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Keep Your Hunger in Check with Unibees

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Where there is free food, there are college students. Knowing this universal truth, three JSOM students created a mobile app that notifies users of free food and giveaways on campus. Thirteen days after launched, the app reached 1,200+ users at UT Dallas and is projected to enter other schools in Texas within the next five years.

Let’s meet the founders of Unibees: Abinav Varma Kalidindi, Sanjay Kurani and Chandra Kiran Achanta.

From the left: Sanjay Kurani, Chandra Kiran Achanta and Abinav Varma Kalidindi

Can you each tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sanjay Kurani: Hi! My name is Sanjay Kurani. I’m from a country called Incredible India. I major in supply chain management, and my expected graduation is in December 2017.

Abinav Varma Kalidindi: I’m Abinav. I’m also from India. My major is finance, and my expected graduation is in December 2017.

Chandra Kiran Achanta: I’m Chandra Kiran from India. My major is business analytics - December 2017.

What inspired you to create Unibees?

Sanjay: When we first came to the U.S. as international students, we were overwhelmed and unaware of so many things! It was hard for us to keep track of events on campus. We couldn’t eat out too often either because of our financial burden and the fact that we didn’t have cars.

One day while we were sitting on the bus, hungry as usual, a guy came up to us and asked: ‘Hey did you go to that free pizza event?’ I was like, ‘Where? When? How could I not hear about it?’ I was so hungry that it felt like the biggest regret of my life. In that moment, an idea crossed our minds: Why not create a platform that notifies students of free food on campus?

Abinav: More than just free food, we wanted to make it a social network. Whatever was happening on campus — movies, game nights, art shows, everything — we wanted students to have it at their fingertips!

Chandra: It would be a way for us to give back to the University and to our students.

Awesome! So what’s the story behind the name Unibees?

Chandra: Uni — because we’re university-centric. And bees — What do bees do? Collect nectar from flowers. So Unibees’ goal is to collect information for the University’s community. That’s how we came up with our name.

Sanjay: And our mission statement — Unibees is a sweet offering for the university community.

Can you explain how the app works?

Sanjay: One important feature of Unibees is ad hoc notification. Say I was walking on campus and I saw a Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream truck, I would let my tech team know to push out ad hoc notification to the users.

Chandra: A beautiful thing about the app is that it notifies you. You don’t have to go look for it. Within five - six minutes, a hundred people would come out to the event.

But if too many people hear about these events, they will anticipate long lines and won’t show up.

Abinav: It’s still better than not knowing about the events at all!

Sanjay: And we have proper navigation to help people get to the exact location, especially for those who are not yet familiar with the campus.

What were some of the hardships you went through to create the app?

Sanjay: The No. 1 challenge for us is balancing between our work and our education.

Abinav: Yes. The bus scene happened in January. From then through May we were too busy studying, so in the summer we decided to take off and create the app.

Sanjay: We also had to deal with the time zone difference when coordinating with developers in India.

Wow. So how many hours of sleep do you usually get?

Sanjay: We pull a lot of all-nighters in the library or in the office.

Abinav: Yesterday we stayed up all night to communicate with our team in India. We didn’t anticipate so many people signing up so quickly, so as more and more users sign up, we have to push our original timeline forward.

Who have been some of your biggest cheerleaders?

Sanjay: Students are our biggest cheerleaders. They would thank us for providing them with this platform, which motivated us to work harder and make them happier.

Chandra: Yesterday we got on the bus and saw some people opening Unibees on their phones. We thought that was very rewarding.

Abinav: On top of that, we’ve received a lot of support from the JSOM faculty. Every person we approached has been very excited to help because they could see how passionate we are.

Dr. Monica Powell, senior associate dean, was with us from the very beginning with her insightful inputs. Jeremy Vickers, executive director of the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, guided us throughout the summer so we could refine our idea and take it to a much bigger scale.

Sanjay: The skills we learned in class also became our steppingstones. We got to apply our knowledge into real-world scenarios and use our own startup for academic projects.

Any advice for students who want to launch their own app?

Abinav: Definitely look for the right team. I’m very thankful to be in a team of diverse backgrounds and majors. After team dynamics comes hard work, then comes the idea. Ideas are very cheap right now. Anyone can have an idea, but being able to execute them can be very tough.

Chandra: Continued effort. You have to work every day — maybe two minutes, maybe two hours, maybe the whole day — it doesn’t matter.

Abinav: And lots of coffee!

Any last thoughts?

Sanjay: We recommend that UT Dallas provides a startup lawyer on campus to help entrepreneurs like us.

Abinav: Yes. While building our startup, we ran into a lot of bureaucratic issues as non-citizens. But in the end, we think entrepreneurs should focus on their passion rather than the hurdles ahead. We also hope UT Dallas will open more classes on startup and entrepreneurship in the future.


Are you inspired by their story? Download Unibees now and leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Linh P. Nguyen

Linh is a social media student worker at the Jindal School. She graduated with a BS in Marketing in 2015 and is now earning her MS in Business Analytics. If you too are obsessed with good design and unpopular music, look for her at Read more articles

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