Alumnus Daniel Fridliand ’18, entrepreneur and co-founder of the stress management app Awning, almost didn’t pursue a business degree at Syracuse University. He started as an intended international relations major.
When Fridliand started his first semester through the SU Discovery Strasbourg program, the Martin J. Whitman School of Management was offering the EEE 370 course to non-majors for the first time. To this day, Fridliand views it as fate. The class, which is formatted like a mini capstone, “was the class I looked forward to going to every single day,” Fridliand shares. While in Strasbourg, he also got the chance to meet with Clint Tankersley, a marketing professor and former associate dean of the Whitman School, who saw his excitement and passion, and recommended that Fridliand apply to Whitman.
The self-starter spirit runs in Fridliand’s family — his father also created his own programming company after immigrating to the U.S. — and a part of him always had the desire to pursue business. But everything Fridliand was able to learn and harness through his Whitman experience, as a marketing management and entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises (EEE) double major, was what really solidified his passion for entrepreneurship. The Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship was a huge resource, Fridliand shares, which really helped him understand how to get the ball rolling on a business idea.
Classes like Capstone, where students pitch business ideas, teach almost everything that leads up to product launch. And even after graduating, Fridliand still turns to professors like John Torrens, who taught his capstone class, for mentorship and guidance. Fridliand adds, “Find those mentors, find those people on campus who will help you grow and build that confidence you need.”
These strong mentor relationships were especially helpful for Fridliand, who started working on Awning when he was still a senior at Whitman. At first, it was a challenge, he admits, since his schedule was already packed with five classes. But his working relationship with the app’s other founder, Dylan Sen, was solid. Fridliand and Sen have been friends since fifth grade. In high school, they became co-captains of the debate team. “Our process of working together was kind of established in school,” Fridliand shares.
While at Syracuse University, Fridliand was able to get started on market research. When he went to the on-campus counseling center to book an appointment, he was told it would be more than three weeks before he could meet with a counselor. That’s when he realized that the current services offered weren’t meeting the demands.
Awning fills the gaps left by current mental health and stress management services and apps. In addition to meditation and guided breathing exercises, one of the most unique features of Awning is that it creates customized playlists, based on individual music taste for stress reduction. Music was Fridliand’s go-to form of stress management during college, and co-founder Sen, who has played musical instruments since he was 10, spent years researching the effects of music on anxiety. They both wanted to find a way to incorporate music in reducing stress. With an exclusive algorithm that connects to the user’s Spotify account, Awning selects songs that filter into the category of stress reduction, based on pitch and rhythm, and align with the user’s existing taste in music.
Fridliand shares that many of the current mental health and meditation-related apps on the market also have high subscription fees and are unaffordable, especially for college students. “We don’t want the financial cost to prevent people from getting help for mental health,” he says. That’s why Awning is looking to partner with schools, such as Syracuse University, as well as clinics and practices, to provide their services as a bulk license subscription, so anybody within the organization has access to it.
As Awning’s Chief Marketing Officer, Fridliand is primarily in charge of sales outreach, meeting with representatives and product promotion, but because it’s a startup, he often wears many other hats, working on accounting or customer relationship management projects.
But you don’t have to study entrepreneurship to start your own company, Fridliand says. There are so many other ways to learn the necessary skills. “Get involved in school and build a network you can rely on,” Fridliand shares. “That goes such a long way.” For him, that network is Delta Sigma Pi (DSP), Whitman’s professional business fraternity. Through DSP, Fridliand was able to conduct a focus group and get valuable feedback, as well as kickstart promotion around campus.
Awning is still currently in its beta testing phase and is looking for feedback and input from users. It can be downloaded as “Awning Anxiety Relief” from the Apple store, with an Android version also in production. If you’re interested in being part of the beta testing or have any questions, reach out to Daniel Fridliand or Dylan Sen. “We take the time to physically work out, but in terms of our mind, we’re never really taught to cope with our stress and anxiety,” Fridliand shares. “It’s something that should be embraced.”
Are you a Whitman or Syracuse University student entrepreneur looking for resources to help you launch or grow your business? There are resources, such as the Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship and Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars at Syracuse University. Remember, #thefutureofbusinessisorange, and students have the support of the Whitman community and others in the Orange network.
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