Sama Jashnani and Anuja Shah, Co-Founders of “DownToDash – a mobile app for college students to connect on similar interests and activities”, Shares Their Startup Story

Please Introduce yourself!

Sama Jashnani – I have always been passionate about marketing and entrepreneurship. I co-founded my own social enterprise as a part of an ENACTUS project. This involved successfully uplifting 10 underprivileged women by equipping them with skills to deliver salon services at home. I received a 100% scholarship to study at Warwick Business School for my Masters. After Warwick, I worked at a global marketing agency called Lowe Lintas and Partners. I spearheaded consumer research projects, conducted market segmentation and analysis along with brand positioning for the Unilever account. I worked on many aspects of their marketing and advertising campaign on a global scale. I was also offered a job from Unilever. However, when we started working on this idea I realized that there is no better time to pursue my dreams and my strong belief in this idea pushed me forward to working on it.

Anuja Shah – After completing my undergraduate at the University of Nottingham and my masters at Warwick Business School, I was keen to work with start-ups and learn how companies scale up. I interned at an e-commerce fashion startup called Strand of Silk in London for 4 months where I worked on search engine optimization, handling social media platforms like Facebook and Pinterest, content creation and management for the website’s blog. This experience was extremely valuable as it was a startup with a small team and I was responsible for a large number of decisions.

After returning to Mumbai, I decided to pursue my passion for design by doing a graphic design program with software like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. On the completion of my course, I joined a venture capitalist firm called Lightbox VC that invests primarily in technology startups in India and worked with the marketing and branding strategy for their portfolio companies. Also, I conducted research on key investments in India in the first half of 2015. While I was working at Lightbox, I worked with Sama on our own start up and decided to pursue this full time because I believe that this app can be incredibly useful and would have definitely changed my undergraduate and graduate university experiences.

How did you think about DownToDash?

We believe that this app can be incredibly useful and would have definitely changed our university experience. There is no secure platform for students to spontaneously connect with other students in their university. The app solves many problems faced by students like loneliness and laziness. Everyone is always looking to make new friends in university and this is a casual way of positioning it (focusing on the activity and not the person). There is a major gap and immense potential in this market.

From whom you got inspiration to start DownToDash and who is your mentor?

Mark Zuckerberg –  “In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”

Introduce your Co-Founder/Founders and Team.

Down To Dash was co-founded by Anuja Shah and Sama Jashnani, two Warwick students who graduated from the MSc Marketing & Strategy class of 2014.

Explain more about DownToDash, what makes you special and how is it different from others?

DownToDash is a mobile app for college students to connect on similar interests and activities. The app ensures a secure network as students can only sign up using their university email address. Students can post plans or browse through other students plans to connect over sports, arts, theater, film and hobbies. The app also has an events section where university clubs and student bodies like fraternities, sororities and dorm/housing groups can post events.

DownToDash aims to use technology to connect campuses and create new experiences for students by being an easy platform for them to connect but have a real interaction once they meet. Whether students are on campus or traveling, they can meet other verified students (due to its secure network) to ‘get social- get active- get going’.

We aim to start with colleges and other communities such as high schools, business groups and start-ups in the near future and also have an option of a universal section for everybody that loves to meet new people, do more of what they love, engage in their interests and be spontaneous!

What challenges did you face while setting up DownToDash? how did you overcome?

We faced a lot of challenges from the start of the journey. The main challenge was with marketing the app and getting the right strategy to attract users. We realized how important it is to tailor every word used while marketing something to what the customer or user wants to hear. While approaching any university, club or student to collaborate with for marketing, we started asking ourselves ‘How will this benefit them?’ and customized our marketing messages according to that. It is very important to understand the customer in depth before talking to them. We overcame our user penetration challenges by understanding them in-depth and putting ourselves in their shoes. Lastly, as an entrepreneur, it is important to re-invent at every stage and be persistent till you get it right.

What’s the Current Path, DownToDash Funding Status and Future plans?

We have recently launched the app at New York University, UC Berkeley, Liberty University, University of North Carolina and New York Institute of Technology and are gaining immense traction. Students love the app and are greatly benefiting from it. A few Testimonials :

“I am so excited that DownToDash is available on the UNC campus. We all get stuck in our own friend bubbles and this is an incredible way to meet people who actually have the same interests as you. I love that DownToDash connects people through technology but actually creates real human connection once people hang out!” – Mollie Ebeling, University of North Carolina.

DownToDash has been an unbelievable way to meet a ton of new people on campus. At first, I was hesitant because meeting random people is a bit nerve-wracking but being able to do things I want to do with other cool people that share the same interests has really elevated my college experience.” – Dylan Lee, UC Berkeley.
“There is plenty to do on Liberty University’s massive campus. With over 15,000 students, one should not need to participate in said activities alone. DownToDash is a perfect medium for students to get together and do the fun things Liberty has to offer.” – David Chhum, Liberty University.
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