DC: What are your names, majors, and graduation years?
Houlton: Bryan Houlton, Computer Science and Robotics, Winter 2023. Ryan Downing, Finance and Computer Science, Spring 2022.
DC: Which Dingman Center programs have you been involved with?
Houlton: I’m involved in a lot of startup stuff at UMD. For Dingman, my company is participating in the Pitch Dingman Competition for 2023. We’re in the Quattrone track and competing for $30,000, but I’m also involved in the Hatchery and Startup Shell.
DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?
Houlton: We make tools for algorithmic trading, a field where people make use of complex formulas and mathematical model to make decisions to buy or sell stock. Our product basically boils down to a web platform where you can log on, build an algorithmic investing strategy, test it over years of market data to see how it would have performed, and if you like the results, start trading with real or fake money. Then, you can list your strategy on the marketplace for others to invest in, and you’ll make a commission on their profits: essentially making everyone their own hedge fund.
DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup?
Houlton: We’ve had a lot of support from the UMD entrepreneurship community. We were accepted into the Hatchery, a new UMD incubator, and are being mentored by some amazing people there. We also have great connections through Dingman, Startup Shell, etc. To shoutout a few, I’d say Haroon, Idris, and Zeki Mokhtarzada, Juliana Neelbauer, the Startup Shell admin team, and our main Dingman contacts, Lottie Byram and Alex Onufrak.
DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months?
Houlton: Well, we’ve only been around for ~5mo and are launching our product in May. So, our big updates are that we were accepted into the Hatchery and are close to finishing our initial product. We’ve also managed to onboard two awesome people to work with, one of which is another UMD student helping with some software engineering, and another is a UI/UX designer based out of California. I would consider getting them onboard to be a significant accomplishment purely because of how much they have contributed to the company and how important they have been to our success so far.
DC: What’s the most important thing you are working on right now, and how are you making it happen?
Houlton: Right now, our most important thing is making sure that the product is ready for launch by the end of May. We’re working hard on building out the last couple features that we need, fixing bugs, iterating on our user experience, and marketing. Both Ryan (my cofounder and CTO) and I are working probably 50+ hours a week to really push this through, so organizational processes like sprints have been a must for consistent execution. We’re also looking to raise some money in alignment with the product launch, so opportunities like Pitch Dingman, Y Combinator, Contrary, and other VC firms that we have connections to are a hot topic for us right now.
DC: As a young business owner, what motivates you?
Houlton: There are two answers to this: the internal and the external. Internally, it’s the cliché “I’ve always liked to build things”. It’s what everyone says, but for most people that are into this kind of stuff, it’s true. Getting to build a product that you’re excited about and see other people also get excited about is a truly unique experience. The external motivation is the people I get to interact with by being a part of UMD entrepreneurship. This ranges from my fellow students in Startup Shell to the Mokhtarzada brothers running the Hatchery, as they all come together to drive UMD in the entrepreneurship space. Watching every one of them be passionate about UMD’s startup community makes me want to participate in the great opportunities popping up all over the university.
DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Houlton: I’m assuming anyone reading this is going to be from UMD, so my advice we be to get involved in the UMD startup communities. My background is in tech and a solid portion of what I do at Quandry is coding, but I find that more and more of running a startup is about people. Who are your mentors, who are you learning from, how well do you get along with your cofounders and core team, who are you hiring, etc. We’re not at this point yet but what I’ve heard is that, especially as your company grows, you’ll be spending less and less time on the base level work (coding, cold calls, so forth). It’s important to have a team that you can trust and rely on to be able to delegate to and propel the company forward. To find people, some great communities to get involved in are Startup Shell (would HIGHLY recommend for any students), Dingman Center (great events like Pitch Dingman and the Summer Accelerator), and the Hatchery (applications are every September). At these places you can find some amazing people to learn from, but also, working for a startup is a good way to see if you want to make your own. You’ll get a good idea of what the job looks like for founders, as well as learn a lot about tech, marketing, or whatever you’re working in to help when you start your own company. To summarize, focus a lot of your time on finding great people that have skills that compliment your own, and learn as much as you can about startups through work experience or campus communities. There will probably never be a better time in your life to take a risk on a startup, so if you’re thinking about it, just go for it.
To learn more about Quandry, please visit the website here.