This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the fifteen student startups who are participating in our Terp Startup summer accelerator at the College Park WeWork. 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.
Founder and CEO: Zachary Wynegar ’20, Computer Science Major
DC: Tell us about your startup. What problem are you solving and for whom?
Wynegar: Most Americans can relate to answering fewer, if any, unknown phone calls due to the large amount of spam. However, this hasn’t always been the case. The American public opinion research and political polling industries have become reliant on telephone calls to gauge public opinion, and due to Americans refusing to answer the phone to unknown numbers, these industries are suffering from lesser accuracy and skyrocketing costs. OpenPoll relieves this pain point by allowing these organizations to gather accurate public opinion data from the public using digital means including social media, text messaging, and email. We are specifically operating in the niche political polling industry which has specialized needs currently unfulfilled in the market.
DC: How did you first come up with your idea?
Wynegar: After the 2016 Presidential Elections, I and many others realized how inaccurate and unreliable polls have become. I spoke with a few people in the industry and conducted some research to understand why. I thought I had a viable solution, and started OpenPoll. Since, we’ve made numerous changes to our technology and business model to become market viable.
DC: What are some major milestones you’ve achieved so far?
Wynegar: The biggest milestone, I would say, is cracking the code for how to bring a viable product to market in this industry. It’s no easy feat, especially when you lack years of experience and relationships within the industry. We’ve also worked with numerous political candidates (from local to U.S. Congressional) and private corporations, engaged tens of thousands of individuals, and hired phenomenal talent.
DC: What drives you to keep going?
Wynegar: When I first started this venture, I was driven by curiosity, opportunity, and naiveté. Today, I’ve changed quite a bit and am driven by both the desire to make a difference and responsibility. I made an unspoken commitment to myself and others when I hired people, accepted capital, and invested my time into this venture to accept all the highs, lows, and stressors that come with it.
DC: How do you feel about working in a cohort with fellow student entrepreneurs?
Wynegar: Working with other entrepreneurs operating in a diverse set of industries is a fascinating experience, and one of the best growth opportunities I have ever had. The ability to learn from and help others who are in various stages of their own ventures provides a unique opportunity to introspect and grow. I believe the relationships built within the cohort will last for many years and provide ongoing value to every one of us.
DC: What are you hoping to achieve during Terp Startup this summer?
Wynegar: There are a few unique opportunities Terp Startup provided that I wanted to take advantage of. Going into this program, I wanted to build relationships with both other cohort entrepreneurs, and the greater DMV business community. Another achievement I was able to accomplish during the accelerator program is finalizing and validating my unit economics, allowing us to provide a more predictable pricing schedule.