23-year-old Daniel Newman is the co-founder and CEO of Dandy– a product-based startup company responsible for two of the biggest game-changing apps in the social networking world. He, along with his co-founder Leor Massachi, has become determined to change the way people interact, especially in our complicated modern-day world with the lingering effects of a global pandemic.
Newman grew up in Beverly Hills with an everlasting interest in startups. He got his first taste of the business industry in high school after founding a small side gig named TutorYou Beverly Hills. The company was created by Newman after he realized most tutors in his area were much older and not as up-to-date with the material the K-8 students were being taught. That, along with his high school friends’ interests in making money, allowed him to hire his classmates as part of his small company that became the go-to source for tutoring in the area.
Once Newman began attending USC, he pursued a degree in real estate development. During his freshman year, he dedicated his main focus to learning the ins and outs of technology’s adaptability to businesses in hopes to someday create his own startup company. During his time at the university, Newman founded USC’s version of a Shark Tank equivalent and named it TAMID Tank.
The idea behind the event was to provide students with the opportunity to present their startup pitches to big-name investors and capitalists in hopes to receive funding or grants. Newman gathered a team of 15 people to work on this endeavor and went on to collect over $14,000 from sponsors for the cause of the organization. The first event they ever held had students lining up outside the auditorium, which ended up filling over 500 seats. TAMID Tank is still in progress today at the USC campus, and it had been held every year since Newman founded it.
Then, his awaited opportunity for a potential startup idea struck on a random Thursday in his dorm room while Newman spoke to his roommate, and now co-founder, Leor Massachi. He suggested they create a dating app unlike any other on the market; one that would provide users with an experience resembling getting to know someone in person.
After drawing up some low-fidelity sketches and executing a mapped-out design of the product, Newman and Massachi came up with Dandy, and they quickly got to work on turning their game-changing concept into a reality.
They decided on having Dandy work as a live, synchronous application that would host timed sessions every night at 8pm for users to potentially find a match. If a user matched with someone within the allotted time slot, the two would immediately proceed into a three-minute message-based chat. Once the time ran out, users would decide whether or not they agreed to take the next step, which meant pursuing communication off the app. If both parties concurred, the app would unlock each user’s phone number.
Due to the app’s simultaneous and somewhat chaotic nature, it took roughly three months of finding the right engineers, building a robust server, testing out bugs, and establishing the creative for a product that would change the concept of virtual dating altogether.
According to Newman, his role within the company consisted of taking this “high-level concept and applying a practical lens to it”. While the idea for Dandy seemed pretty simple at first glance, the logistics behind the application were quite rigorous considering the concept involved thousands of users logging on to a limited server at the same time.
Therefore, the process of perfecting Dandy was quite a complicated trial. But to Newman, this was all part of a normal process in developing his first startup. “You’re gonna fall flat on your face no matter what,” the CEO said. “Every step you take has a risk of failure. You’re always going to run into a problem. But as you go through the process, you learn how to mitigate the path to success,” he added.
Dandy was eventually rebranded in February 2020, just a month before the nationwide lockdown regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Newman and Massachi decided they needed to reestablish the brand in a way that would encourage people to use the application while they were limited in person-to-person contact. Based on the user feedback they received from Dandy, the two co-founders remodeled the application into another ‘live session’ concept, but this time, with two-on-two video calls. In other words: live double dates.
As the company CEO, Newman led this new endeavor in all aspects of product management, communication with engineers and designers, customer feedback, managing finances, and overall logistic operations while his partner dealt with more of the marketing strategies. They created Zoom University after a single meeting of restructuring and brainstorming. The next day, the app’s tentative beta went live. And in two weeks, the application had a waitlist of thousands after word had gotten out about the new app on a viral TikTok video. The timing could not have been more perfect for the launch considering it took place during a time when people felt more alone than ever before.
Zoom University was instantly recognized across the board by major executives and investors after it surpassed a 100,000 user mark and broke through the Top 10 of the Best Social Networking Apps on the Apple Store. The application took the world by storm, reaching immense levels of success in just under two months. But the major achievements for the co-founders were not measured by titles or user marks, however, but instead by the engagement levels of the app’s users.
People were spending two, three, four hours a day on Zoom University hoping to build these genuine relationships. We got feedback from users saying they’d met some incredible people on the app, and a few of them even went out of their way to drive across the state and meet in person. It was amazing for us to see the users’ commitment as a result of a product we created.
Today, Newman and Massachi are in progress with their next big project. Unfortunately, they are not yet allowed to disclose any specific details or sneak peeks, but they have rest assured us they will be using their learnings from Dandy and Zoom University to build something far beyond their previous level of innovation. We can’t wait to see how these young, industry-evolving entrepreneurs change the world next.