Whether it is the current trend in start-up companies or fostering the entrepreneurial spirit on campus, Worcester State University has seen an increasing number of small business successes from alumni.
The latest story comes from Diego Alves ’14, who has created Pet & Tie, a social app that enables pet owners to connect and interact for a variety of opportunities, including setting up play dates for pets, finding pet sitters and dog walkers, and recommendations for veterinarians and pet-friendly places to hang out. The full version of the app, which is currently in beta testing, will be released in mid-November in two of the three biggest pet markets, the United States and Brazil (the United Kingdom is the third).
The app also helps pet owners take care of their pets and alerts people in case of emergencies, such as sending an immediate alert when a pet goes missing. In such cases, the app sends an alert to all users near by, and the message is simultaneously posted to Facebook and Twitter.
“We like to call it Tinder for pets,” said Alves. “But it’s also a way for people to exchange information and help each other out. Users can offer themselves to do pet sitting and pet walking for free and others can do the same for them. In addition our app identifies possible issues and then offers solutions.”
In addition to $150,000 from investors, Microsoft awarded Pet & Tie $120,000 in cloud services through its competitive BizSparkPlus Program. The venture will get free technical support and licenses from Microsoft to help rapidly expand the business. After the official launch of the app, Alves plans to open a round C of investment to raise $2 million.
Future opportunities for Pet & Tie include partnering with shelters to get more animals adopted. But the immediate goal is to get people to use the app and grow the user base. Alves is reaching out to social media and brand ambassadors—especially high-profile celebrities who are known to love their pets—to help them spread the word.
Alves is only the most recent example of a growing number of entrepreneurial alumni, which includes The Queen Cups bakery owner and founder Renee King ’12, Women in Action CEO Chantel Bethea ’16, and video game developer Tony Breen ’15.
Worcester State has made further efforts to foster aspiring entrepreneurs by forming partnerships with institutions such as the Idea Lab in downtown Worcester, which houses space for young companies to set up and thrive in a co-op environment.
The Business Administration and Economics Department also has taken measures to support its students by helping them to establish a thriving Enactus chapter on campus.
Recently, the WSU Enactus team placed in the top 20 (out of 535) at the Enactus 2016 National Exposition in St. Louis, Mo., after winning the regional competition in Washington, D.C. this past spring. The WSU Enactus team is a partner with the Hector Reyes House, a substance abuse recovery facility for Latino men in Worcester, and engages in entrepreneurial activities to help the House and its affiliated business venture, Café Reyes, thrive.
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