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Duke alumni take startup to Plug and Play expo

Several Duke alumni have developed a startup, Radius, which will allow users to identify real-world locations for digital broadcasting
Several Duke alumni have developed a startup, Radius, which will allow users to identify real-world locations for digital broadcasting

From Duke University to Silicon Valley, four alumni are taking their startup company to the next level.

Radius, a Duke start-up that was created last February, will be presenting its concept at Plug and Play’s Sept. 13 Startup Expo. The company is working to create a web and mobile application that allows users to use real-world locations as beacons for digital broadcast areas. Radius was one of fifteen companies that earned a summer residence at Plug and Play Tech Center’s Startup Camp and received a $25,000 investment.

“Radius allows users to attach digital files to a specific location,” David Herzka, Pratt ’12 and chief technology officer at Radius, said. “For example, a dance group on campus can set up a beacon at the Bryan Center, post multimedia content online and people walking nearby can retrieve the information with their smartphones.”

He noted that being able to work at the Plug and Play startup camp has been very helpful in advancing Radius’ development. The accelerated program not only provides each company with sufficient office space but also with valuable mentorship from peers and speakers. Notable speakers at Plug and Play include Lou Montulli, one of Netscape’s founding engineers, and Michael Abbott, former vice president of engineering at Twitter.

“Plug and Play has helped us by putting us in an environment where we’re surrounded by other entrepreneurs,” said Fred Ehrsam, Trinity ’10 and president of Radius, in an email Sunday. “[Plug and Play] have made some great investments in the past—PayPal, and Zoosk, among others—so they have seen start-ups from start to finish.”

Jason Tian, Pratt ’11 and CEO of Radius, added that the companies in the startup camp come from a variety of different concepts. Each team is working on a different project, fostering a sense of cooperation, he said.

The fourth Radius founder, Hudson Duan, Pratt ’11, serves as chief operations officer. The Plug and Play Startup Camp, which runs two 10-week sessions per year, is designed to gather university startups in the Silicon Valley environment, said Alireza Masrour, vice president of investing at Plug and Play. The program has worked with notable tech startups such as SoundHound and Zoosk.

“I reviewed 608 applications, and most of these applications are from the top 30 universities in the country,” Masrour noted. “From Duke, I chose Radius specifically because of their interesting idea and the great team they had.”

Radius has spent the summer in the development stage, working on the mobile application and website. The company is eager to present their concept at Plug and Play’s Startup Expo, Herzka added.

“Our near-term goals are to finish development of version one, gain a solid user base, and raise under $1 million to expand our development capabilities,” Ehrsam said. “Long term, we hope to have people compulsively pull their smartphones out to check out their surroundings digitally on our service, whether it’s to discover a new area or see the latest in a familiar area.”

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