Your most interesting discovery?
Abinav: Challenge-wise—scaling a team is definitely a big challenge. Coming from two people, growing it to 10 people, and growing it 15 people…30 people. Scaling culture, scaling accountability, scaling this venture into a profitable business. It all started as an idea. It all started as a great concept but making sure that our users are happy, making sure that customers are happy, and at the same time making sure our team is well-motivated and executing the vision that we all are planning for them.
Chandra: So another thing with being an entrepreneur, you have to be ready for the challenges—everything is a challenge. Neither [of us] have experience building companies prior to this, so building a company from the ground up […] to a position to where it is well-established. So that includes a lot of different aspects as Abinav mentioned, it’s also getting the teams—getting from two people growing it to 15 people, and now that we have 15 people how [are] we going to track what they’re doing and are they aligned to the vision of the company. Do they really know what we’re trying to achieve? Are they just coming here for the paycheck? So, it is very difficult being an entrepreneur, because selling your business to your own employees is really tough.
Abinav: And being a startup, everyone has to have like 20 or 30 hands in the game […] well-focused towards the vision and that’s what it takes to get hyper-growth—that’s what we are able to achieve right now.
Is there anything that you would like to share or be asked?
Abinav: We did raise some capital very recently. So, we raised 250,000 dollars from some angel investors here out in Dallas. This relationship has been very instrumental in helping with our connections, networking, and getting to close the deal as well. We raised it from two guys in the industry—one of them wrote the book called The Monuments Men, and it was made into a movie by George Clooney. It’s a NY Times bestselling author—his name is Mr. Robert Edsel. Another guy is a financial service executive who has scaled companies like us before, taken a couple of companies public—a few billion dollars—before so we’ve got a good board of directors set up right now. From a company standpoint, we have an advisory board including the ex-chief marketing [officer] of 7-Eleven. We’ve been meeting with a lot of national brands very recently—7-Eleven, Smoothie King and Tracy Loke—who have shown a lot of interest in our product.
They are wanting to get their hands into our product, so lot of things are happening in the last couple of months.
Chandra: You have to go out and talk more […] network with people, we wouldn’t have even know about [The Venture Development Center] at UTD unless we went out and talked about wanting to make a company.
The same thing Abinav mentioned—those other people came just because we went ahead and asked for help when we needed help. We needed mentorship. To whoever is wanting to go this route, make sure that you are reaching out to the right people and keep persistently understanding what they need, and what you need […] it is so very important.