The ShermCast

Becoming an Entrepreneur in the Food Industry

February 02, 2024 Sherman Center Season 10 Episode 1
Becoming an Entrepreneur in the Food Industry
The ShermCast
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The ShermCast
Becoming an Entrepreneur in the Food Industry
Feb 02, 2024 Season 10 Episode 1
Sherman Center

Welcome to season 10 of the ShermCast! We will be celebrating 10 years of the Sherman Center this semester, so stay tuned for exciting updates to come! On the first episode of season 10, returning co-host Liam MacMahon and new co-host Andrew Han delve into entrepreneurship in the food industry. They interview Northeastern student entrepreneurs Sebastian Sanchez, David Alade, and Viraj Jayaraman, who detail their ventures Phytabar and BiBite and discuss what it takes to become a successful student entrepreneur in the food industry. For more information on Phytabar and BiBite, check out the following:
Check out more of the Sherman Center here:
Follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn @nushermancenter
Head to our website for all episodes and transcripts-
Subscribe to our newsletter-

Show Notes Transcript

Welcome to season 10 of the ShermCast! We will be celebrating 10 years of the Sherman Center this semester, so stay tuned for exciting updates to come! On the first episode of season 10, returning co-host Liam MacMahon and new co-host Andrew Han delve into entrepreneurship in the food industry. They interview Northeastern student entrepreneurs Sebastian Sanchez, David Alade, and Viraj Jayaraman, who detail their ventures Phytabar and BiBite and discuss what it takes to become a successful student entrepreneur in the food industry. For more information on Phytabar and BiBite, check out the following:
Check out more of the Sherman Center here:
Follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn @nushermancenter
Head to our website for all episodes and transcripts-
Subscribe to our newsletter-

Season 10 Episode 1


Liam [00:00:14] Welcome back to a brand new season of the ShermCast Podcast. We are now in season ten of the ShermCast, and throughout the semester, we'll be celebrating the ten year anniversary of the Sherman Center. Hello, my name is Liam MacMahon, and I'll be returning after being a co-host on the podcast last semester, but we have a new co-host for this season. 


Andrew [00:00:33] Hey guys, I'm Andrew Han and I'm excited to be your new co-host for the upcoming semester. 


Liam [00:00:39] Today we'll be looking at how two ventures are pursuing entrepreneurship in the food industry. We'll be first interviewing an entrepreneur who is now part of the Sherman Center this semester, and another venture who was a finalist at last semester's prestigious entrepreneurship event known as Demo Day. Now, let's get straight into the first interview. 


Andrew [00:00:59] Hello. Today we have the pleasure of interviewing Sebastian Sanchez, a third year Business Administration student here at Northeastern University. Additionally, he is the co-founder of Phytabar and has recently started with the Venture Co-op here at the Sherman Center. How are you doing today, Sebastian? 


Sebastian [00:01:12] I'm doing great. It's a beautiful day in Boston. 35 degrees, nice and cloudy like usual. 


Liam [00:01:18] I mean, that's just what you can expect for typical Boston weather. But just to start with, can you just tell us a little bit about yourself before we go into Phytabar? 


Sebastian [00:01:26] Yeah. Of course. So I grew up in South Florida. I'm one of four boys and I'm a triplet especially. So growing up in that scene was chaotic and fun. And when I applied to Northeastern, I really want to get into the whole entrepreneurial scene. And I gone into the whole HSC Demo Day at Northeastern, and then slowly found my way into Phytabar. And now, two years later, we're going to launch this semester. So we are very excited to get things flowing. 


Liam [00:01:49] Can you just go tell the audience a little bit about what Phytabar is? 


Sebastian [00:01:52] Yeah, of course a Phytabar is a seaweed chocolate nutrition bar that has omega threes from the seaweed. We get our seaweed from Japan and make it into a perfect, delicious bar. That's a good late night snack. And also good for you. 


Andrew [00:02:06] Actually, I've heard that recently in Japan they were like releasing, I guess, nuclear waste into the ocean waters. Do you have any idea how that might affect your, like the seaweed and how that might be used in your product? 


Sebastian [00:02:17] Yeah. Of course. So our seaweed based in a seaweed farm in Japan, which means they want to make sure all of the water around is regulated and protected, since that's a big part of the income for the Japanese section there. So we got seaweed from Japanese farms, and it's meant to prevent and help all the seafood life, the biodiversity, etc. and it comes to us dried and flaked up, which means all the toxins that could be in there in the first place will be dried and washed away. 


Liam [00:02:45] Good to hear that you're thinking about these things in advance, about what potentially could go right and wrong, and then just part of the product development stage. But again, we are the Sherman Center podcast here. And you were accepted to the Sherman Center Co-op this semester. So why did you choose the venture Co-op as part of your co-op this semester? 


Sebastian [00:03:02] Yeah, of course. So, the reason why I wanted to get into Northeastern was the co-op program, obviously, like most people, and my first co-op was at MFS, it was in the finance area. I did inbound sales there and working a nine to five was interesting. Learned a lot in it, but wasn't really true to my heart. I've always been part of many different startup projects since high school, and I saw this as a great opportunity for me to really expand and look into something new, as during the pandemic, for me, was a space where I had total freedom and time to focus on my passions, and this is another opportunity for me to focus on this passion in particular Phytabar so it's a great opportunity. I'm really happy that I'm doing this, really, moment in my life that I've been preparing for for a while. 


Andrew [00:03:45] Yeah. Sounds great. So what do you plan on working on and accomplishing this semester while you're working on your venture here at the Sherman Center? 


Sebastian [00:03:53] Yeah. So as the two years have been going by, we're now ready to launch. So this whole semester has been oriented for our initial launch for Phytabar. And I'd say we're supposed to launch in late March. And right now it's all about building the hype for the brand, getting attention viewers, and also working on our Kickstarter project as we're planning to launch a whole Kickstarter to raise funds for the next round of bars ahead of time. So we have a Kickstarter, we have our official launch, and then we want to see if we can actually raise some more money down the line to really blow up this company and scale. So we're very excited to see what we can do this semester. 


Liam [00:04:29] So again, you're at the end of the process you're about to launch, but let's go back in time a little bit to when you first had the idea for Phytabar. So how did you go through the process of figuring out this is something that customers truly want? This is a need in the market and that Phytabar can fulfill this need. 


Sebastian [00:04:45] Yeah. Of course. So going back to the beginnings, my co-founder is James Sibley. He started off doing a co-op at Whole Foods where he'll go and cut fish open. He was a fish monger. And he'll film videos of him explaining the fish and seafood science around it. And slowly he got a lot of traction on TikTok. He gained lots of following millions of views on there. And he realized, there is a lot of seaweed being used, but no one's actually consuming it, not even in an American market. So he realized, let me just try and mix this with something that all Americans know and love, which is chocolate, right? So he began making this formulation in his kitchen. And the next semester after his co-op met me in class, we're in this class, everyone went to give a quick pitch about your idea that you have, and the top three ideas will be chosen for projects. Now, James gave his quick little pitch about the seaweed chocolate bar that has omega threes and I was instantly hooked. I was so hooked. I wrote a whole three page essay to the professor saying, hey, can I please be in this group project for this semester? I would love to be in this and see how it goes. And evidently I joined the team and from there we drill. Now, I was very curious to see like, okay, it's a great idea, but does the bar actually tastes good. And when James made that first batch from his kitchen and tried many prototypes from the kitchen prototypes. I tried in class and I was instantly hooked. I'm like, okay, I want to be part of this. It tastes good and it's good for you and see what goes from there. So I'd say at the end of the semester, I really prove myself to be on the team. I hopped on for the whole summer. We found a manufacturer in California, and after many doing different prototype rounds with them for mass production. Now there's one point where you can make in your kitchen, right? If you want to mass produce something, you have to have a whole manufacturer behind you and for them to actually get their recipe down as well. So they did three rounds of prototyping. That costed like $5,000 alone. I know that things get blown up in this whole industry. And at the last round, we finally agreed, okay, this is our bar. And then we did Husky start up challenge the following semester in my fall of my second year. And we just did it because we want to see it's actually a good idea that people will believe in and follow. And we did. We pitched it and we end up winning first place for audience favorite and judges favorite for $5,000. So that was a whole, you know, moment for us. Okay, people believe in us and let's keep it going. 


Liam [00:07:09] I think that is just such a crazy story, because it seems like you didn't even really know about this situation until you met James, and then you just saw his idea and like, wow, this just is a great idea, has lots of impact potential. And you did whatever it took to make sure that you were part of that. I think that's just an important lesson. Just go out for things like, you know, you see something, go after it, and then just make yourself a very valuable, important piece to them, too. And then you could just help each other in both ways. So you just mentioned the Husky Startup challenge. So can you tell the audience how the Husky Startup Challenge was able to help Phytabar and just what the process was like? 


Sebastian [00:07:44] Yeah, for sure. So I gave you some background about Husky Startup Challenge. It's a whole pitching event for Northeastern, where every semester the top 10 or 12 ventures will go and pitch in front of 500 people. And there is judges that rate the best ventures based on how well they can perform, if they have good market fit and able to launch. Now, with my personal journey in HSC, I tried it my freshman year with my own different idea, and I did not make it to the finals because it was very hard to make it through auditions and have an idea that's worth pitching and selling in front of, you know, 500 people. So with Phytabar, for example, when we did the whole pitching, we went through auditions, people were actually interested. People want to invest before I even wanted to even, like pitch us in the finals, which is very interesting. And after we won the whole thing and the judges reached out to us personally afterwards, many of the clubs reached out to us to help us get this whole thing going, as we're still we're a very early MVP prototype. We had Scout, the student design club helped make our bar wrapper, and our website. They were phenomenal. They did an amazing job with our brand logo as well. We had a weekly meeting with them every week of the semester leading up to it, and then IDEA, a student venture accelerator helped us immensely with our whole business market strategy, financial breakdown and also leading up to our launch where they helped us all along the way for funding as well, which was very important in this business. 


Andrew [00:09:07] So earlier you talked a little bit about how it took like $5,000 to get, like just a prototype of the bar going, can you go more into how the entrepreneurship process has been for you in the food  industry and how that may be different from other industries? 


Sebastian [00:09:22] Yeah, for sure. So it's all about who you partner with. It can be your manufacturer or if you want to place your own products yourself. When it comes down to a manufacturer, be very careful on who you choose and their quality and how much they demand from you. For example, our manufacturers based in California, in order to find a manufacturer in the first place, they're all minimum orders are 100,000 bars. Now, we cannot afford that as two college students, so they're kind enough to have a minimum order of 10,000 bars, which works out for us very well. So going through the whole process of, you know, meeting the team, going through all the different prototype rounds, endless meetings, there's so many upfront costs that you don't even know about til you actually hit it. For example, just to claim nine grams of protein on our bar in the wrapper that costed $2,000. They need omega three tests to prove that we actually have omega threes. That costed another thousand dollars. And then for the extra wrappers and boxes, aside from manufacturing the box, that costed an extra $5,000 on the side of that. So when you come into this whole industry, especially CPG, good space, there's so many upfront costs that are hiding that appear last second and have to be able to upfront them when they come up, because time is really the essence here. 


Liam [00:10:37] So would you say that trying to become an entrepreneur in the food industry is more complicated and complex than potentially other industries? Because you have to deal with the FDA, you have to deal with just trying to back some of your nutritional claims that may be necessarily that other entrepreneurial categories may not have to deal with. 


Sebastian [00:10:53] Yeah, for sure. I think specifically with the claims you have and what you can claim for your food product or what you can promote is very, very regulated, especially for omega threes, as FDA does recognize some properties of it that can help you. But of course, for example, like for cognition support, FDA does not recognize that. But many studies do recognize that. So to be very careful on what you can say, not say for your bar wrapper and your official outlets. Now, when it comes down to Instagram Reels or other content, you can definitely promote the studies and explain how, yeah, it does promote in certain ways and they can help you. So when it comes down to different industries with entrepreneurship, I'd say each industry has different niches and problems that they have. And it's really important to talk to people that have been in the space, that have seen it all, that have been through it because they have so many different nuggets that can help you out. 


Liam [00:11:45] So you briefly mentioned Instagram Reels and overall the social media strategy that Phytabar is currently working on this semester. So why is a social media strategy so important for your brand? And how do you think that you're going to contribute to the sales and overall brand awareness of Phytabar through your social media strategy? 


Sebastian [00:12:02] Yeah, of course. So like I said before, my co-founder James Sibley, he began filming many videos on his TikTok platform from cutting fish open, right. And from there he gained many followers. Today, he has around 400,000 followers around seafood, science and education, so companies will pay him to go and fly over, film the content and report it. Now that's definitely a big attribute for our social media launch plan, as we'll have James promote our bars from there, but also on our own. And for Phytabar, we do need to make sure we have the content that resonates with our target audience as we do want to promote wellness, oceanic products, sustainability, and for the betterment of people. 


Liam [00:12:43] So another additional point is you mentioned sustainability. So how important is environmental sustainability and just trying to focus on keeping the environment, because there's a lot of entrepreneurial ventures these days are trying to focus on environmental sustainability. So why did you decide that you want to have this is one of your key attributes to focus on as part of Phytabar? 


Sebastian [00:13:03] Yeah. So I personally come from a background growing up near the ocean, I grew up near the water. I surfed many different areas around the world Hawaii, Costa Rica, etc. and to me the oceans very dear to me. When it comes down to our product that we do want to promote and sell, I want to make sure it does help and support the ecosystem around it. Now, when it comes down to seaweed farms, like I said before, it prevents or helps, supports a lot of different biodiversity, helps reefs grow, helps lower CO2 emissions. So I feel like we are a product, but in the end of the day it does go back to the origins and does support as we are also vegan as many sources of omega threes come from, you know, people take fish oil pills, salmon, cod, etc. but like the whole thing all goes down to the original source which is algae and seaweed, which is very interesting. 


Liam [00:13:52] I can confirm, as someone who does take fish oil and has been spending way too much money on salmon at Star Market it feels like


Sebastian [00:13:58] it's actually. Yeah. 


Andrew [00:14:01] Yeah. Could you also tell us about some setbacks you had during your adventures in entrepreneurship, whether it be Phytabar or other ventures? 


Sebastian [00:14:10] Yeah. For sure. Throughout this whole process, reason why I've taken two years for this to launch because of different costs, setbacks, setbacks from communication with our manufacturer. Not knowing if you have enough funds to get this whole thing going. It's definitely interesting to see how timelines go through, because we all thought were going to launch like last year, but we originally had a plan of, okay, we're given a quote of $5,000 to go and launch with that, knowing they said, oh, actually, it's going to be 10,000. So we're like, shoot, we have to raise $10,000 more to launch. And thankfully, thankfully, we had IDEA to back this up for you can go and pitch for the go stage and receive another $10,000 grant of no equity, which really saved us to get going for our launch. Also with design changes, we're currently working with compliance with our manufacturer right now. That will last it can change in two weeks. And we originally had a plan of, okay, we can say this in a bar or say that. But then as things progress, you know, you do need to adapt and change things quickly. So at the end of the day you do have a product, an idea of what it's going to be but can't always be promise of what's going to be the outcome of it. That makes sense. 


Andrew [00:15:22] Like trying to meet those regulations. What do you think was like the biggest change that you had to go from, like the initial design to the final product that you're making right now? 


Sebastian [00:15:31] Yeah, I would say it's definitely, our claims, as we cannot claim that our Wakame seaweed from Japan has omega threes. Now, many studies show that it does have it. But since the FDA and there's not really exactly many, official health sites that do say that we cannot claim it as a potential losses could come in. You know, it's really important what you can say not say, but again, as we had omega three testing on our bar, it does show we have substantial amount of omega threes from the seaweed and other elements of it as well. 


Liam [00:16:03] So you just went into the setbacks and it's good to hear that Phytabar happened to overcome those setbacks in order to be able to launch soon. But for all the student entrepreneurs out there, can you give them some tips and advice for becoming an entrepreneur, whether it be in the food industry or just being an entrepreneur in general? 


Sebastian [00:16:19] Yeah, of course. You know, this is not my first venture. I've tried many different things before. I'm also a part time real estate agent. And so I deal with lots of different chaos throughout the day. And I say entrepreneurship, to sum it up, does go into constant adjustment. You have to constantly adjust with what happened around you, and you have to constantly react in a positive way of what happens, as things won't always come your way or be the way you want to be, have to constantly be aware of okay, let me change this for the better. Now it comes to starting a business, going from, you know, 0 to 1. It's always about your persistence as if I wasn't persistent in this business, if I didn't, you know, want to continue this, I could have stopped a long time ago. We could of gave up on this idea and just gave up on that. But since we decided to, you know, have a long term goal and long term vision with this whole thing, it does keep you aligned with your goal, with your partner as well as a partnership with a co-founder is basically like a marriage. You know, there's times where one can't really focus or perform at a certain time where the other one has to step in and take care of the roles. So it's very important that you and your co-founder are always aligned and communicate effectively with each other. 


Andrew [00:17:28] Yeah. But going a little deeper into that, what would you say that entrepreneurship means to you. 


Sebastian [00:17:36] To me it means controlled chaos. Because in this world there's many different things that come out and come in. Right? Industries change constantly and I think the people that do are innovators and have new ideas that come out of it, come from all the chaos within it. So it's really to me, it's kind of like you are the captain of the ship through a storm for as many different, you know, places, things are pulling you apart, trying to find ways to pull you distracted or to the side. And and it's really up to you to continue sailing and reach to them. Destination. 


Andrew [00:18:14] Yeah. I think that's a great answer. 


Sebastian [00:18:16] Thank you. Yeah. 


Liam [00:18:18] So you mentioned some of the other things that Phytabar was working on, whether it be its social media strategy or trying to prepare for the launch. But can you just tell the audience just where they can find more about Phytabar and for yourself and your partner as well? 


Sebastian [00:18:33] Yeah, of course. So we have an Instagram account that we mainly posting about updates for our launch and our Kickstarter, and it's Phytabar P H Y T A bar. Pretty simple and actually fun fact phyta means seaweed. So it's a seaweed bar, hidden, and it sounds pretty cool. But, to say on an Instagram account. Also for James's TikTok, if you want to see his content around seafood science, it's, James Sibley, James and then S I B L E Y, and you'll see lots of updates of his social media feed, what he talks about in the whole seafood industry. And it's very interesting once you get into it, people do get lost, does TikToks as usual. 


Liam [00:19:14] So it looks like we're about to wrap up for the podcast here. It was great having you on here today talking about Phytabar and just what exactly you plan to do next with the Sherman Venture Co-op. And just for your business in general. Just good to have you on the podcast here today? 


Sebastian [00:19:30] Yeah. Thank you guys very much. You know, it's a pleasure being on this whole podcast. Great atmosphere, great vibe for sure, and really excited to see what happens in the future. So thank you guys very much. 


Liam [00:19:40] Hello. Up next we have the pleasure of interviewing David Alade and Viraj Jayaraman. David is a third year computer science student and Viraj is a third year computer engineering student. Both of them are student entrepreneurs here at Northeastern University, and recently were finalists at the Northeastern Entrepreneurs Club's Demo Day with their venture BiBite. How are you both doing today? 


Andrew [00:20:00] Pretty good. 


Speaker 4 [00:20:01] Pretty pretty good. 


Speaker 5 [00:20:01] No complaints. 


Liam [00:20:04] So before we get into BiBite, can you tell the audience a little about yourselves? 


David [00:20:09] Yeah. So I'll go first. My name is David. As you said, I'm a third year computer science student here at Northeastern. About me, I, I just finished my first co-op at the Network Science Institute, which is, internet research lab. That was a pretty good experience. I'm actually still working there part time during the semester. Yeah. Right now I'm taking classes, which is kind of an adjustment from being on co-op, but, I'm still making that adjustment even three weeks in total riveting. But, yeah, I mean, I enjoy coding. I enjoy working out. And that's my life these days. 


Viraj [00:20:48] Yeah. I mean, I'm Viraj, I'm a computer engineering student here at Northeastern, born and raised in Mass, so very local guy. My passion is really entrepreneurship and product management development. Like, I love, coming up with ideas on how to make the world better and trying to create a way to make those a reality. And it's awesome that I get to do that with my best friend David. 


Andrew [00:21:11] Right. So we know a little bit more about you guys. Could you tell us more about the BiBite? 


Viraj [00:21:16] Yeah. For sure. So BiBite is a dining concierge, and what we mean by that is it's going to make every part of your dining experience better. So we operate on a three pronged strategy: save, split share. And, so BiBite helps our users save money through our partnerships with local mom and pop restaurants. When you get in the door, you scan your receipt at the end of your meal and we'll live, give you live discounts on the meal that you have in the system currently. We're also going to help you track loyalty rewards at those restaurants to the later access. We've got, we're gonna help you split, so when you go out to dinner with the large group of friends, you're going to be able to split the bill and pay people back with Venmo integration. That was one of the first things we built, really, the the start of this whole thing and then share it. We have an integrated review platform similar to Yelp. With the exception that you'll only see your friends reviews based on the premise that if a friend shows you a restaurant and recommends it, you're much more likely to go to that restaurant than if you see it on Yelp or randomly. So no more bot reviews, just friends. Everything holds value. 


David [00:22:17] Yeah, and I guess just as a precursor to why we're doing this, just the problem. Recently we we found a new, very effective way of explaining this problem. And it's through a drawing of a bucket. Now it works because bucket starts with a B and so does BiBite. So you get that alliteration. You get that BiBite bucket right. So let me explain the BiBite bucket. The BiBite bucket is a bucket that you fill up with how happy you are during the dining experience. So imagine your bucket. And however full the bucket is with let's say water that determines like or that represents how happy you are throughout your dining experience. And what we're trying to do with BiBite is remove the chance of certain actions during the dining experience lowering the amount of water in your bucket. So specifically, as Viraj was saying, with loyalty and any sort of promotions and coupons. When you get onboarded onto a loyalty program or you get offered a coupon, depending on how the restaurant offers it to you, it can be kind of off putting, and it has the chance of ruining the restaurant's brand image in your eyes. So we actually found through a restaurant that a lot of restaurants avoid this unless they have, like our really tight system of doing it. But if they don't, then they just avoid it because they understand that it can have a negative impact on their brand. So what we do with BiBite is completely remove the chance of that happening at the restaurant, but you still get all the benefits of onboarding people onto your loyalty program. And because you know that you're heading to a BiBite restaurant and you know that you're going to be able to save, you know that you're going to be able to split and you're going to get to flex on your friends afters. Then you know, your bucket starts even higher than it would then, you know, some non BiBite restaurant. 


Viraj [00:24:17] We really try to maximize the enjoyment potential of our users at these restaurants. It's kind of the image we sell. 


Liam [00:24:22] So it seems like you've done a lot of insights into the process of what exactly the consumers are looking for, for example, reviews from friends. So how did you go through the consumer insight process and finding exactly what they wanted? 


David [00:24:35] I mean, so it's weird, but at first it was an issue that we had ourselves. Right, so as Viraj said when he was explaining, like what we do, the bill spliting solution came from us being ten minutes into splitting a bill at dinner and we're like, all right, guys, like, there's six of us. It shouldn't be this hard. We need an app for this. So we started making an app just to split bills, and we didn't have any of the promotion or any of the review stuff in mind. I mean, we kind of had reviews, but it was really just a bill splitter fundamentally. So it was our issue, we're at dinner, splitting the bill was not fun. So we decided to start making an app for it. So as we started making the app for it, that's when, you know, we started asking our friends about it for a Husky startup challenge. We started doing interviews and we started trying to get to the core of the issue for bill splitting, specifically by like asking you like, how do you split bills? Who puts their card down? We started asking like sort of nuanced questions like, do you have any particular like, thoughts about the person that always puts their card down? Like, is there something about them that, oh, it makes sense that they put their card, you know, just stuff like that, like smaller stuff, just trying to really understand the bill splitting process as a whole rather than just how like me and my friend split the bill. So for the reviews and the promotion stuff, those were things that we've had issues with in the past. But most of that, most of those insights came from our interviews. 


Viraj [00:26:15] Yeah, I think the big idea for every part of the app came from problems we experienced ourselves, which is like pretty normal in entrepreneurship. But then we really refined and got everything, you know, to precision of what exactly we want, what little features we want to add through conversations with users, which is why we feel like we have such a good understanding of what this problem space is, and how we can make the most of it. 


Liam [00:26:40] So okay, so back to, you mentioned the Husky startup challenge earlier. So how specifically did the Husky Startup challenge help you within your entrepreneurial journey? And just take it from just an idea to a concept that you now plan to launch very soon? 


David [00:26:56] Yeah. So HSC was fun. You know, we definitely met a lot of people, and just being around people that are building stuff is definitely motivation on its own, and it's enough to get you on that journey. Just seeing like, oh, they're doing it and they're doing this. It's just a lot of a lot of stuff to latch onto when there's so many distractions, other things that you can catch on to. So yeah, we found that wit HSC. But you know, there's also a lot of a lot of other entrepreneurial spaces on campus such as IDEA and Rev. And honestly, I spent a lot of time there as well, just working, just working on the product, doing my pitch deck, getting advice. So I would say that really the entrepreneurial ecosystem was probably the most yeah, it was very key. It was the most influential to our Demo Day success. 


Viraj [00:27:45] Yeah. I think like an important thing there is it takes a community. It's like a big group to make one thing happen, and we used every resource available to us. 


Andrew [00:27:54] Speaking of, Demo Day, how did it feel to win the Social media award for Demo Day? And can you tell us what you did to win that award? 


Viraj [00:28:01] Yeah. I mean, winning any award, at a competition like that where it's pretty competitive and everyone worked really hard is a great feeling, right? You feel like you really accomplished something. And that's definitely what we felt. What we did to make that happen was just pursue every avenue of social connection that we had. I was sending it in family group chats. I was sending our video because essentially we had to like create a video and get the most number of interactions: family group chats, friend group chats, high school group chats, my fraternity, my friends from freshman year that I don't talk to anymore. I was just throwing it out there at the hope it would stick. I'd send it to my cousin and said, I know you're in a bunch of clubs over at Tufts. Send this around Tufts. Like it was crazy. The amount of social network you don't even realize you have that we were able to take advantage of in that time of need. And then also the people who are willing to help you in that moment that you don't even think about on a daily basis. That was really cool. 


David [00:28:56] This. Yeah, honestly, it was awesome. I think the best set of comments that we got was from our, our one of our engineers had his friend from home who was in a frat at U. Michigan give it to us pledges and all the pledges commented. And then they ran those numbers up and they were loyal. 


Viraj [00:29:13] So yeah, it was just a lot of commitment from our friends and that meant a lot to us. So I think that's kind of important with any startup, right? As as you grow, you got to rely on the people that are close to you. And that's kind of what it symbolizes to us, is that we have that support here. 


Liam [00:29:25] Glad to hear all the success that you've had and those connections clearly came into clutch, where it came with this opportunity. But speaking of the opposite side, can you tell the audience about some of the setbacks that you've had while doing entrepreneurship, whether it be BiBite or just any other ventures that you two have previously worked on the past, and just how did you overcome those setbacks? 


Viraj [00:29:44] So, I can't speak for David, but for me personally, this is the first venture that I've really put myself into and isn't just a project on the scope of like a competition for high school or to submit a proposal or something like that. This is really something we're trying to build now in that journey, there have been personal struggles, there have been actual tech struggles, there have been business struggles. So I know, like David and I are, you know, coming from being a situation where roommates, really good friends, you know, we push each other constantly. But how does that translate into being like business partners? And that was a struggle at times for us. And until we found that balance that way, to clearly communicate what we expect from each other, what we need from each other. And times were like, hey, this is something that I can't do right now, but I will commit to it. Like that was a big struggle for us. But finding that balance has really made the partnership work a lot better. And it's, you know, very glad for that to happen. David can probably speak a bit more to the tech and the struggle that we had there. 


David [00:30:38] Yeah. I mean, going back to, I guess the bill supported going first. The core, our core feature is our receipt scanner. And when we first thought of the idea, we knew that scanning the receipt would be the easiest way for the user to be able to split the bill. You know, you just pull your phone out, point your camera at the receipt, and everything's done for you, right? So we knew that was definitely probably the best user experience. But as for how we were going to build it, we had no idea. So the first few months was a lot of trial and error, a lot of research, and a lot of starting from scratch. There were I have, like a little album on my phone of different iterations of the scanner. Some are really bad, but now it's in a really good place, and I guess that's just what it takes. But yeah, I mean, I like just putting work into the ether and not knowing what to do to get a certain result. It's a little it's a little demoralizing. But when you make a little bit of progress, you if you forget all about it, you know. 


Viraj [00:31:48] I think one thing that we learned was that we constantly at the start, because it was such an isolated environment between the two of us and nobody else really working on it, was we would get we would have an idea, we'd get 75% of the way there and hit a roadblock and realize this isn't going to work, and we'd have to start over, and then we'd do the same thing over and over and over again. And then a kind of transition happened when David moved back into Boston from where he was over the summer, or yeah, there's a there was a transition that happened in the fall when clubs started back up again and we switched our approach from an isolated environment into more of a group environment, like we spoke about the entrepreneurship ecosystem here in Boston. And once we started opening up to sharing the idea, learning from others, that was when we started to see progress more incrementally built rather than that kind of come and go type of thing. David, would you agree with that?


David [00:32:36]  Yeah, no, I completely agree with that. Honestly, I never even like I guess got it down to that detail. But as soon as I for the first few months, I mean, this is something that you hear really commonly, like you don't want to talk about it, like you want to keep it really close to heart, like I'm in stealth you guys can't know what I'm doing. You're gonna see what I'm doing, in fact. So I had to keep this, like, very close to me and away from you. But I think around, like, two, two months in exactly when school started, as when we started sharing it. And I would say, yes, that very, very strongly correlated with us making like linear progress rather than like a little bit of progress. Okay, this sucked to restart a little bit of progress okay. This like restart. Oh this actually worked. But we probably should have done this like the first time. 


Viraj [00:33:23] So I was able to learn from others. Yeah that's the biggest thing. 


Liam [00:33:26] So how did you find the process of find these other people to help work with you on your venture? Like what was that networking or outreach approach for that? 


Viraj [00:33:33] I mean, I was away on co-op, so that was largely David. David, David's push. 


David [00:33:38] Yeah, I mean, we I mean, we're third years and freshman and sophomore year, I guess we weren't really that active in, I mean, at least for me, I wasn't active in like any clubs on campus. Zero. I think I went to Oasis maybe twice, once and I was checking my fantasy scores the whole time. So, yeah, I mean, we heard about the clubs through one of Viraj's frat brothers who I think, I think graduated, and I think both of them have graduated. But they had won Husky startup challenge in the past, and they went through IDEA and they got gap fund. So we learned about what clubs to go to through them. And we started hanging out. Or at least I started hanging around the co-working spaces and meeting some of the people there. And that's really just where it started. 


Andrew [00:34:25] Okay. This is it sounds like you guys had one hell of a ride trying to develop this project. What would you say are some tips or advice you would give to other students that are also trying to become aspiring entrepreneurs? 


Viraj [00:34:36] For sure. Like, the biggest thing is talk to people who are also driven, like find people with a maybe they're not interested in the same things, maybe they're not also pursuing their own venture. Maybe they're working on their own venture. Who knows? But just find people who have done it before and can give you their tips on what it is. And like, I guess that's us in this case. But that is my tip is just talking to as many people as you possibly can. I know there's two schools of thought when it comes to starting a venture, and one is the stealth path and one is the I'm going to put this out there and see what people have to say about it so I can refine it. And I think once we switch from that stealth to that second school of thought, we experienced so much growth. And if we could have done that from the start, who knows, like how much further ahead we could have been, you know, so yeah, talking to people, taking advantage of that network that you have. 


David [00:35:26] Yeah, I mean I, I completely agree with that. I guess on a more personal level, other than actual actions, more of like, I guess on on like how your mindset should be, which is, I guess, somewhat hard to give someone a tip on mindset because you can it's kind of hard to just listen to somebody telling you what to think and then just think that way immediately. But I think that understanding what your mindset should at least look like is still something that you can aspire to. So the one mindset tip that I would give is it's pretty common, but it's it's really just like you have to be really, really persistent. And it may seem like, oh, maybe I'm wasting my time. Oh, like, I'm not cut out for this. I don't have the experience. Maybe I should, like, take a step back, do something easier. Or maybe I should just focus on classes, you know? In tech cases. Maybe I should let code apply to some internship. So it takes a lot to like, decide to learn something that you might not even have the prerequisites to learn, and continue to try to learn it anyway. So I would say that the number one thing for any entrepreneur in any field is persistence to your idea. Even if you know you don't think it or maybe the idea is not great, maybe I'm not going to be able to do it, but you have to, you have to try to do it anyway, and you can't stop otherwise. You know you fail. 


Liam [00:36:58] I think those are two, both very valuable lessons here. Again, whoever you surround yourself, you find that you end up emulating them. Again, the sayings going if you have five people in room and then you get in the room, you just be the sixth person just like that. And then also, again, it's not a failure unless you let it become a failure. These setbacks are you're learning opportunities for how you will just succeed in the future. So our next question is kind of a general theme in the podcast. But what does entrepreneurship mean to both of you guys? 


David [00:37:25] So to me, I would say that at least working on something that maybe it's not even something that I'm particularly like, very passionate about, I think it's going to change the world, but working on something that I built from scratch, and I am personally responsible for what happens to said thing and whether said thing improves or not. When I have that much stake in, I feel like it brings the best work out of me. So being an entrepreneur means to me like getting the best work out of myself. Getting like the most insights, like my my best effort. Because I see that when I'm, I guess, like working, like when I was working on co-op and when I've had jobs in the past, like I wasn't a terrible worker. But when I started working on Bibite, I realized how much more I was capable of compared to what my efforts were when I was on the on the 9 to 5. 


Viraj [00:38:30] For me, I would say entrepreneurship is, I would call it ownership of an idea and the effort to see it become something. I think that can take a lot of different forms, you know, whether that's starting your own, like private equity fund or that's, you know, making a, like, a bake sale, you know what I'm saying? Like, it's ownership of some idea and then making it happen. And I think that there's a lot of components to that. What we talked about, which is like networking to grow it or discipline to build it. And I think that it's that kind of change in who you are as a person to become somebody capable of that. It's a process that you're not born with it. You have to build it in yourselves. And we're still building it in ourselves today. I mean, obviously we're still students, you know, that's a priority for us, but like, we're trying to build that in ourselves. So, yeah, that's what I would say. Entrepreneurship is nice. 


Andrew [00:39:23] So we've heard a lot about how you have you got here. How you worked on your venture. What would you, would you say is next for BiBite or anything else in general that you're working on right now? 


David [00:39:33] Launch we will be launching and anybody listening needs BiBite in their life. 


Viraj [00:39:41] And you gotta have it.


David [00:39:41] As long as you go to dinner, you need BiBite. 


Viraj [00:39:45] Even if you don't. Even if you don't. Have it on your phone. 


David [00:39:49] You need it on your phone. You need our our, our app icon is a little orange receipt with, with a tongue. So he has a smile and he has a tongue sticking out, and you need that icon on your phone. It's just going to put a smile on your face and brighten your mood. 


Viraj [00:40:03] Exactly. 


David [00:40:04] You need all of that. 


Viraj [00:40:05] But yeah. So what's next for BiBite for sure is definitely launch. Figuring out those first, inaugural restaurant partnerships to give our users loyalty points and then growing it by telling our friends, hey, go check out our partnership at this restaurant, download the app, save whatever percentage is on your meal, growing it that way, getting the social feed up and running. David, you want to add. 


David [00:40:27] Yeah, I mean, it's really just a lot of code, a lot of development. But that and that's probably the biggest bottleneck, actually. Nah. Code is code is code, you know, but. 


Viraj [00:40:39] We gotta find those partnerships still. Yeah. That's that's a big thing is, is developing those relationships with the local restaurants. Because you're trying to start here at Northeastern. So that is definitely a big, big thing that we're going to have to work out. Think, you know, work it out and see what works best for us. 


David [00:40:55] Yeah, we're definitely not. You know, our product is just so good that why would any restaurant refuse. 


Viraj [00:41:00] That's not so. 


David [00:41:00] It's more of a it's priced in you know it's priced in. Yeah. And we're just we're just waiting for waiting for the app to be done. And then you know, obviously they'll want it. 


Viraj [00:41:10] So as far as tech goes Bibite right now like we said as a three prong kind of approach to dining concierge. But we're trying to look into adding a couple more features, which we're keeping quiet right now, just for this week. 


David [00:41:24] We're keeping it stealth. 


Viraj [00:41:25] We're figuring out, exactly how they're going to work, but. But we have some exciting technology that we're excited to put in. 


David [00:41:30] And to use. Yeah. When we launch, BiBite will make it super easy for you to split bills, leave and share reviews with friends. There won't be any promotion claiming yet. 


Viraj [00:41:41] Until we get those. 


David [00:41:42] Until we get those partnerships. But once we get them, you're going to be addicted to BiBite but you won't be able to get off the app. You won't be able to stop going to dinner. Your life is going to completely. 


Viraj [00:41:53] Saving so much money. 


David [00:41:55] So much money. 


Liam [00:41:57] Well, it's great to hear that the app's about to launch, and you've mentioned where people could eventually download the app from the App Store, but do you have any socials or any other places where the audience can find more about BiBite? 


Viraj [00:42:07] For sure. I think our LinkedIn is definitely the biggest source of information right now, which maybe we have social media done backwards so that it's LinkedIn. But, you know, I know Northeastern is but yeah, so definitely our LinkedIn. We're just on BiBite on LinkedIn. 


David [00:42:20] Yeah, BiBite, LLC on LinkedIn. We are on BiBite app on Instagram and Twitter and a website. Yeah, the website is currently down right now, but when we are out, you can find us on 


Liam [00:42:36] Well, it was a pleasure to have both of you on the podcast today. And until then, just remember download the BiBite app and until then you all see you guys next time. 


Viraj [00:42:44] Thank you so much. 


David [00:42:45] For having us. 


Andrew [00:42:46] Well, that was a very inspiring and informative podcast we just had from student entrepreneurs here at Northeastern. We first interviewed Sebastian Sanchez and Phytabar, and then we interviewed David Alade and Viraj Jayaraman with their app BiBite. 


Liam [00:42:59] We hope that you all enjoyed today's episode. Make sure to like and follow this podcast, and check out the Sherman Center's Instagram at NU Sherman Center and our newsletter as well. Until then, see you all next time. 


Andrew [00:43:11] Bye!