DC: What are your names, majors, minors, and graduation years?
Mascarenhas: My name is Bradley Mascarenhas and I completed my undergraduate degrees in Finance and Information Systems with a minor in Real Estate Development. I graduated this past Spring with the class of 2021, and I have enrolled into the Information Systems Master of Science program at the University of Maryland with an expected graduation date of May 2022. [UMD ‘21]
My co-founder’s name is Karsh Patel and he completed his undergraduate degree in Computer Science and double minored in Tech Entrepreneurship and Mathematics. [UMD ‘21]
DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?
Mascarenhas: Our startup is the first co-living social network for professionals. Our platform helps professionals to relocate to new places by connecting them to others to build roommate groups and find housing all in one.
DC: At what point did you know you wanted to create your own startup?
Mascarenhas: I always possessed business-minded qualities and frequently enjoyed team building towards a common goal. During my first year of high school, I felt like I did not have anything purposeful to do other than being a student. I eventually decided to start building my personal brand and take lead in my school’s Academy of Finance. I also got involved with several ventures from private loan financing to drone technology. However, these ventures did not organically originate from me, so I knew it would not be my true calling. By the time I finished high school, I was voted “Most Likely To Be a Millionaire” and I thought that was what was important to me, but that ended up being far from true. I later realized in college that my purpose was really to have an impact on my generation. Personally, building a better world is a compelling enough reason to take all the risk that comes with entrepreneurship. The efforts you put in can impact thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of people. And this is what drives me now. Problems that I face now which are shared by many others.
DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup?
Mascarenhas: The biggest influence for my startup is Justin Kan. He is the Founder of Twitch TV. He has a nice story of coming up with ideas and selling it to an investor he knew. He had a successful exit after a couple years and now Twitch is thriving even more and changed the gaming community forever. Additionally, he now has plenty of time to coach startups and teach the youth about best practices as an entrepreneur and professional. He also decided not to get back into startups so that he could work on himself and build stronger relationships with his family and friends and that’s a point in life that I aspire to reach. The other influence is Elon Musk who believes that time on Earth should be spent solving problems and doing things bigger than yourself.
DC: How have the effects of the pandemic changed your company’s focus or ideas?
Mascarenhas: The pandemic has pushed us to be resilient as a company by continuing to stay efficient and motivate our team even when we do not have the privilege of meeting in person frequently. We have adapted to online communication through Slack and Zoom and doing frequent team syncs to stay up to date. For our platform, it has not impacted us being a software service, but we have had to keep in mind people’s fear of COVID. As things return to a new normal, we are seeing people’s comfortability levels rising for renting which is a good timing for our platform’s entrance. We have been monitoring real estate market prices and activity, rent prices, renter activity, job markets, and more because those are all variables for the attractiveness of our platform.
DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months?
Mascarenhas: I have a lot of great updates for the Dingman team and community. The big one for us is we’re ready to launch our MVP at the start of August, marking one full year since we’ve started working on this venture. This is our biggest milestone yet and we are very happy that we did it cost-effectively with less than $4k spent, including legal. We have also grown our team to include a part time graphic designer, a part time quality assurance analyst, and a programmer. We are currently looking to grow our team by one programmer and add a Director of Real Estate Partnerships for the upcoming semester. We have also narrowed down a good product roadmap for our business to follow in terms of feature releases to grow users and engagement on the platform. Lastly, we have identified a target niche for us to pursue initially which is small landlords ranging from 0-100 units.
DC: What do you feel that you have achieved from participating in Terp Startup Accelerator this summer?
Mascarenhas: We accomplished a lot this Summer from the efforts of the Dingman team as they guided us through the accelerator and oversaw the step-by-step developments of our individual ventures. The big three items for us were the financial models, the pitch deck, and mentorship insight into business model and MVP launch approach. For financial models, we did not have a solid template to forecast everything prior to this program. After receiving it, we were able to get that done finally. It is 100% subject to change due to the fact we will be editing our pricing approach but it’s awesome that it won’t take much effort to change our models. For our pitch deck, we had one done but it has significantly improved in both design and content due to us preparing well in advance for accelerator presentations. Lastly, our mentor Zeki has been phenomenal in sharing his CTO best practices as well as his recommendations for launching our platform. He has also given us thoughts about potential roadmap ideas. Regarding our overarching view of the program, it has been amazing. The atmosphere is very productive and organized due to the quality of participants and Dingman staff. I would recommend this to any Terp looking to grow their venture at a pre-financing stage.
DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Mascarenhas: I have a lot of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. The first is to set small goals. What we’re doing is large in nature and can feel overwhelming at times, however, when you set small goals and take it week-by-week you realize that it’s fun and it progresses rather quick. I also recommend seeking mentorship and a small circle of trustworthy friends to bounce ideas. It helps if those friends are end users because they can share perspectives of technical or business requirements needed for your product that you do not have. Lastly, keep participating in school programs to support your venture. Some areas of a program may not seem as attractive but even reiteration has great benefits for you. The support is almost always free with genuine co-participants and staff that want to see you succeed.
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