By Samantha Allen
LOWELL -- Aldo Beqiraj has a vision to create a virtual lost-and-found on a global scale.
Beqiraj is CEO of Bringrr, a company that provides an electronic tagging system to keep track of your belongings through your smartphone. It also has a patent on a one-of-a-kind charger that will notify you if you're driving away from your phone and have left it behind.
"You'll never have to turn around mid-trip again," is a line in the company's video, filmed at the Boott Mills in Lowell.
Beqiraj, originally from Salem, is a 23-year-old senior at UMass Lowell studying electrical engineering.
The school's startup development program, DifferenceMaker, allows him the space and resources to build his company from the ground up.
Beqiraj has assembled a team to bring the Bringrr concept to life. He just reached a fundraising goal of $75,000 on Kickstarter to develop the sensor technology further.
"We have a space to collaborate and that's really important," Beqiraj said of the school's incubator.
Steven Tello, associate vice chancellor for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, said young entrepreneurs like Beqiraj are exactly why DifferenceMaker was created just a year and a half ago.
DifferenceMaker provides evening workshops, after-hours help and other tools so students from across the campus can come and develop fresh ideas. This spring, up to 50 startup teams are expected to compete in the second annual DifferenceMaker competition "Idea Challenge" for $25,000 worth of cash prizes. The kick-off for the April competition is Monday and Tuesday.
Beqiraj won $3,500 through the competition last year with a product voted most likely to go to market. His idea then was a website to streamline options for restaurant customers called "Grab a Bite," which he developed with fellow student Andrew Webb.
Bringrr takes up much of Beqiraj's time these days. The product was actually developed by another inventor, James Logan, in 2010. Beqiraj, who became CEO in January, said an entrepreneurial path is the only career he sees for himself.
"I've probably worked 30 hours in the past two days," he said. "But I can't really see getting up at 8 a.m. every day, working 9 to 5."
David Rocca, a 20-year-old junior from Burlington, and Joel Cioffi, 23, also from Burlington, are working to develop Bringrr's iOS, Android and Google Glass coding to bring Bringrr to life by summer. Beqiraj said they have hundreds of hours of work ahead of them, but the group hopes to release their product by July.
Bringrr tags can be placed on any object including keys, laptop, wallet, purse, briefcase or even a pet. When you lose track of an item, you can search for it on your phone. You can also direct the tag to make a noise so you can find it more easily. If your object is out of range from your phone, and another Bringrr user comes within 150 feet of your object, the tag will notify that person an object has been lost and you can connect with them to reclaim your item.
It's like making the whole world "one big lost-and-found," according to Beqiraj.
Though the tagging concept is similar to other new companies, such as Tile, Beqiraj's group has a patent on the charger that can track your smartphone, which means they're the only company out there that can develop such a product at this time. They have to select manufacturers and retailers in the next few months as well and hope to sell it for $29.
For the future, Beqiraj said the team's options are endless. They have increased their fundraising goal to $100,000 on Kickstarter, which expires Feb. 3. And after developing the technology and writing all of the code, Bringrr will seek out investors -- maybe even ones they meet through UMass Lowell's Idea Challenge.
Tello said students are judged through the Idea Challenge before a panel of local investors and UMass Lowell alumni, which helps make students' dreams of launching a startup company a reality even after graduation.
"You don't want to launch the companies too quickly. They need time to educate themselves and to be nurtured and we can do that," Tello said. "I think DifferenceMaker really represents the direction the university is heading. It's not just about education. It's about having the skills (students) need to make a difference."
For more information on Bringrr, visit bringrr.com or purchase products and pledge money to their Kickstarter campaign at kickstarter.com/projects/aldobeqiraj/bringrrtm-helping-you-keep-track-of-what-matters-m.
The Idea Challenge launch kicks off from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Mark and Elisia Saab Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center, 40 University Ave., and 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the O'Leary Library Learning Commons, 61 Wilder St. Fore more information, visit www.uml.edu/differencemaker.