Sebastian Bruce

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.

Photo Credit: Caleb Kuntz | Daily Texan Staff

Zachary Dell, son of Michael Dell, will be joining with StartATX on Tuesday evening for a presentation about student entrepreneurship. 

StartATX is a campus organization founded in the spring as a networking and resources group for students in start-up businesses. 

It was created and is run by Sebastian Bruce, a computer science and business economics senior, with co-president Zachary Cook, a management information systems senior. 

Bruce said he was inspired to create StartATX when he learned about similar organizations at schools such as Harvard University and Penn State. He said there are other groups at UT designed for students beginning to consider small business, but there is nothing like StartATX, 

“We’re hoping to primarily target people who are [already] in start-ups,” Bruce said.

Cook said he felt the
organization was important because student entrepreneurs face challenges specific to running a small business. 

“Starting a business when you’re a full-time student is such a unique experience,” Cook said. “It is a lot of responsibility and risk.” 

Bruce and Cook said students behind start-ups struggle with finding mentors, co-founders and investors. StartATX provides students with the support, advice and a pool of contacts entrepreneurs need. 

“There’s a start-up culture [in Austin] but it’s very young,” Bruce said. 

Bruce said StartATX plans to enrich this culture, and said he hopes to see success stories come from their organization. The co-presidents are being mentored by McCombs’ Entrepreneur-in-Residence Brett Hurt and receive input from Michael Dell.

Last summer Bruce met with Zachary Dell to discuss the development of Dell’s new business. Dell, a junior in high school, is already working on his second company. Dell’s latest project is a new mobile app called “Interested,” which will be released in 3 to 4 weeks. 

His first business was a sports camp he founded with his cousins. According to Dell, entrepreneurship is like a baseball game.

“You swing until you hit it with a new company … maybe we’ll hit a homerun, maybe we’ll strike out,” Dell said. “But it won’t be the last time I step up to the plate.” 

He said his father’s guidance has been helpful in establishing these start-ups, but he chooses to learn through his own experiences, 

“My dad has been an incredible influence — he never forced anything on me, but he was always there to say, ‘Read this book’ or, ‘Contact this guy’ when I had new ideas,” Dell said. “I’ve learned things I wouldn’t have if I’d gone straight to my dad.”

Dell said he plans to bring those experiences and his passion for small business together in his speech on Tuesday.

More information can be found at StartATX.org.