In anticipation of the final round of the 2018 Pitch Dingman Competition, the Dingman Center is interviewing each of the five startup finalists about their progress and upcoming challenges as they prepare to compete for the $15,000 Grand Prize on March 6 in the Grand Ballroom of Stamp Student Union. Learn more and register to attend the competition here.
Didac Hormiga, Founder & CEO
University of Maryland junior Didac Hormiga is the founder of mobile app Flee, which stands for “Finding Local Events and Entertainment.” Didac is a marketing and information systems double-major with a minor in technology entrepreneurship, but is also a former YouTube content creator (with over 1,000,000 views) and current LinkedIn Campus Editor. Didac’s marketing and social media background is complemented by the app development skills of his CTO, Ian Sawyer, whom he met while interning at Talk Local. Together, they have successfully beta-tested an events app targeted to college students that has what it takes to compete with the limited events functionality pasted onto popular social media platforms. The app currently contains over 200,000 events from both local partners and larger event providers such as Eventbrite and Ticketmaster, with convenient options for discounts, on-site payment (through Venmo or Paypal) and transportation to venues. Between enrolling in the Terp Startup phase of the Dingman Center’s Fearless Founders Accelerator and pitching at Pitch Dingman Competition Finals, Didac and Ian have continued to develop their app based on customer feedback, and are poised to imminently launch a massive contender in the social events app space.
DC: Have there been some key decisions or milestones along the way that have led you from an idea to now pitching for $15K?
Didac: It’s been a really long journey and a really exciting one as well. Everything from finding my CTO, Ian Sawyer—I couldn’t have done it without him—to participating in Dingman events, Terp Startup, and being involved in the Hinman CEOs program and Startup Shell. All these things really contributed a lot and helped my idea grow from an idea to a company. More recently we’ve pivoted from a very general events app to a more specific target audience of college students, and that’s helped us really distinguish features from other apps.
DC: What have you learned from the semifinals that will help you better prepare for Finals?
Didac: I’ve constantly been working since semifinals on how to prepare for the finals. A big one is really honing in on a target demographic and being able to pitch it in a short five minute period. Flee is an app, it’s not as easy as a shirt company as something to pitch, there’s various features and various ways that users interact with it, so being able to make a compelling statement on how we’re different in just 30 seconds or 45 seconds is something I’ve been working on a lot. I’ve also been working on how to project revenue and show that our app would be very profitable for investors.
DC: What has Flee been working on since Pitch Dingman Competition Semifinals?
Didac: A lot of it has been the development. We got great analytics from the beta test on what users were using and what they weren’t, so we’ve started to work on these new features like the free food finder, free ticket integrations with Venmo and the live event-promoting. And also adding incentives, users might get a bigger discount at certain places if users report for example the guy/girl ratio or other live event data. I’ve spent a lot of nights with my developer on Photoshop and then him coding it up and seeing what works and what doesn’t, comparing it to the analytics we had from our beta test. We’re trying to make it a really cool experience to be on it, like Tinder-y swipe features and animations.
DC: What are some goals you are looking to reach before Finals?
Didac: Our goals were to grow our event base. So originally we had 60-80,000 events around semifinals, but we’ve looked at other event sources like Eventbrite and SeatGeek so that we can have as many events across the country too. We also talked to over 150 different event holders in College Park and got them onboarded with accounts. Another one was adding these new features that really made us different from the competition, which has been super exciting. Also obviously making progress on the app and redesigning it and hopefully launching it really soon.
DC: If you win Pitch Dingman Competition, what will you do with the $15,000?
Didac: Winning would be awesome for several reasons. The PR and the reputation—students would hear about it on campus, which would be awesome—but also the $15,000 takes us such a long way. It’s a network-effects based app so the more friends you have on the app, the more useful it becomes because you can see where your friends are going. We’d also be able to launch better marketing campaigns, whether it’s campus ambassador campaigns or social media marketing. We’re trying to target as many people as possible to grow the user base and continue to provide and help users find local events and entertainment.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.