This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the 11 student startups who are participating in our first in-person Terp Startup summer accelerator since 2020. Participating student entrepreneurs will receive a stipend up to $5,000 that will enable them to work exclusively on their startups over the next eight weeks.
Founders: Robert Castro ’24, CEO and co-founder, finance major. Samai Patel ’25, CSO and co-founder, computer science major. Zach Lefkovitz ’24, CTO and co-founder, computer science major. Corbin Voorhees ’25, graphic designer, aerospace engineering major. Matt Gashaw ’25, marketing lead, computer science major.
DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?
Castro: We’re a social media platform that connects users in real life through events tailored to their interests. Our app is the best way to find exciting events while meeting awesome people along the way.
DC: At what point did you know you wanted to create your own startup?
Castro: It was definitely after my freshman year of college when I had just finished my first internship at a local investment bank. Although I enjoyed the experience, I did some introspection and realized I had more passion for my work when I create my own things, especially those that help and inspire others. I’ve always enjoyed working on engineering projects, making art, and building things that had value, and I finally understood that building my own business, particularly one that solved a common problem, would give me great fulfillment. So, I reached out to some friends around campus with a similar vision and we started brainstorming to see if we could make it a reality.
DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup?
Castro: I would say my biggest influence was definitely my family. Both of my parents came from very humble backgrounds in a place where opportunities to make a living were very scarce. I’m very grateful for their dedication to their career as it allowed me to have the resources I have now, especially those here at the University of Maryland, and I feel it’s my obligation to take advantage of these opportunities and work on things I’m truly passionate about when my relatives never got that chance.
DC: How did you come up with the name of your venture?
Castro: We’ve had three names so far, but the first two didn’t last very long. We decided our new name needed to convey the essence of our users moving from place to place and being in communities of like minded people. Our team got to work and made a list of words and phrases that evoke these ideas, and one of the most popular words was “wave” as we liked the colors and imagery that could be used for our brand. We came up with many variations using “wave” but we ultimately chose “WaveLi” as it was short, sweet, and catchy.
DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months?
Castro: We’ve hit many major milestones on our journey towards launch. The first of which is the fact that our company was recently incorporated in the state of Delaware which gave us access to a company bank account and the Apple Developer program. In addition, we’ve also grown our waitlist and Instagram account substantially. This will give us a solid community of initial users for when our app launches in the fall. Furthermore, in the spring of 2022, we won the audience choice award during the Pitch Dingman Competition which gave us invaluable feedback for our startup and prize funds for our budget. Finally, we’ve just finished developing our first alpha test which will go live in a few days, so we’re making good progress towards our release on the App Store.
DC: When it comes to your startup, how do you define success?
Castro: We would consider ourselves successful when we have a growing platform full of users who have found exciting events and met great friends they may have never met otherwise. Once we’re at a point where we can confidently say we’ve helped our users consistently find events they’re looking for in a straightforward manner while integrating them in a new community, we will know WaveLi is succeeding.
DC: What were you hoping to achieve during the Terp Startup Accelerator this summer?
Castro: Our main goals were to build our network and gain knowledge for our company to grow to its potential. We were very excited to work with the professionals and coaches so we can learn from their experience and avoid common mistakes that startups tend to make. WaveLi will incorporate this knowledge into our growth plan and leverage the network at the Dingman Center to connect other professionals to our platform.
DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Castro: I would make sure they understand that being an entrepreneur is a very bumpy road, it is not a straight line upwards at all. You’ll have wins and losses. You’ll feel triumphant and defeated. What matters is not the things that happen, but how you react and adapt to them. The two most important qualities an entrepreneur can have in my opinion are resilience and persistence. It’s a long journey, so don’t focus on the end goal. Focus on the small things, and don’t beat yourself if you make mistakes, because they will happen. You’ll learn so much in this process that even if things don’t work out exactly the way you wanted them to, you’ll be a stronger and more capable person by the end of it.
To learn more about WaveLi, please visit the website here.