KHOI | Blog

Startup at uni

Thu, Feb 23, 2023 · 11 min read
Blog post image
Table of contents

Some time in 2021

Avish and I were aspiring entrepreneurs at the University of North Alabama. We met at the Generator — a facility for innovators, engineers, designers, etc. at our uni.

Around Sep 2022

We had an idea to work on NFC cards. We were surfing for a niche and decided to build NFC cards for student resumes since we had looked at Popl, Linq, Dot, etc. and thought the market for networking-type NFC was already saturated.

We came up with the name nTap. However, it matched with the stock ticker from the company NetApp so we spent 4 hours to find another name and decided to go with NFC Orange, then bought the domain

We applied to pitch at Idea Audition (hosted by Shoals Incubator) trying to go after the B2C and B2B model, and did not make it. However, we continued to work on our product.

Late Nov 2022

We were after the B2C model, trying to sell the cards to students and roaming around campus at night to stick flyers.

Late Dec 2023

We figured it was hard to go after B2C since they did not have the incentive to purchase the cards. We pivoted our product to B2B completely and decided that our uni should be our first customer.

It was difficult to talk to the head of the department so things got delayed and went downhill…

Christmas & New Year’s Eve

I was the sole programmer, so coding through the holiday was my motto.

Thanks to Mr. Steven Puckett, we built a NFC reader for recruiters that read our NFC Orange cards and save students’ info to their dashboard.

Feb 10 2023

We finally met with the Head of Sales Deparment and the Dean of College of Business and Technology at our uni to pitch him our product. They liked it and gave some feedback. The Dean said he would fund the project.

We took their feedback and after a week, we added new features.

Feb 21 2023

We purchased 100 printed NFC cards and they came out with the wrong color printed (this was the night before our first public launch). Avish was frustrated.

Later that night, some of the code did not work properly and a few hours spent fixing it. Then, we had to manually scan to write our URL to the NFC cards since we had not known how to do it more efficiently. We stayed up until 1 AM.

Feb 22 2023

We got 20 cards written for giving out.

4 PM: We did our first launch - a small one! A bit more than 20 students came to the info session. And, no one seemed to care about the color. They were hooked with the tech. So, game on until March 8th when we did our first NFC Orange reader trial with Boeing recruiter visit at our uni.

March 6 2023

We had another info session to distribute our NFC cards. This was the last session. I was in class hearing some friends talking about this digital resume cards. My expectation rose, not only me, Avish as well.

Here came 4 PM on a Monday. Two students came. We were disappointed as the Boeing Recruiter Visit was approaching. Not only that, our NFC reader was also unstable and loose. Need to fix it tomorrow with Mr. Puckett!

March 8 2023

The Boeing Recruiter Visit went well. One of the recruiters - Melissa Smalley — gave a compliment on the dashboard UI saying it was “user-friendly”. After that, we nervously waited for their feedback email and thought they might have forgotten. Finally, here is what they sent us.

Feedback email from Boeing

After the feedback, we added the search bar and prepared to launch more features.

March 29 2023

Things slowed down again, but this time, it put our startup on the verge of collapse. Avish’s time was running out. He had to leave the US because of his visa expiration.

To go all-in, Avish and I sat down to craft our pitch deck and sent to VCs that could help with immigration.

We even built a company LinkedIn page and change our job title.

April 7 2023

We got rejected by Unshackled Ventures — the one we hope for the most.

Feedback email from Unshackled VC

April 9 2023

I think at this point, it is best to discontinue NFC Orange. We have had our ups and downs, however, these downs are still nothing compared to the real world.

Avish might go back to India and start something of his own. I will pursue something else, learn about a new tech.

And, we think this is part of entrepreneurship. You fail something, then you start all over again. The point is to keep trying and learn from your mistakes.

September 25 2023

At this point, it is confirmed that Avish has to go back to India. I do not think I have energy left to continue pursuing NFC Orange.

I joined Side Hustle Expo at our uni (we missed last time) to promote the product. Sold 2 cards. Got many rejections. That’s how it goes.

I will graduate in December 2023 and will be looking for a full-time job soon.

As an international student, it is either finding a job or going home to stay in the US (I have no plan to pursue a Master’s Degree), so I will spend more time on that.

November 12 2023

Today, I sent Avish a text message “im gonna open-source NFC Orange. Time to move on”. Yes, all the source code, all of our time and effort has been made public. You can view it here.

Avish agreed it was time to move on and texted back “I can try to keep the legacy alive.”

I believe the journey of our entrepreneurship is not over.

This is the end of my college startup journey. Stay tune for my startup journey!