Like Bees to Honey, Entrepreneurs’ App Attracts Deal Seekers
UT Dallas graduate students Chandra Achanta and Abinav Kalidindi created UNIBEES, an app that helps other students find freebies and giveaways on campus. Their free app is also available to students at UT Arlington, UT Austin and Texas A&M University.
UT Dallas graduate students Abinav Kalidindi and Chandra Achanta remember the day, shortly after they arrived on campus, when they saw students carrying multiple slices of pizza.
“We knew there must be free food at an event that we hadn’t heard about. We did some research on how to get that into people’s hands,” said Achanta, a business analytics master’s student in the Naveen Jindal School of Management.
They made it happen by developing a phone app called UNIBEES to help other students find freebies and giveaways on campus.
What Kalidindi calls “the power of free” has attracted 12,000 users on four campuses to their app.
Students looking for deals at UT Dallas, UT Arlington, UT Austin and Texas A&M University are using UNIBEES to find free food, movies, campus events and discounts at restaurants. The app even provides walking directions to each event.
It’s a one-stop shop for Generation Z users, who are not as likely to check official University media or use traditional social media like Facebook, said Kalidindi, a finance master’s student.
A Sweet, Simple Concept
For the app’s name, the developers said they drew inspiration from honey bees that collect nectar from a variety of sources and bring it back to the hive.
Students can use UNIBEES to find free food, movies, campus events and discounts.
Achanta and Kalidindi started by posting information from the University’s social media, the Comet Calendar and OrgSync, the Student Organization Center's web application. Event organizers can also sign up on the app and post events, concerts and parties. After moderators check the post, it goes live for all users to see.
Anyone with an email account ending with utdallas.edu can download the app and complete a UNIBEES profile. A “remind me” feature will send alerts about events based on a user’s interests.
The app’s “Buzz” feature lets users indicate they are attending an event, which generates more interest among other students. Users can also access the app’s interactive features to ask questions about an event.
“It’s very much an explorational tool, but students get hooked on the social aspect of it, too,” Kalidindi said.
Leveraging University Resources
The duo, who are both from India, said they have taken advantage of entrepreneurship programs at UT Dallas to launch their app.
The Jindal School's Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE) provided seed money and also helped Achanta and Kalidindi tap into a network of conferences, mentoring and competitions.
“Networking was the key part of our journey — meeting the right people,” Kalidindi said.
UNIBEES also received $5,000 by placing second out of 109 other startups at the UT Dallas Big Idea Competition last year.
Blackstone LaunchPad, an entrepreneurship program on campus that supports and mentors students, staff and alumni, provided coaching and venture creation support.
Achanta and Kalidindi also received support from the IIE’s Venture Development Center, an incubator program that provides workspace, resources to help map out strategies, and conference rooms to help grow startup businesses for UT Dallas students, alumni, faculty and staff.
“Having whiteboards, markers and a conference room helped us with our brainstorm sessions. That’s where it all started,” Achanta said. “You also get ideas from others in a co-working environment, and you have space to meet with potential investors.”
'One of Our Best Student Teams'
Assistant director Olia Bosovik BS’12, MS’15, MBA’15 said the Venture Development Center accepts only two student teams a year, and provides rent-free cubicles, meeting rooms and a physical address for students who are starting a business.
“UNIBEES is one of our best student teams. They are doing great,” Bosovik said. “They have really taken advantage of the University’s entrepreneurial support services and programs.”
Besides individual users, student organizations and clubs at UT Dallas also have used UNIBEES to drive traffic to their events, and vendors like Booster Fuels have offered discounts on the app.
“We have a lot of data on how people are using the app, so we can make it even better,” Achanta said. For instance, a chat feature is in the works to open up more interaction among users.
When they graduate in May, Achanta and Kalidindi said they will work full time to expand the app into a national brand for colleges and universities.
“We want to take it as far as we can and give it a full shot,” Kalidindi said.
Achanta added: “We were born entrepreneurs. It’s a really good feeling of satisfaction that you can’t get in a 9-to-5 job.”
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].