If you have any ideas, just put it out there. And see if you can like make it. If it’s a big problem that you think you have a solution to – go with it and see where it goes. Because it could go to a big successful app, or website that solves a big problem. So just stick with your gut. Go with what you want to do. Excerpt from an Oral History interview with Startup Weekend Orlando 2023 Winner Miss Aadhirai VijaiSenthil.
My name is Aadhirai Vijaisenthil and I was born in India…
How did you happen to come to Orlando?
I moved here when I was around two and, yeah.
So, you’ve grown up in Orlando pretty much.
Yeah, I was pretty much raised here.
Do you like it?
Yeah, I like it! There’s a lot of things to look around.
And your Dad’s here with us today, so what do your parents do for a living?
My Dad owns companies and my mom…
Does your Mom work outside the home or does she work at home?
No. She works at home.
And you’re in school?
Yes, I go to school.
Yes. I’m in sixth grade.
You’re in sixth grade. Okay, wonderful. Do you have some favorite subjects?
I like math and science.
Excellent. And are you involved in extracurricular activities?
Yes. I do dance and music, like singing.
Dance and singing, oh, that’s wonderful! And I believe you had a dance competition not too long ago, right?
Yes, I had a dance competition.
And the singing is that for school?
It’s just like an extracurricular that I do out of school.
And what kind of songs do they sing?
It’s like Indian classical music.
Oh, my goodness, that sounds so wonderful. Your parents must be so proud of you! That’s fantastic.
So, how did you get started as an Entrepreneur?
So it started when I first went to the Orlando Magic Startup, I think. And then, I did it with my Dad first and then I just kind of tagged along to see how it went. And then, I started going to my second one which was the actual Orlando Startup one. And, I pitched, but, you know, I didn’t really start out well. So I just joined another team and I went with them. And then the third time I did it is the one that I won.
So the first time you pitched, what was that like?
I was nervous. I was talking pretty fast because I wanted to get it over with. But once I did it I was like, okay I might be able to do this.
So you had more confidence.
What was the audience like? Did they give you supportive feedback?
Yeah, yeah. They voted for me which I was kind of surprised about. But they voted for me and then they just went onwards with the steps.
And how does it work because I’ve actually never been there. Do they talk to you or do they hold up numbers? How does it work?
So you pitch and then they have signs. They hear other people’s pitches. They hear your pitch. And they write down the name of your pitch on a piece of paper. Most of the time you have stickers and you put them on the paper with your pitch name on it. And whichever one has the most votes, like the top five, maybe, then they put them into teams. And then the teams work together to like make the startup.
How long does it take?
Most of the time it takes around two days for the actual main final pitch and the final standings, the top three. So like over the weekend.
Can you walk us through? Like what do you do? Do you all like sit around a table and talk?
So, most of the time we have whiteboards to start off with how we’re going to do it. And then, most of the time they give us like a big poster paper with different sections that we can write down and brainstorm how it’s going to work.
And who makes the decisions? Is there one person who is a leader or how do you decide?
Normally there’s two people who like, that put the organization together. But, you know, sometimes there’s a whole team that’s putting on the organization of Startup Orlando Weekend.
So. I understand that you worked on a team with someone named Rachel? Is that right?
Do you want to tell us about that? Because that was one of your first teams to work on, right?
Yes. So I love her, first of all. She was the one that started teaching me a lot. And she was the one who started starting me off. She taught me how to do things. And then we just became really close friends and she’s continued teaching me.
And, she is actually at UCF, right?
And, are they secrets, or can you tell us some of the things she’s taught you or are they more proprietary?
She’s taught me like, mainly like confidence. Because I did the final pitch with her and she gave me like talks and like: Breathe. But that’s the main thing that I remember that she taught me how to do pitches. And like bring up my confidence on getting ready to go up and talk. Like public speaking, she taught me how to do that mainly.
That’s excellent. And do you see comparisons between like when you compete for dance to doing a competition?
I mean, a little. Mainly just like the feeling that you get because, you know, the similarities of going up on a stage and speaking and dancing, you also get on a stage. It’s like everyone’s watching you. You just get the same feeling of nervousness.
So you worked, you said with Rachel, and what product, was it a product that you all worked on together?
It wasn’t like an actual, like a published product obviously. It was like prototypes. Specifically, you would use Canva to make up photo screens. But you wouldn’t make it like an actual, actual product. It’s just to demonstrate, like a demo.
A demo and you bring it start to finish where you present it?
So she, you know, really praises you. She’s a marketing management student at UCF. And in her online post, she talks about how wonderful that your are. She says, “Being able to uplift such an incredible person gives me such joy and I could not be more proud of her hard work, growth and amazing attitude. I believe the universe brings people into your life for a reason. And I’m always incredibly grateful to work with and learn from you.” And she says, “I’m always here to talk about business, life and listen to all your crazy and yet incredibly brilliant ideas.” So that’s a very strong statement for you and your accomplishments.
So from there, this was your second experience at Startup. And then you went on to create something and you were the lead on that one, correct? Your Job Beacon.
Would you tell us about that, please?
So the problem that Job Beacon is supposed to solve is unemployed people who need like money and like a job and understaffed businesses. So Job Beacon, how it works, say that you like you mix Google Maps and Indeed together, that’s technically Job Beacon. So say that there’s like a coffee shop, a cafe that you would walk past and you get a popup notification on your phone saying like, “There’s an open position here would you like to apply?” That’s like a little brief explanation.
And anyone could use something like that, right? And that would be so helpful because not everyone posts something, you know “Help Wanted” sign in the front window. But if you have right there, then especially like a downtown area like this, that could be incredibly helpful.
Yeah. And it’s not like, you’re not going to get a popup notification from like an hour a way. Say, you’re like near your house and you live like near a little town, you would get notifications on like jobs near you, not so far away so it’s convenient.
Well, I certainly see the benefit of that. And, you know, here at the Library we’re always working with people who are looking for work and working on their careers and things like that. So that’s very beneficial.
Can you tell us, because there’s actually a process that you have to do. Can you tell us about that process?
So the first thing before you do anything is validating. You’ve got to make sure it’s a real problem and like people’s opinions on the problem. And the small things that they worry with over like the whole problem. Say, like the whole problem, and then there’s like these small things that they worry about in the problem. So, you have to make sure you get every aspect of it and people’s opinions on it. So that’s really what validating is. So that’s like the main thing. Because if it’s a problem that’s already being solved, you know, it’s not really a thing. Do people need it? So that’s the whole reason that people do validating. But that’s the main part, like the first thing you do.
And for the validation process, are you writing things down that’s on your whiteboard?
So in Startup, you can do anything to let people know what you are doing and their opinions on it. For example, there’s things of going actually out and physically going to people’s stores. People just out in the street and asking them. Or if it’s allowed, you can like do a post. And like a survey, make a Google Forms, that’s a popular one that people do. You would make a survey, send it out. You ask people questions, they answer you and based off of the feedback and data you get you put conclusions down.
And how did you choose, did you choose to do a survey or did you do something else?
We did both. We did a survey and going out and asking people. So since the competition’s over, obviously, we started trying to work on the actual app. So after the weekend ended, we started validating and doing a more deeper dive into validating. So going out in public spaces and actual working stores that people go in and out of. So we asked like owners and things like that.
And what kind of a response did you get?
We got responses of like, yeah, this is a good idea. But, you know, there were also responses like we already I think we’re good, we got this. But it’s mixed. But it’s mainly toward this is a good idea. We should probably make that.
And did you talk to people on the street?
Yeah, we did that. But when we were validating, we focused on mainly the owners who needed it, who needed the understaffed people. But, yeah, we also did do unemployed people who need a job.
So after validation what happens next?
That’s the phase that we’re in. So we’re making the prototype. But, we’re not too lost, but you know we were like what do we do now? So we joined Starter Studio, me and my friend who is working with me. We joined Starter Studio and then we’re trying to base off of what they’re telling us.
So you’re in Starter Studio now?
Yes, we’re in the Zoom meetings. We’re asking questions and seeing what we do now.
(Response from Aadhirai’s Dad.)
May I add something? Starter Studio, they have cohorts for ideation, growth, and seed stage. So if you have an idea you can join Starter Studio and then Dawn Haynes and Bob Reed they’re doing a great job. They are putting together the coaching sessions. It happens every Tuesday, three hours, right?
Aadhirai: Yes, starting from 5:30.
She and her friend who was part of the team at Startup Weekend Orlando they are continuing and they are actually getting trained through the cohort. Getting more connections and then getting trained.
Very productive isn’t it?
And did you meet many people at Startup Week?
Oh, yeah, I met a lot of people who were working on other things and what there passions are which is kind of cool because you can connect and see if there is anyone else wanting to be part of the problem you are trying to solve. So it’s cool to find people who also think like you.
What were some of the other products or services that people were working on?
I don’t really remember.
Oh, okay, because you were focused. That makes sense.
Are there certain other areas that interest you, that you think I would really like to work on this!
I mean, another thing that I like is digital art. So like graphic designing and prototypes, like making how an apple would look. That’s kind of cool. So that’s something that I might want to do.
That sounds wonderful.
Now Rachel, she champions your advice. She mentioned she’s learning from you. And so, do you have advice that you would like to offer for entrepreneurs in various stages?
If you have any ideas, just put it out there. And see if you can like make – if it’s a big problem that you think you have a solution to – go with it and see where it goes. Because it could go to a big successful app, or website that solves a big problem. So just stick with your gut. Go with what you want to do.
That’s very smart advice.
And do you think this area is a fun area, an encouraging area for entrepreneurs?
Definitely. If there is any place that I can think of like for entrepreneurship, it’s probably Orlando. Because there are a lot of entrepreneurships around in the area.
And will you be participating in Startup Orlando in the future do you think?
Probably, you know, if this goes somewhere. And also mainly just getting more advice on where to go again. I’ll go to Startup Weekend.
And you probably met some of the people at the UCF Business Incubator as well?
I think so, yeah.
Do you have either someone or an invention that really inspires you, that you sort of admire?
I don’t know. I don’t think so.
Maybe your Dad?
Oh, yeah, probably my Dad. He gives me a lot of advice.
So what do you enjoy most about living in Orlando?
Probably the liveliness. And how people are always alive, doing things in and out. I like the vibe of Orlando, especially downtown. It’s very open.
Well, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with us today. We look forward to hearing more about your stellar accomplishments in the future. We wish you the very best!
Thank you very much.
Interview: Aadhirai VijaiSenthil
Interviewer: Jane Tracy
Date: December 2, 2023
Place: Orlando Public Library
Startup Weekend Orlando 2023 Winner Aadhirai Vijaisenthil at the Orlando Public Library, December 2, 2023. Oral History Interview by Jane Tracy.