Stony Brook University performed well in New York State’s annual business plan competition last spring, taking first and second places.
Joshua Zhu ’24, enrolled in Stony Brook Medicine, and his business partner Jialin Ke, who graduated from Cornell in 2020, won a top prize of $ 10,000 for the design of an electric nail clipper for aging adults called Pedicure. A trio of business students from Stony Brook won a second prize worth $ 2,500 for their virtual dating app called Downtown Dating. This team consists of James Martino ’19, ’21, Harrison Seidner, PhD ’16 and Bradley Turner ’19.
The competition is a three-level competition starting at the university level with the Stony Brook Entrepreneurs Challenge, progressing to the regional (Long Island) level and finally to the State. The top three teams in SBU followed this route from the regional ones, then the top three teams on Long Island moved on to state competition.
According to Zhu and Ke, the idea for PediCure came about while watching their grandparents struggle with nail trimming, but who were too embarrassed to ask for help.
How is this different from what already exists on the market?
“There are several nail clippers on the market, but none of them are electric or use a safe grinding mechanism,” said Zhu, who added that the product also has an arm. extension to eliminate the need to stoop. (See the video pitch)
“Our most important short-term goal is to launch our Kickstarter in August,” Zhu said, adding that the $ 10,000 will be critical to fund costs such as a high-fidelity prototype, video production and lead marketing. . “We are looking to raise enough money to manufacture a small series of around 2,500 to 5,000 units.”
Zhu added that after proving that the traction for the product exists, they will be able to raise funds from several interested parties. “Going forward, our goal is not only to ensure the success of our nail clippers, but also to make aging in place a reality for more Americans by developing a line of personal care assistive devices. “, did he declare.
Downtown Dating aims to help people meet potential mates in a more personal way than is currently available, creating more fruitful relationships with less wasted time and money.
“Users spend hours a day going through potential matches just to get a few matches per week, many of which end after a few messages, and considerably less than continuing until a first date,” Martino said, noting that a survey they conducted found 64% of dating app users prefer to meet in person rather than online. “Now, with the restrictions related to COVID, people are even less likely to meet in person and become more comfortable with virtual meetings, which makes this a great time to release our app. “
Users start out in a virtual meeting space mimicking a bar scene in which they can interact with other users via video, like virtual speed dating.
Martino said they are almost done with a prototype and plan to move forward with alpha testing in the coming months, adding that online dating segment revenue is expected to reach $ 3.2 billion in 2021. and over $ 4 billion by 2024.
Of the 38 million people in the United States looking for a relationship, there are 19.5 million monthly dating app users, and 56% of these users view dating apps negatively. Martino’s team aims to change that negative outlook while competing with existing message-based dating apps, most of which use a subscription model with costs ranging from $ 10 to $ 40 per month.
“These apps have marketed themselves very effectively over time, more recently using Snapchat and TikTok as primary marketing channels and gaining lots of users by word of mouth in later stages. We will differentiate ourselves by being an application based on virtual meetings in the dating field, ”Martino evaluated.
Is it difficult to convert a foolproof entrepreneurial perspective into a sustainable source of income?
Ask Jawad Khalfan ’18, a graduate of Business Management Associate, whose collaboration three years ago with his classmate Zachariah Djaballah ’18 led to the Versitable, a practical stand-alone table that offered unlimited positioning for its user.
“Bob Harrison from SBDC told Zach and I that we were going to join this competition, succeed and come away with funding for our start-up. He was our advisor and he believed in us, ”Khalfan said. “We gave an excellent presentation of our product idea. That same day, we walked away with $ 2,500 to use for our product development. The day we heard this news, we were so happy.
The Versitable was dropped, however, after a design engineer indicated that it was impossible to build with the features and specifications Khalfan wanted. In August 2018, he and Djaballah “decided to close the chapter and move on”, but they gained valuable experience and “realized the potential that we have as entrepreneurs”.
Khalfan eventually went into business with one of his best friends, Joseph Kessler, whom he had known since the age of 12, starting a systems integration company focused on security and AV systems. “We now had the confidence and the desire to fend for ourselves and take all the risks to build our own empire,” he said. “It’s been 15 months since we made this decision and business is booming. Now I get up every morning, put on my SecureTech polo shirt and I’m like, “Wow! I will become a millionaire. “
This is the stuff of dreams.
– Glenn Jochum