CS Undergraduate Entrepreneurs Talk Business

By Teresa Lewandowski

What do you get when you combine three talented UMD computer science students, entrepreneurial spirit, and a passion for giving back to the community?  In the case of Arjun Baradwaj, Shabai Liu, and Eric Segev, the result is aeVidi, a flourishing web design and development business that serves small companies and non-profit organizations.  The three students developed their idea for this company in 2013 as a way to combine their talents and fill their free time. “I’ve always had an entrepreneurial drive and web development was something I thought could foster that,” Baradwaj says.  The founders felt they worked well together and saw aeVidi as an opportunity to capitalize on their interests while supporting their plans for future mobile and web applications.

So what makes aeVidi a standout company?  According to Liu, “We make sure that the clients know exactly what they will be getting, and when. There is a lot of back and forth with the clients to make sure that we aren’t taking the website in the wrong direction, and vice versa. We build our websites on the latest technologies with custom, modern designs, at very competitive prices.”  As a small company, aeVidi is sensitive to the needs of its clients.  Baradwaj points out that larger web design companies often demand “exorbitant prices” that are simply not feasible for smaller business and non-profits.  aeVidi offers reasonable rates to appeal to these overlooked groups.  

“When I had the original idea for this company I wanted to focus on small businesses and NPOs because these are the organizations that don’t have large budgets for websites. But without websites in a digital age, these organizations can’t find success,” Baradwaj says.  By working with aeVidi, such organizations can grow their online presence and avoid being overshadowed by larger companies.

aeVidi’s competitive prices attract a multitude of clients, but sometimes it can be difficult to find a good fit.  “Our first and foremost concern is that the client wants to work with us. If a client just reaches out to us because we’re cheap, they’re not going to want to be involved in the two-way mode of communication we employ” Baradwaj says.  Since this ongoing exchange of ideas is what makes aeVidi’s products so perfectly tailored to the needs of their clients, this unwillingness to collaborate can be problematic.  Before taking on a client, aeVidi therefore considers their compatibility with aeVidi’s methods as well as factors like professionalism, punctuality, timeline, and website style.

Most of the communication with clients falls to Baradwaj.  “I constantly communicate with the client about...the timeline and all that” he says.  The focus of these communications is the client’s vision: “Figuring out what our client wants is always the goal.  After that we’ll add a little bit of our own spin.”  

aeVidi has completed many successful projects, but one in particular has stood out to UMD students.  Older Terps may still have haunting memories of the UMD Dining Services’ cluttered, confusing website layout and the lack of a working mobile design. aeVidi saw these problems as an opportunity to give back to the UMD community.  

“We were aware of the struggles our fellow students were having accessing the website and we felt we were in a great position to take on this project” Liu says.  Liu was inspired to propose a redesign of the Dining Services website and presented his idea to the aeVidi team.  Segev officially negotiated a contract between aeVidi and the Dining Services team to develop the website.

Throughout this collaboration, Baradwaj acted in a mostly advisory role, stepping in to write out the terms of the contract.  “It’s pretty cool actually because we have a holding maintenance contract with [Dining Services] now” says Baradwaj.  “Working with dining services has been awesome, and I know they’re glad that they were able to have UMD students redesign their websites. I love that we’re able to create something that our fellow students can use constantly.”

As graduation draws near, the founders of aeVidi are faced with the question of their company’s future.  Liu will be working at PayPal as a software developer after he graduates this December, Segev is planning on medical school, and Baradwaj will graduate in spring 2016 with a double degree in computer science and marketing.  

“As far as aeVidi goes, I think all three of us are committed to continuing to work” says Baradwaj.  Liu has ambitions of expanding aeVidi’s work into app development.  “It’s a completely different business model than website development, but we feel that with our individual expertise, we can be successful in that area as well,” Liu says.  “There is also the potential of creating more positive impact on on a local, regional, and even global scale.”

Though the future may be uncertain, Baradwaj is clear on one thing: “As long as there continue to be small businesses and NPOs who need us, we’re going to continue to provide for them.”

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