This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the ten student startups who are participating in the Terp Startup summer accelerator phase of our Fearless Founders 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.
Co-founder and President: Alexei Onufrak ’20, Environmental Science & Technology major
DC: Tell us about your startup. What problem are you solving and for whom?
Onufrak: Solr Tech provides real estate businesses with a cost effective, hassle-free solution to customer retention through a solar product retrofittable to any patio umbrella. With the Solr Umbrella, we bring an outdoor power solution, while avoiding high infrastructure costs. Whether it be cafe’s, hotels, resorts, universities or amusement parks, people’s need to charge their mobile devices dictates occupancy. Solr Tech aims to provide unique power solutions outdoors.
DC: How did you first come up with your idea?
Onufrak: While sitting under an umbrella in California, phones dying, and imaginations spurring, we realized there was no convenient way to charge our phones outside. I had always been interested in solar technology and its applications, so it almost felt natural to think of it on top of an umbrella. And thus, the solar umbrella was born.
DC: What are some major milestones you’ve achieved so far?
Onufrak: I feel like when most of us come up with an idea, we don’t actually follow through with action (myself included). With the solar umbrella, I wanted to change that. I would consider the action of simply following through with an idea as the first huge milestone. Since then, we’ve created and refined our prototypes, found customers, were accepted into Startup Shell, and now Terp Startup.
DC: What drives you to keep going?
This was personally my first official entrepreneurship endeavor (if you don’t consider selling jailbreaks in middle school). Before this venture, I had never created failure for myself. The creation, search, and resolution of my own initiatives drives me. The rush of finding a solution to a problem you’re passionate about is seducing.
DC: How do you feel about working in a cohort with fellow student entrepreneurs?
Onufrak: Working with a group of driven entrepreneurs, all with there own experiences and expertise motivates me. Everyone has something to contribute, and being able to bounce ideas off of each other leads not only to collaboration, but ideas from points of view I hadn’t considered.
DC: What are you hoping to achieve during Terp Startup this summer?
Onufrak: For our business, we hope to finalize our first sale, refine our product, and conduct more customer interviews, continuously validating our market. As for myself, I hope to learn from the experience of my mentors, take what I have learned and apply it to my entrepreneurial career. No matter what venture I’ll be working on in the future, I know the lessons from this summer will shape their success.