Student Co-Founders Raise $300K Pre-Seed Investment For New College Student-Centric App
SOUTH BEND, IN –On Saturday, September 30, 2023 – three junior students at the University of Notre Dame, along with their team and advisors, will officially launch Desi, having just raised $300,000 in pre-seed investments led by PivotNorth Capital and Midas List venture capitalist Tim Connors. Additional angel investors have also put up capital to fund creation of the new software application. Desi, originally short for “Designated Driver,” is a college-exclusive platform that will connect students to safe, affordable rides provided by their peers. The subscription service will be downloadable from the iOS App Store on Sept. 30 and open to all tri-campus community members with an .edu email address.
Desi is also the very first student startup ever to receive investment by Notre Dame Venture Capital, a group of managing directors and general partners composed of alumni and students who source, screen, and invest university endowment funds in venture capital-backed startups that strive to promote social good.
The Desi concept was hatched more than a year ago by founder [Liam Redmond](https://www.linkedin.com/in/liam-redmond-374969205/) ‘25, of Essex, Vermont, a neuroscience major and entrepreneurship minor at the University, who became frustrated with the challenges of getting around a five-mile radius of the campus affordably and safely without a car. He envisioned the possibility of connecting students with cars to those needing rides while giving student drivers the possibility of making some extra cash.
“The more I pitched the idea to students, professors, adults, a high-tech incubator in Burlington, Vt., anyone who would listen, the more support I found,” said Redmond, who was keenly aware of the limited ride options in many college towns and rural communities, including in his own home state of Vermont. “The other idea was to increase safety and affordability for students and avoid surge pricing like the $40 one-way trip into South Bend that my buddy had to take recently.”
Redmond is joined by co-founders [Zach Brown](https://www.linkedin.com/in/zachbrown31/), of Charlotte, N.C., and [Rob Corrato](https://www.linkedin.com/in/robcorrato/), of Newtown Square, Penn., who are responsible for the development and marketing of the Desi app, respectively. The trio, who have been affectionately referred to as the “Hustler, Hacker & Hipster” (Redmond, Brown, Corrato), have been working on the development of the software platform since the spring of the 2023 semester as sophomores, while balancing their academic loads.
The Notre Dame IDEA Center (Innovation, De-Risking and Enterprise Acceleration) has been a pivotal influence in coaching the student start-up business to pre-seed success, particularly the Director of Students Startups, John Henry. In the early days, the IDEA Center coached the team, helping them to hone in on the problem they were trying to solve. The Center also provided grant funding to get their closed beta testing off the ground. Redmond’s Desi idea was selected by the IDEA Center for their competitive Pre-Accelerator and Accelerator programs, which also included additional grant funding.
“We are proud of and impressed by what these students have accomplished in a very short period of time,” Henry said. “This innovation is a perfect example of why the IDEA Center was created in the first place.”
Notre Dame alumnus Tim Connors ‘85, who has coached six unicorns (over a $1 billion valuation), is a close advisor to Desi and led the pre-seed round. He has been helping the University strengthen its tech-enabled solutions, as well as working to increase student pathways to tech post-graduation over the past 25 years. Connors sees the technology arena as an important vehicle for good in the world, including helping Notre Dame in its mission to serve the vulnerable family, the planet, and the Catholic Church. He is excited to see the Desi start-up launch while the founders are still students.
“The Desi value proposition is simple,” Connors said. “Help students who need a ride with a safe and cost-effective driver, no ‘stranger’ driver, and help students who need extra income to provide those rides. Prove it at ND and then take it to all schools in the nation. It is a great business model and does a lot of good for students who need to work. The perfect mix – doing well while doing good.”
To learn more: [ridedesi.com](https://www.ridedesi.com/) Download the app: [Ride Desi](https://apps.apple.com/us/app/desi-ride/id1667384111)
Desi is a college exclusive platform revolutionizing how students move around your community. Connecting students for affordable rides, Desi is a new way to explore your community and earn money. Only verified fellow classmates have access to your network. You never have to ride with strangers again. Designed with the college student in mind, ease and affordability are a priority. See hotspots around your campus with trending destinations on display to see what’s buzzing. Only those with university emails (.edu) can sign up, post, message, and view profiles. Whether connecting for a prearranged ride or simply making new friends, ignite new connections on your campus with Desi. Don’t miss out on the college revolution – No strangers. No surge. Join your university’s exclusive community today.