Driven by sheer passion and a desire to gain experience in entrepreneurship, Tali Şalhon (MSB ’17) and his long-time friends Eytan Nahmiyas and Sinan Koc from his hometown in Istanbul, Turkey, have launched their innovative app: Radius. After putting in the necessary dedicated hard work, this group has released Radius, which provides everyone with a simple tool to connect with friends who are within their 150 meter/500 foot — guess what — radius.
What is Radius all about?
Radius, as a business, is all about connecting people who are actually close to each other and who don’t want to miss out on connecting. I work with my cousin Eytan who goes to GW and one of my best friends Sinan who studies at Wharton, so we said to ourselves: we are all smart people, we shouldn’t be only focusing on our studies, we should be doing something else. After brainstorms and failures we came up with this idea and we pursued it, and this is the point where it came right now. To us as the partners it’s actually doing something for our lives and getting experience, doing it for the sheer passion because we are not working with huge amounts of money right now, we are all young, nothing to lose, we want to get experience and just enjoy the process.
What is it that sets Radius apart from other tracking or location based apps?
Radius is different from many other apps in that it is very simple and very privacy concerned. We do not tell where [your] friends are, if you look at it, you’ll see that Radius won’t tell you where your friends are exactly, it will only tell you that you have friends somewhere in your 150 meter/500 foot radius. The idea is that you know if you have a close friend, who you added specifically into the app, in your radius, which could be the entire library or the entire cafeteria. But the app’s main purpose is that you get a simple friendly notification saying that you have a friend nearby — in your radius — in case you want to connect with them.
How did you come up with the idea/concept for Radius?
I was at Union Station waiting for a train and got delayed for three hours, and waited there for three hours and a week later I found out that another friend of mine was at Union Station and also got his train delayed for three hours. I was upset because I had spent three hours alone and there was no way for me to figure out he was at Union Station also. So that’s how we came up with the idea, and then when we started asking people if they have similar problems we started learning that people want to know which of their friends are around the same social scene such as parties, when they are walking down M street, or at the gym with them.
How did you come about materializing your idea?
Many people do have a lot of ideas, we were one of them, and the hard thing in college is to take that one step and actually materialize it. So what we did is, we asked our parents to give us our bar mitzvah money and the money we had collected somehow, and we said “we are gonna do this.” We went on to Elance, hired freelancers from India, and we skyped with them maybe two months — I switched to Indian time zone for a while because of this — and it was a really interesting process because we learned how to communicate with people from a different culture, how to do business online, and sound professional. In three months we actually had an app ready on which [we had] spent a lot of money from our savings and developed through the Indian coders. However, it was a real failure because they weren’t professional enough to give us an app that would be able to compete with other apps out there. We failed miserably; they stopped contacting us after we paid them. That was a very good experience that led us to today. We used what the Indian coders gave as a prototype to pitch and pitch and pitch and raised enough money to work with a professional company to create this version, which actually works! So download it.
What were your biggest challenges in starting Radius?
The biggest challenge was going from the idea phase to the materialism phase. You can’t go out there and create something just because you think it’s going to be good, and just taking that one step was very tough. The second very tough challenge was sounding more professional than a college student working from his dorm when you are talking to venture capitalists and angel investors, because they are very experienced people who don’t want to give their money to inexperienced people. It was very tough to keep our pose and sound very experienced and trustworthy. But we did it, we killed it.
What valuable lessons did you learn in the process of launching the app?
Always appreciate your friends, because they’ve been an enormous support. If people around you who you care about support you the process becomes so much easier. Make sure you are around valuable people who you love. Another valuable lesson is: do whatever you do for passion and for the joy and the fun of the process, and to gather experience. I’ve seen a lot of people just motivated by the idea of: I’m going to sell this; I’m going to make money, money, money, money. But instead we are three students, best friends, working on this, so the entire process was so fun and we did it for the passion we had to create something and prove to ourselves that we can do something.
What was the most thrilling part of the process/your favorite anecdote?
A very funny anecdote was that my partner forgot his phone in a cab and then the cab went away, so we were trying to call him and find where the phone was and then a friend of us who was having lunch in Dupont called me up and said “Eytan is in my radius,” so we were like wait where are you that means the cab is around you somewhere. And then we actually found the cab that way; it was unique, it was a very funny story.
What advice would you give to other students who are partaking in projects similar to yours?
Always go talk to people who have been through his process and never try to duplicate what they did. It’s always nice to listen and try to figure out what everyone else did, but never think that you learned from listening because you only learn when you actually do it. Also, make sure you are working with the right people, make sure you are working on the right thing and then actually work on it. And always seek advice, advice is good, and have a smile on your face.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
One more thing would be … listen to your parents, they know.
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