Student Start-Up Aims for Silicon Valley
August 31, 2017
Some students head to the café in between classes, but one group University of New Haven students are meeting with venture capitalists and investors instead.
In nine months, Nathan Pitruzzello, a University senior, has reached a level of investments and prospects from investors that most start-ups don’t see for two or three years.
Pitruzzello, chief executive officer of SoluTech, was sitting in class one day trying to share files between devices. He found that services such as Dropbox, iCloud, AirDrop, or plain email were restrictive in the size and type of files that could be shared. Slide Drive, the first project from SoluTech, solved that problem by allowing large files to transfer between devices, while protecting the data with security features not found in other programs.
Pitruzzello’s said he knew right away that he had a successful product.
“If we could implement this software with the privacy options that people want, but that the internet isn’t giving them, we could take over this market,” he said.
He said that SoluTech’s goal was to be fully funded in three weeks, and they achieved that goal in 10 days this summer. Their next goal is to be fully funded by January 2018.
They recently received a preliminary investment, and while they signed an agreement not to disclose the amount, Pitruzzello said the investment sets them up for financial stability. The company is the first full-funded app out of New Haven via a crowdfunding method (Kickstarter). The staff of SoluTech is based in New Haven, and about 90 percent of staffers are University students.
Pitruzzello says that contrary to what some may think, investors actually prefer college students to more experienced businesspeople because of their eagerness to work and their relative lack of commitments.
“They prefer to mentor young students,” he said, “because risk is lower, there are less obligations, and it’s easier to work on the business.”
Although no chief financial officer has been named, the executives share the duties and purposefully do everything in-house. According to Pitruzzello, the company doesn’t outsource their operations, which allows them to save money.
The team behind the start-up does a lot of reading, and Mia Sumra, chief operating officer carries around her “How to be a CFO” book with her. Before managing his start-up, Pitruzzello started developing his skills by organizing online gaming communities and leading them on certain tasks, which he said was eye-opening experience.
SlideDrive is currently the first round of testing and will soon be available to the public. The team says that it will rival other competitors, while they are looking at services such as AirDrop and Dropbox to see what they can do better. SlideDrive will also be inter-device capable, like AirDrop, but will not be restricted to Apple or Android devices.
“Everything works at just the slide of a finger,” said Joey Nicklas, a junior at the University and the chief creative officer for the company.
The functions of the code that goes into it and the sliding gesture referred to in its namesake are currently patent pending.
The next step, according to the three executives, is to perfect their product. They recently met with the city of New Haven economic development team to discuss grant options. They plan to begin in the New Haven area, but are open to offers from Silicon Valley investors.
Pitruzzello is optimistic and passionate about his product and company. He says that one of their goals is to provide “privacy in a public world.”
With decreasing options for large-file converting and movement and increasing risks to cyber security and reliance on personal technology, Pitruzello thinks that Slide Drive is the perfect solution.
“With SlideDrive, you can make your phone your flash drive,” he said, “and you never forget your phone.”