Stony Brook students create their own startup


Published: August 28, 2011 10:32 AM on Newsday.

Alex Dimitriyadi and Ken Colton are out to prove that a career in software engineering is a great way to build your own success.

In fact, the Stony Brook University computer science majors think it can be one of the most satisfying jobs out there for students looking to make their own careers.

"We're both motivated by actually trying to make something that people find useful and makes a difference in some way, and that's what we're doing," said Colton, 22, a Massapequa native who graduated from Stony Brook at the end of the fall semester.

Colton and Dimitriyadi, 22, a Stony Brook senior, used their skills and programming expertise to create a paperless system that enabled the clubs on campus to submit funding requests electronically. Their new system also allowed clubs to book events around campus with ease, creating a completely integrated campus social system.

"We set out to make things better, and ultimately it did," Dimitriyadi said. Through their startup company, Heuretix Software Inc., they are working to sell their program to colleges across Long Island.

"The software is, in my opinion, the first forward-looking piece of software that I have seen developed for a higher education environment," said Moiz Khan Malik, the former treasurer of the Undergraduate Student Government at Stony Brook. He said he believes Colton and Dimitriyadi's system will be adaptable to changes over the next several years.

"A lot of people think it's boring or not exciting, and if you present it as boring and not exciting, then it will be," Colton said of software engineering. "But if you present it as a startup, then it's super-exciting. You can't get more exciting for a job than being in a technology startup."

Besides their work on Stony Brook's club system, Dimitriyadi and Colton have worked on separate projects with varying degrees of success. They say they are generating enough revenue to make ends meet.

Colton, who graduated from Plainedge High School in 2006, helped start the website in 2009, one of the first hashtag aggregators. Twubs organizes similarly tagged tweets into a single news feed for convenient reading.

The site gained rapid popularity during the Iran election controversy of 2009, when groups were using the same hash tags to talk about the elections and share pictures and video. "Somehow, Twubs wound up becoming the number one place for people posting on that hash tag to post," Colton said.

At Stony Brook, Colton met Dimitriyadi, who shared a similar interest for computer science.

Dimitriyadi grew up in Queens and attended Cardozo High School, where he was on the school Web development team. He next came to Stony Brook, where he majored in computer science.

"When I was younger, I always wanted to build big things, but when you're young you don't have the money to build big things," Dimitriyadi said. "So the cheapest thing to do is to take your computer you have at home and learn to program."

Dimitriyadi works on iPhone app development for Charmtech Labs, a California-based software startup company. Dimitriyadi and his teammates recently completed work on a new iPhone app called the Capti Web Player, which allows iPhone and iPad users to store a customized list of news stories on their device and then have them read aloud at the push of a button. This app was designed particularly for the vision-impaired.

Dimitriyadi and Colton say that dedication, teamwork and a few sleepless nights can allow Long Island students to invent their own career paths. "One of our goals is trying to help inspire people to view startups and small businesses as an alternative [career] option," Colton said. "That would be something that we'd love to help foster in Long Island is a culture of technology startups."

The two hope to inspire other Stony Brook students to start companies. "I think that is a driving factor for me," Dimitriyadi said.