The phone is so old-fashioned. So, for that matter, are e-mail and even Facebook. Aleksandar Vukasinovic envisions living in a world of seamless communication. In that world, sensors will gather information about how we’re feeling. That data will inform the music we hear, the way rooms are lit and more.
Vukasinovic, a Binghamton University junior studying computer science and neuroscience, recently took a semester off to address some health concerns. When he recovered more quickly than expected, he did what many young scientists and engineers dream of doing: He created his own company.
Now he’s CEO of a start-up called Emozia with 10 employees, many of them also Binghamton students. “Entrepreneurship is a quintessential aspect of our education,” Vukasinovic says. “I’m 21. I haven’t even had a real job. And suddenly you’re thrown into a whirlwind.”
Scott Hancock, director of IP management and licensing at Binghamton, has seen rising interest in entrepreneurship among students and recent graduates. Vukasinovic, he says, is among the most indefatigable of the bunch. “He’s relentlessly upbeat,” Hancock says. “He’s fearless and not afraid to take chances in pursuit of his passion.”
Vukasinovic smiles broadly as he describes building his network, beginning on campus and continuing with a New York City meeting of the nonprofit StartOut, which fosters LGBT entrepreneurs. From there, it was on to the Founder Institute, which bills itself as the world’s largest start-up accelerator.
Emozia, Vukasinovic explains, will harvest data via a user’s phone to “learn” whether he or she is feeling happy, sad, irritable, stressed or tired. Sensors in the phone will do some of the work, in concert with data from the user’s apps and calendar. Emozia will then share this information with service providers and friends selected by the user.
The result? Upbeat music starts playing when she gets in the car after a miserable day in the office. The lights dim automatically when she’s getting ready to go to sleep. Her best friend gets an alert when she’s feeling down.
“Obviously, we are pushing boundaries,” says Vukasinovic, who also sees applications in gaming. “Our company is based on trust. This doesn’t work unless people trust us with their data. And users will control how information is shared.”
Facebook, he notes, makes money by selling information about users to advertisers. Emozia is different, at least in his view, because third-party service providers will have to convince users that they offer enough value that they should have access to personal information.
Vukasinovic would love to see Emozia grow into the next dot-com sensation. But he doesn’t fear failure. In fact, he’s already talking about what things will be like when he starts another company.
“What I’ve already learned,” he says, “is so amazingly valuable.”