By Sonam Jain
With growing opportunities for advancement in the tech industry, college students everywhere are eager to contribute towards groundbreaking, innovative projects now more than ever. What if there was a large database to provide easy access to the general public to discover these innovations?
As a joint cognitive science and computer science major at UC San Diego, German Flores understood this dilemma and aspired to design a platform where “university students can come together, build their team, and bring their ideas to life.”
Two of the principal ingredients to any great product is time and passion, so Flores reduced his class schedule and dedicated the bulk of his time into developing his application, Collabs.
We caught up with founder Flores to further discuss his journey in fashioning a startup as a young entrepreneur in San Diego’s tech ecosystem.
Year Founded: 2019
Key Players: German Flores Alcala (Founder), Sasri Dedigama (Product Designer), Buka Kakrawala (Software Contributor), Tracy He (UX Designer), Kim Pham (iOS Developer), Alejandro Pimental (iOS Developer), Peter Xu (UX Designer), Guillermo Sanchez (iOS and Web Developer).
Headcount: 6 UCSD students recruited by Flores
Headquarters: The Basement (Mandeville Auditorium, UCSD)
Technology: Collabs is an iOS app that allows college students to find, manage, and create projects.
Flores stated that he and his team are “working together on an algorithm to recommend the right product to the right student,” since there are few centralized locations for students to find research and development opportunities. With this issue in mind, Flores launched Collabs, advertising it as “a decentralized process put into one app.” He hopes to foster a more streamlined way for students to connect with other students, encouraging idea growth and highlighting student innovation.
Inspiration: Flores has always enjoyed working with passionate students, as indicated by his involvement in Coding with Kids, so he directed that passion towards creating something which will hopefully benefit the student community in San Diego.
Challenges: Like many entrepreneurs, Flores has faced some challenges. After working on the app for about a year, the product did not initially meet the team’s expectations. This misstep can be largely attributed to overlooking the original design process. With repeated trial and error, Flores’s friends decided to give up on the product for the time being, leaving him to independently work on the app. In this time, he created initial designs, coded a rough template of the app, and once having created a foundation for the app, created a team by posting his project on every social media platform. By March 2020, Flores and his team soft launched an app for beta testing and ultimately published the final product in April. Currently, they are conducting user research and gathering input on the existing app, striving to continue improvements down the road.
Funding: Because the Collabs app is still in the works, the start-up initially received $1,000 in funding from The Basement at UCSD to support integral purchases. Going forward, Flores aims to gain “user traction and data to prove they can sell the idea” before participating in pitch competitions, partnerships, and additional contracts. The app is currently free in the app store.
Mentors: Flores gives credit to several friends and mentors for influencing his zeal for computer science and coding. Specifically, he mentioned Monal Parmar, Brody Higby, Samarth Aggarwal, Silvia Mah, and Briana Weisinger. He looks up to them as “people who have successfully founded companies or led programs which have positively impacted the lives of those in the STEM industry.”
On the Horizon: In the next couple of years, Flores plans to continue polishing the startup and focusing on the minute details including outreach and design, which will allow for Collabs to expand and thrive in the future. The startup has not participated in marketing, so in regards to user traction, he plans to talk with students about potential project ideas and gather information on student innovation around campus. He also plans to pursue an MBA with a concentration in entrepreneurship and discover new intricacies within the tech/entrepreneurial industry.
San Diego Tech Ecosystem: Flores believes the San Diego tech ecosystem is underrated, in that it’s a growing market with great innovation and incubators. Contrary to one of the biggest tech hubs in the US – the Bay Area – San Diego is “a big fish in a small pond,” so it’s better to be running on the tracks than sitting on the bench.
Editor’s Note: TritonTech is an original series on UC San Diego created by Fresh Brewed Tech that showcases the innovative ideas born in the halls of academia that are making a great impact on our ecosystem and beyond.