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Photo Credit: Andy Nguyen | Daily Texan Staff

Startups are critical to major, established companies because they embrace risk to support new technologies and ideas, the founder of Dell Inc. said.

Students presented their own startups for products such as life-coaching apps and concussion-detecting mouth guards to investors — including Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell Inc. — at Longhorn Startup Program’s “Demo Day” on Thursday.

Dell said his company has grown to be the world’s largest startup since he first began the company at age 19 in his UT dorm room. There are hundreds of businesses within Dell Inc., because the company is willing to innovate and take risks on startups, Dell said.

“Big companies, as they grow — they tend to want to not take risks,” Dell said. “Our industry is changing so rapidly. I think it’s important to be able to go back to that risk-taking and embracing new ideas as a key thing.”

Dell said people in the U.S. are blessed to have a culture that embraces risk and innovation and allows people to try things, even if they aren’t guaranteed to be successful.

Professors Joshua Baer, Bob Metcalfe and Ben Dyer have taught the Longhorn Startup course, a class where students create startups to present at Demo Day, for the last four years. Baer said the class will change in a few ways next semester — such as including open pitches for ideas and “co-founder speed dating” — as he takes over as the course’s main professor.

“The fall seminar, in a lot of ways is going to be similar to what we have now — same great speakers that are coming in inspiring and sharing their stories and teaching students about what they’re working on,” Baer said. “The big difference is there won’t be a Demo Day in the fall, we’ll just do a Demo Day in the spring.”

Biochemistry senior Yousef Okasheh, who presented his startup during Demo Day, said his app “Who’s Hungry” makes it easier for friends to meet up and eat together. Okasheh said he gained inspiration for his app from Yik Yak, an anonymous group app.

“We plan on switching this market by influencing the student leaders on campus,” Okasheh said. “This was a tactic that was used by the app YikYak … and proved to be very successful for them due a very low user-acquisition cost.”

In this podcast, Anthony Green and Madlin Mekelburg discuss the suspension of sophomore basketball guard Martez Walker, the Departmentalization of the Center for Mexican American Studies and "Thread" the new UT centric dating app created by Zach Dell, son of Dell Inc. founder Michael Dell. They are joined by News Editor Jacob Kerr to discuss the ongoing problems the UT System faces with its MOOC initiative. Reporter Natalie Sullivan also joins the gang to discuss this week in crime.

Sebastian Bruce, a computer science and economics senior and founder of StartATX, presents the "Thread" app on his phone.

Photo Credit: Lauren Ussery | Daily Texan Staff

The name Dell may be synonymous with computers, but a younger Dell has his eyes set on online dating. 

Zach Dell, son of Dell Inc. founder Michael Dell, will launch a new dating app called “Thread” to connect college students. The official release party will be Sept. 20 at the Fiji house, with admission granted to anyone who has downloaded the app.

Sebastian Bruce, a computer science and economics senior and founder of StartATX, a UT organization that promotes entrepreneurship, spoke to Dell about creating the app. 

“He raised a little bit over a half a million and with that was able to find really good developers, designers and a new co-founder, who went to Wharton,” Bruce said. 

“You can date within your college or university, so it’s very close knit, rather than Tinder, where you just meet some random person,” Bruce said. “You have to have a ‘.edu’ email in order to join.”

Dell, who is a senior at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, said he connected with investors in Austin who have contributed more than $600,000 in funding. 

Dell said his first investor was Robbie Yeager, a friend of both Dell and Bruce. Yeager invested $100,000 in the project in 2013, making him the largest contributor.

“At first I wasn’t so sure, but, when I talked to [Dell], I could see how passionate he was about the project,” Yeager said. 

With its launch, Thread will be joining a host of other apps that foster dating and interactions among specified groups of people. Dell said an important difference between Thread and other apps is the exclusivity that requires all users to be college students.

“Thread is 100 percent college exclusive,” Dell said. “You have a filtering mechanism to your college; this increases the safety of using the app.”

In narrowing down the pool of community members who access the app, Dell said he intends to increase the degree of safety for users. 

“With Thread, there are many safety mechanisms — a lot to protect women,” Dell said.

According to Dell, he became interested in contributing to the online dating industry when he realized that use by younger generations was increasing. 

“A lot of people thought people who are younger were interested in online dating, but what I saw was that it turned into a creepy industry,” Dell said. “No company was going out of their way to create a safe environment, especially for women.”

Dell said he could see several opportunities for improving existing online dating options. Currently, the app is available exclusively for use at UT, but Dell said in the future, he intends to expand the service to other colleges and universities.