This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the nine student startups who are participating in the Terp Startup summer incubator phase of our Fearless Founders accelerator program. Participating student entrepreneurs received a stipend up to $5,000 that would enable them to work exclusively on their startups over eight weeks in the summer.
Didac Hormiga, a rising junior at University of Maryland, is the founder and CEO of Flee (Find Local Events and Entertainment), a location-based social media app that helps people find events and entertainment happening around them. As a marketing and information systems double-major with a minor in technology entrepreneurship and a knack for design (he designed the wireframes for the app himself), Didac’s diverse skillset is complemented by his CTO, Ian Sawyer, whom he met while interning at Talk Local. Together, they’re developing a platform with features such as video stories, discounts and transportation options that provide convenient benefits to both users and venues who partner with the app. Friends find cool events to attend together, venues gain access to an effective marketing channel, and everyone gets to have fun.
How did you first come up with your idea?
Didac: A few months ago I was sitting in my dorm on a Friday night, playing a game of FIFA because I didn’t know where my friends were, and what events were going on around campus. So I decided that was a problem. I was living in Hinman (Hinman CEOs living-learning entrepreneurship program) and was always interested in entrepreneurship, so I was like, I’m going to figure out if this is a problem that other people are having too. I did 300 different customer interviews with people on campus, and over 90% of people said they didn’t know what was going on at a given time, and didn’t really know where their friends were. Facebook and Snapchat were the main ways they were finding out. On Snapchat, it’s too late once you know someone’s somewhere to meet up with them. If you see your friends are at a concert, you can’t really go to that concert, it’s unrealistic. And on Facebook, unless it’s on your feed at the right time, you probably won’t see it. A lot of people wanted an event-specific platform, so that’s how Flee was created.
What are some major milestones you’ve achieved so far?
Didac: We got Ticketmaster and Lyft on board. We have 60,000 events on the platform that users can filter by, and those come from Ticketmaster. So even if a user downloads the app in California or Michigan—any state really—there will be events that they can see even if they don’t have friends on the app. And then getting Lyft as well, people can get rides to events. It makes the event-finding experience a lot easier, because if you want to go to this event you don’t have to copy the address and go to a different app, you can just click “Get a Ride” and get a ride through Flee. Terp Startup was an awesome milestone. I got funding from Hinman as well, and got into Startup Shell, so the past six months have been a rollercoaster and I’ve learned so much.
What drives you to keep going?
Didac: My passion for entrepreneurship and helping people find events—it’s still a problem to me, I still don’t know where my friends are. Like this summer, I know people who are in College Park, but I don’t know what they’re doing. That’s still a problem for me, and also for my friends, and I hear it all the time. So finding a solution to this problem really drives me. But also all the people around me—whether it’s people in Terp Startup who’ve been supporting me, my friends, my mentor or my family. I’m excited to keep working on it too.
How do you feel about working in an incubator?
Didac: It’s been really cool. I had no idea what to expect beforehand, but it’s been great for so many different reasons. First off, I think it’s just fantastic to be working alongside other people who are in a similar space. We’re all very different in terms of personalities and our companies. There’s food products, digital products and apps—it’s a huge varying portfolio of companies and stages. Some people are very early on and some people have sold products already. It’s been really helpful to talk to other people about their experiences. For example, talking to people about how they filed for their LLC or their operating agreement, or tips for how to talk to investors or how to reach out to press has been really helpful. The mentor program has been really cool. I have Zeki Mokhtarzada as my mentor, and he’s fantastic. He built Webs.com and sold it, so it’s been really helpful to hear about his process and then apply his tips and feedback to my business.
What are you hoping to achieve during Terp Startup this summer?
Didac: We have a ton of different goals, but our main goal is to get the app released by the end of the summer. But to do that we have to talk to businesses, we have to get events on the platform. We’re trying to get UMD Athletics, Clarice Performing Arts Center…SEE Events just reached out to us and said that they want to use the platform. Hopefully it’ll catch on here—and then GW and Georgetown, and then the rest of the country and the world—who knows! A lot of what we’re doing right now is planning a marketing strategy for where we want to go and how we’re going to do it. A lot of market research, cold calling, emailing—a ton of preparation for pitching to businesses for when we have an app to show. I’m really excited.