What started as a class project in an entrepreneurship class at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, is becoming a business built around an app to find friends over a meal at local restaurants.

Lee Haider came up with the idea after arriving at UCCS from a small North Dakota town and feeling like he was back in his first day of kindergarten, trying to figure out a way to make new friends. But the idea didn’t start to become a business until a classmate in Gail Richards’ entrepreneurship class, Meghan Lunday, suggested that people don’t like to eat alone, prompting Haider to combine the two concepts into a problem the class could solve.

“I moved here and want to explore local restaurants and nightlife downtown, but I didn’t know anyone here. I found out how difficult it is to meet people,” Haider said. “I took this class my freshmen year and Meghan and I came up with this idea and pitched it. We were voted by our classmates as most likely to be funded, so we decided to go forward and added Andrew Stevenson and Elijah Selberg to our team.”

The team was accepted early last year into The Garage program at UCCS, a laboratory for student to develop and pursue business ideas that functions as a cross between an business accelerator and a co-working space. They had early success, finishing third in last year’s local Get In The Ring business plan competition and being selected for the student venture competition at last year’s Rockies Venture Club Angel Investor Summit.

The idea has become a business with the development of the free Trof application, which the team began testing in January with nearly 100 users to get user feedback for improvements and fix bugs. The app is available on the Android platform and the Trof team hopes to submit an app to be approved for download in Apple’s App Store later this year. Users can also use Trof’s mobile website to connect at local restaurants with those who share similar interests.

Trof has developed relationships with Goat Patch Brewing Co. in Colorado Springs and Evergood Elixirs in Palmer Lake that offer discounts to Trof users and where Trof can host events, Haider said. The company is in talks with other restaurants to offer discounts and host events, he said. The events are one revenue source for the company, along with a paid premium-level membership to get bigger discounts, he added.

Haider said the team eventually wants to expand Trof to Denver and other growing cities, such as Austin, where newly arriving residents need to find a way to make friends over food. He said the company also is trying to raise up to $80,000 from angel investors to pay a developer to improve and add features to its app.

Contact Wayne Heilman 636-0234 Facebook www.facebook.com/wayne.heilman

Contact Wayne Heilman 636-0234

Facebook www.facebook.com/wayne.heilman

Twitter twitter.com/wayneheilman

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