RIT students from across the globe launch entrepreneurial startups through the Simone Center

The Simone Center has brought together students from Kazakhstan, Russia, and the United States to develop companies of their own

: Traci Westcott

RIT students, from left to right, Richard Sawh, Adilkhan Abdullayev, Alikhan Seitkadyrov, and Gleb Romanov in the Simone Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, where they are developing their startup companies.

According to a 2023 Bloomberg article, over 5 million startup companies are founded each year in the United States. At RIT’s Albert J. Simone Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, students are working together to turn their dreams of starting companies into reality.

Gleb Romanov, a second-year management information systems student from Russia, and Adilkhan Abdullayev, a third-year computer science major from Kazakhstan, are launching a peer-to-peer startup company called Mobi to provide rental vehicles in Kazakhstan and Central Asia.

Alikhan Seitkadyrov, a third-year software engineering major, also from Kazakhstan, and Richard Sawh, a third-year software engineering major from New Jersey, are using the Simone Center to help get their company, eDiploma, which uploads legal, medical, and educational documents into the blockchain, off the ground.

The Simone Center gives students the opportunity to pitch ideas for innovative companies through the Student Accelerator Program and Tiger Tank pitch competition. Romanov spoke about how the Student Accelerator Program led to his involvement with the Simone Center.

“I’ve been always an entrepreneur. I got invited by Adlikhan to participate in this program and when I heard what opportunities it offered, I was amazed. We have great mentors, and if we have a great idea which we believe in, the Student Accelerator Program is just a perfect opportunity to give us time and expertise. And it counts as a co-op.”

Romanov and Abdullayev explained that the car rental process in Kazakhstan is an overcomplicated and very expensive process, primarily conducted offline due to the lack of an efficient online system. They plan to disrupt the industry by letting users of Mobi make their cars available to rent and allow people to search for available rentals.

“We’re currently in the process of customer discovery to determine the feasibility of launching our product in Kazakhstan. Our focus is on collaborating with insurance companies as they play a crucial role in enabling our project to succeed. Once we finalize negotiations with them, we’ll proceed to complete our project and begin operations. That’s our plan,” Abdullayev explained.

Seitkadyrov spoke about the importance of the Simone Center as a place of opportunity, especially regarding starting a company in the U.S. as a student from Kazakhstan.

“In the U.S., there is much more competition on the market, but you are given more resources and opportunities as well. In our area, it’s hard to scale your business without connections and good networks in general but, here, even if you are from another country, you’ll get enough to start,” Seitkadyrov said.

Seitkadyrov and Sawh’s business is meant to ensure the validity of documents by corresponding them with addresses within the blockchain. This would make it harder for people to falsify degrees from universities and other forms of documentation. eDiploma has already been put into use by four universities in Kazakhstan, and the project team spoke about what success looks like for an entrepreneur.

“The way I define success is when you have your first satisfied customer,” Sawh said. “Knowing that our products work and work well. I also feel that once we have one customer satisfied, we can get a bunch more.”

Both Student Accelerator Project teams also discussed how they overcame challenges while developing their startups.

“It's important to communicate with each other. If you have problems, talk to your partner, find the solution, or find common ground if you don’t agree with something. Communication is crucial for team effectiveness,” Abdullayev said.

The teams are also very thankful for the support provided by the mentors at the Simone Center, who assist the students in the process and check in on them to make sure they are making strides in building their companies from the ground up.

Recommended News