A Dallas-based startup that has launched on the University of Texas at Austin campus is trying to create a social network around its deal-finding app.
UNIBEES, which launched out of the University of Texas at Dallas at the start of the 2016 school year, is a free app that gives students access to a variety of deals at restaurants and other businesses.
But it’s becoming more than that as it expands to other universities across the state. Co-founder Abinav Kalidindi told me UNIBEES wants to build communities at colleges by not only promoting deals and discounts, but providing a platform for students to connect around campus events, which also happen to offer those freebie snacks and meals.
Beyond that, Kalidindi says the startup is launching a gigging platform that will allow students to do small tasks, such as putting up fliers or managing a taste-testing event on campus, in exchange for payment, typically $5-$100, from businesses. The task could be as small as promoting a deal or event on a student’s social media channels.
“We think this can be the next Nextdoor for college communities,” he said. “Like TaskRabbit meets Nextdoor.”
That’s a big step for a startup that launched as a platform to find free food on campus.
“We’re a long way away from where we started now,” he said.
The company’s origin story will sound familiar to any hungry college student.
“We were hungry one day on a bus and saw a friend of ours carrying pizza around,” Kalidindi said. “So we asked him where he got it and he said it was at and event — and it was free. And we said, ‘damn we should have known about that.’”
UNIBEES has raised about $100,000 and grew quickly to have more than 12,000 users. It owes some of that growth to student organizations that hope to bring in more audience and members by offering free food and beverages. The company got its start in Austin by bringing on a network of student ambassadors who set up events with restaurants including Which Which.
It also works with Potbelly, Smoothie King, Jack in the Box and Qdoba.
“Austin has such a diverse student body… with different mindsets — and a lot of startup activity and partying,” Kalidindi said. “Everything is happening in Austin. So we wanted to come and test the waters.”