CHAPEL HILL – Social media has revolutionized the way many of us interact with each other. UNC sophomore Taylor Robinette has an idea in the works which he says will combine your online social network with your real life interactions. As part of our weekly series on young entrepreneurs, Bevii, Robinette’s start-up, is this week’s featured venture from the business incubator LaUNCH Chapel Hill.
“There’s your social network and there’s your actual network,” Robinette says. “This [Bevii] blurs the lines between the two. It makes it so you never have to add anybody again; there’s no searching for people and then accepting and denying friend requests.”
Robinette, at just 19, already has $110,000 in the bank from investors, another $90,000 pledged, and hopes to raise another $500,000 in the next couple of months. The first version of Bevii is set to launch in October, just before he turns 20. It will be available to students at UNC, Duke, and N.C.State.
Robinette designed Bevii to be an improved alternative to Facebook. It’s a mobile, location-based social network through iOS and Android cell phone apps. It will track your offline interactions and try to mimic them online by seeing whom you spend time.
“So the way this would work, the example I always use is if you go to a party or a gathering, everybody there would be added to your network at a base-level; so without you having to search for them they would automatically be added to your network,” he said. “Then you would be able to see things like their profile picture, where they work, or where they go to school.”
Robinette explains if you hit it off with someone and begin spending more time together, you will get more access to their network. If you never see the person again, they will drop out of your network.
“It’s kind of creating this idea of a dynamic, constantly changing social network,” Robinette says.
Robinette currently has a development team of seven under him. Post-LaUNCh, he has high hopes for the future of Bevii.
“We will probably look to raise another $10-15 million at the eight-to-twelve month mark, and at that point it will allow us to pay full salaries for a full staff,” he says.
The Maryland native says he has always aimed at becoming an entrepreneur. As just a freshman in high school, he had the idea that social media could be better, so he started a social networking site for fun. In the first month, the site had 250,000 members.
Robinette explains the networking connections and resources LaUNCh offers has helped accelerate his start-up.
“So I got here [LaUNCh] and really took advantage learning from Jim Kitchen, Ted Zoller, and all of the people in the business school. Through them, I met my lead investor who started us out with $75,000 and started us out through the first round of funding.”
Robinette says the efforts of LaUNCh and its feeder and fellow incubator, 1789, are reinvigorating the entrepreneurial community in Chapel Hill.
“That’s one of the reasons I decided to go to school instead of just moving out to the Silicon Valley to get my company started. I want to help create a better entrepreneurial culture elsewhere besides the Valley,” Robinette says. “Working with other people to try to make UNC more attractive to other young entrepreneurs I think is really important and cool.”