Even though we’re out of The “America’s Greatest Makers” competition, Collarator is not over
High schoolers Dean Dijour and co-founder Gabriel Argush invented CollaRadar, a device for dog collars that is designed to keep pets within a designated geographic area—of any size or shape—through the use of flexible built in deterrents, like high frequency speakers and vibration warnings. If the dog crosses the geo-fence anyway, owners will receive an alert through their smartphone app, which allows them to track the pet in real-time so that it does not get lost. CollaRadar is the first product from Dean and Gabriel’s company, Collarator.
Dean and Gabriel were selected to be among just 24 teams that competed for $1 million in the TBS reality TV show “America’s Greatest Makers.” The competition set them up to work for months with business experts from UC Berkeley’s business school and show sponsor Intel to take their original product to another level, while the duo learned all about business in what was essentially a custom, accelerated MBA program. Although Collarator did not win the top prize, the teens got national TV visibility, free consulting and product development services, and priceless pitching experience.
Shortly after Collarator was eliminated, Dean boldly stated, “Even though we’re out of this competition, Collarator is not over. This competition proves that people see our potential. People care. People want to see us do it, and we’re going to do it.”
HatchPad: What process did you go through behind the scenes before you appeared on “America’s Greatest Makers?”
Dean Dijour: We came up with the idea for CollaRadar in around 2013, but we didn’t get serious about the business until the summer of 2014. I was at Wharton at the University of Pennsylvania for a month-long program in entrepreneurship in the summer of 2015, and I picked up a lot of skills that helped me understand entrepreneurship and how to run a startup. We got picked up by “America’s Greatest Makers” in fall of 2015.
Once we were picked to be one of the 24 teams competing on the show, we were connected with the executive education department at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. That was essentially an accelerator program that taught us how to be fast-track MBAs and entrepreneurs in a span of four to five months. We learned everything about sales channels, setting up distribution, and figuring out our target market, price point, and all that. In all the battle-round episodes on the show and the final episode, UC Berkeley was there helping us figure out what we were going to pitch to the judges.
HatchPad: What did the CollaRadar look like before you got involved with “America’s Greatest Makers,” which connected you to people from UC Berkeley and Intel?
DD: We had a working device that could create a geo-fence and track the pet’s locations, and it could produce the vibration and sound deterrents. The idea of the America’s Greatest Makers competition was to take whatever idea or product [each team had] and put the Intel Curie module inside of it.
The Intel Curie Module is a tiny microcontroller, a 32-bit Intel® Quark™ SE System on Chip that runs for extended periods on a coin-sized battery. Additionally, it has six axes of motion sensing, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), and a number of game-changing features.
In terms of the software, we created a web app because it would have taken a lot more time and money to create four different apps for Android, Windows phone, iPhone, and [desktop/laptop] computers. Through the show, we added a lot of cool functionality that you wouldn’t be getting with any other device, especially not at our price point. For example, you can make your geo-fence in any shape you could possibly imagine, and you can make an unlimited number of fences.
HatchPad: What do you think the price point will be for the CollaRadar device when you get into the consumer retail market?
DD: We’re still looking at pricing because there are a lot of different factors involved. Keep in mind that we are competing against companies like the Invisible Fence, which can cost thousands of dollars, and we’re offering better functionality. We could be looking at pricing the product between $100 and $200, but we’re not sure yet. We would also charge a monthly fee for a certain number of messages. For example, requesting a location from the device when your pet is out of home WiFi range requires the use of a 2G connection. We use a text message as the vehicle to deliver that location to our server. We will provide several flexible plans for our customers based on how many times they think they’ll be requesting their pet’s location a month.
HatchPad: What is your distribution strategy?
DD: First it will be distribution through our website, and potentially through a crowdfunding campaign. The crowdfunding campaign would be a great way to market test the CollaRadar and see which types of people are likely to be our early adopters, as well as [providing the funds so that we can] finally manufacture it in mass quantities. We’d go from there to a full-fledged online distributor like Amazon. We have also talked to large chains in pet retail, but they want to see more beta testing.
HatchPad: You didn’t win $1 million in “America’s Greatest Makers,” so what funding do you have?
DD: We’re all self-funded right now, but we are potentially looking for investors.
HatchPad: When in your life did you first discover your entrepreneurial inclinations?
DD: As a kid with Russian Jewish immigrant parents, I wanted work that would guarantee that I would be paid a lot of money, and many people in my family pushed me to become a doctor or lawyer. Then, when I was in 6th grade, I started a YouTube channel where I reviewed really innovative products from cool startups I found on Kickstarter and other places. I got so many views that I started getting paid by Google. That’s when I realized I was onto something.
HatchPad: How did your family react?
DD: If I had just said, “I want to be an entrepreneur like Mark Zuckerberg,” and didn’t show results, they’d say I needed to do something more substantial with my life. When they saw I was making money from Google, and their friends were commenting on my success, and I kept coming up with amazing new opportunities, they realized I had my life much more put together than most people my age. Now my dad and mom are fully behind me going to Carnegie Mellon, being an entrepreneur, and getting into venture capital. My parents are both entrepreneurs, in fact. My mom is a dentist with her own practice, and my dad has his own company called CIO Solutions LLC.
HatchPad: In the future, do you see yourself being an entrepreneur, as you are now with Collarator, or do you want to work in venture capital?
DD: My end goal is to be in venture capital. I think it’s important to have experience as an entrepreneur, but I like to handle a lot of projects and be involved in a number of fields that interest me, and it’s tough to influence many fields while also running a startup.
HatchPad: Who would your ultimate idol in business be?
DD: Elon Musk, even though he is not in venture capital, he is great at investing his own money and learning how to make people believe in his vision. But, he also has a lot of skill sets that make him one of the boldest entrepreneurs of this century.
Name of Business: Collarator
Co-Founder: Dean Dijour
Business Type: Pet merchandise
Age of Co-Founder: 17
Location: Morganville, NJ
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