At a recent Venture Café Thursday Gathering, the Campus Philly team met a 2019 Drexel University graduate named Adit Gupta. Adit graduated from the College of Computing and Informatics, and while chatting about how awesome it is to go to college in Philly, he casually mentioned that the technology startup he founded while in college, VyB Technologies, LLC., just released an app called VyB, and that he and his team were invited to present their product at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in 2020, making VyB the only Philly-based company at the exclusive Las Vegas event.
VyB is solving the problems of fake reviews, providing real-time discovery and performance based marketing for businesses. The app allows users to see the “live vibes” before heading to any restaurant, club or similar experience.
Our short conversation showed us that Adit had an incredible Philly story to share. After all, it’s not every day that you meet a recent graduate who founded his own company (along with Mason Cohen, Nico Cohen, and Tom Falzani, without whom VyB would not be possible), created an app that’s already used by thousands of people (just two months after launch), is managing a team of 12 people as CEO, and is getting his Ph.D. in Computer Science at Drexel.
We chatted with Adit about how he built VyB, the lessons he’s learned in the Philly startup community, and what motivates him to strive for success every day.
Tell us about yourself! Where did you go to college and what are you up to now?
I’m originally from New Jersey, and went to undergrad at Drexel University. I started out by studying Business & Engineering in the LeBow College of Business however, after attending my first “Hackathon” at Penn, I realized that the tools I needed to build things that could change the world were not going to be obtained as a business major. So, my first week of school, I switched my major to Software Engineering in the College of Computing and Informatics, and I have never been more grateful about that decision. Having never written a single line of code, then jumping into multiple CS classes, was a big shock – but luckily I survived and graduated. Post graduation, I am now back at Drexel getting my Ph.D. in Computer Science.
Weeks before graduating, I had received a very enticing offer from my dream tech company, and I had to decide whether to stay in Philly with my team and pursue my startup and higher education – or travel to a different state and enter the workforce. It was THE hardest decision of my life, but I know I made the right one staying in Philly and continuing to work on VyB.
Who uses VyB, and what do they use the app for?
VyB is a Yelp-like experience, but social, and in real time. Users have access to information about different experiences without having to physically be there and without having to contact someone they know who is there. With VyB, we wanted to create an app where users can get a glimpse of a local business or experience before going there, knowing in advance whether it is worth visiting.
We all share our experiences on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and other social outlets, but the businesses themselves do not benefit from that data, marketing, or feedback. While users use the VyB app, businesses benefit.
Can you walk us through the creation of VyB, from idea to company to app to expansion?
My team and I all went to the drawing board and created our versions of what we envisioned the app to look like. We then took the best parts of each person’s drawings to create a first design, then flushed it out a little more, and started doing user surveys and usability testing.
Around September 2018, we decided to go ahead and build it!
It was really fortunate that I could work on designing the app as my senior design project at Drexel, which meant a team of seniors would work on building it along with the VyB team.
We didn’t have the budget to outsource the app development, so I learned the coding framework React Native and built a majority of the app during my senior year winter break. I spent 6-10 hours each day coding, and a month later we had the very first version of VyB! It might have been a semi functional app, but it looked horrible (compared to Instagram/Facebook), so our Chief Creative Officer, Tom Falzani took over and gave the app a ton of creative direction. He’s single handedly the best graphic designer I have ever had the experience of working with.
We started actually coding in December 2018, and in September 2019, we launched our iOS and Android app into the market.
This winter, we have a similar plan, where we are all going to work 10 hours a day and build our business application, which restaurants will pay a $100/month subscription to use.
How has founding your business in Philadelphia impacted the growth of VyB?
A year into creating VyB, I’ve learned that the entrepreneurial community in Philly is incredibly small, and I often run into the same faces at different Philadelphia events. There are the VCs that have shaped the way Philly’s community works, the folks that are organizing angel groups, and the students that are passionate about entrepreneurship at such a young age.
We were lucky to be accepted to PACT’s Mentor Connect Program – where we are actually the only accepted college student-run company in their history. Our success thus far has been contributed to a mixture of perseverance, luck, and the helpful people of Philly that want to see us be the next big thing to come out of this region.
You have a team of employees/interns. How do you inspire and motivate your team to grow?
Ever since the inception of VyB, our team has been gung-ho about the idea of treating VyB as an educational experience We joke that it’s a “free MBA”! Some of the most prestigious companies in the world like Google, Microsoft, and McKinsey and Company have strategies to have the most positive effect on their employees. We started with 3 co-founders, then our first key addition to the team, Tom. We then were quickly able to recruit almost 10 of the most amazing people I have met. Our team has 11 members now and we treat the team like family.
What inspires all the team members to grow is that we know there is no limit. I was able to find my dream job at VyB, and I want each member to find their dream job at VyB, as well. This inspired Mason, Nico and I to create the “Future Leader” program. This was a 10-week, highly competitive program where we dive deep and get people involved with all facets of our business. After the program ended, each member of the Future Leader program was eager to stay and define their dream job at VyB. Our culture and team is the strongest value proposition VyB. All of the VyB TryB can be found here: https://www.myvyb.io/team
What’s your favorite thing about living and working in Philly?
Location, location, location! Philly has everything! It’s close to NYC and DC. It’s just a short few hours away by plane from Silicon Valley, and most importantly it’s a fraction of the cost of those other states. Working in Philly, I get the NYC vibe, but it’s not as draining as NYC.
What motivates you to get out of bed each morning?
Personally, what motivates me are the stories of my idols like Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and others that have shown that you CAN change the world, as soon as you THINK you can.
Because of early innovators that discovered things like electricity and travel, we are able to live the lavish lives that we live today. I’d love to be the person behind a piece of innovation that benefits humans at scale.
As such, I think VyB is an important step in my journey to change the world. VyB helps people save precious time and money, while helping businesses improve and make more money.
Additionally, my co-founders keep me grounded and help make me realize the little things to enjoy while changing the world. I know that no matter what, I can rely on my team. It’s such a comforting feeling that I am blessed to have!
You’ve spoken about your failed startups prior to VyB. What lessons did you learn from these experiences?
I’ve learned many lessons from my past experiences:
- Filling holes: Identify holes, and fill them with your ideas and strategy. Your startup is essentially a fix to a hole that exists in the world.
- Communication: Be honest, straightforward, and if possible have radical candor. Don’t BS, don’t lie, and don’t waste people’s time.
- Stand up for yourself and what’s right: Know your worth, and be aware of situations where there is wrongdoing. There are sometimes conflicts in startups between founders/customers, etc. and this rule really helps me to avoid that.
- Preparation is key: In the past, I’ve definitely gone to meetings without having prepared, and embarrassed myself. Do your research! Learn about the people you’re meeting with and create a strategy for success.
Do you have any advice for students looking to start their own business?
My biggest piece of advice is to JUST START! I’ve seen so many of my friends and fellow entrepreneurs take months to strategize, prepare, and get advice, but spend no time actually executing.
If you are starting your business, make sure you are passionate about the problem you’re solving. Choose co-founders, if you wish to have them, carefully, and make sure you choose people not only with whom you get along, but also who bring something new to the table. You need gritty people that have the fire and want to change the world. VyB’s head of design, Tom Falani, often says, “you go faster alone, but you go further as a team.”
My last piece of advice is to be organized. My co-founder, Mason, is the MOST organized person I’ve ever met. Since day one, we’ve been very thoughtful about naming conventions, file structures, etc. If you do not organize, your life will be chaos later on.
How can others get involved in VyB?
We’d love for you to download the app on IOS or Android! Just search “VyB” in the App Store or on Google Play. If you have ideas about holes in our business that you think we can fix with your ideas or strategies – send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and our team would love to be in touch!