Student Profile: Omar Avalos, Wesley Baker, and Josh Suarez —The Men of FIN
Three USF senior business majors — Omar Avalos, Joshua Suarez, and Wesley Baker — have created a startup with the goal to change the way we use technology. FIN, which stands for Future Is Now, is in the process of finalizing a new iPhone case, designed with USF students specifically in mind. Their iPhone 5 carrier contains a built-in pocket — a “rear sleeve” — that holds cards and, with a swipe of a button, pushes them forward to expose the magnetic strip for easy access. The students stress, however, that they are not a “phone case company.” Instead, they want to brings objects, no matter what kind, into the 21st century by modernizing them.
Last year, the seniors got the idea that sparked what is now the beginning of their startup. They focused on something simple yet vital: a wallet. Then, they incorporated the iPhone.
“The wallet is something that is seen as old or antique. It was intended to carry only cash or cards,” according to Avalos. The students have updated its purpose by creating a mobile case that simultaneously carries driver’s licenses or credit/debit cards – thereby replacing, or even revolutionizing, the wallet. The item is intended to allow USF students quick and easy access to their One Card, which holds Flexi money, Dons Dollars, and Muni passes.
“You have to show your card four times before you even enter your room. It’s your key. It’s your money. It’s your means of transportation. With a simple swipe of a card, you can feel independent,” Suarez proposed. The USF One Card then becomes a symbol of efficiency and accessiblity. By fusing the wallet and phone case, the founders of FIN are uniting everything into one device.
“We look at FIN as a point of stabilization; it is where we are now,” confirmed Suarez. Their logo, a right triangle, represents three points in time: the past, present, and future.
The men began putting their ideas to the test at Tech Shop, a community-based company with resources to manufacturers in San Francisco. “They offer classes and courses to be able to use industrial machines, and we used it specifically to access 3D printers,” said Baker.
Through 3D printing – the revolutionary process by which an image is designed on the computer and then physically printed through the extrusion of material – Avalos, Suarez, and Baker have been able to take their initial idea and construct it into an actual object. Suarez remarked on this transformation: “We are in a third industrial revolution where we can build things… It’s a turn of the century. People were never able to create an image that they just envisioned in their mind, and luckily we are able to do just that.”
Although the final product has yet to be created, their prototype is receiving supportive feedback. “Once we had [it] out and people responded so positively, we knew that we could do this,” Omar expressed.
Business majors, the students utilized the opportunities made available to them at USF, including their professors: “Our teachers are not just there to help us in our homework, and they get so excited when we talk to them about our lives as opposed to just our grades,” commented Avalos.
For other skills, like learning how to 3D print, the students relied on educational technology. “We used a product called Lynda, which is an online tutorial that can teach us anything free of cost,” said Baker.
According to Suarez, the students were influenced by many USF instructors. Professor Lucaccini’s Creativity Innovation Development, Professor Scutter’s service learning class for Management Organization and Dynamic, as well as Professor Omeara’s Marketing course, all helped them in their business endeavors. Not only did they take full advantage of what those classes had to offer, but they also formed relationships with the teachers that allowed them to broaden their entrepreneurial knowledge.
“We couldn’t have been here without everything USF provided us with,” conceded Omar. The men have learned that through the use of technology – along with the resources their USF foundation has provided them – anything is possible. “We are building our own jobs for the future,” stated Baker.
As seniors, they believe there is no better time to begin living your dream than the present. “The whole aspect of waiting until you graduate should not be an option — you should do it now,” encouraged Avalos.
Although their product has not been released, the business partners hope to see their phone case in major retail stores soon. “We thank USF for all that they have enabled us to do, and in turn, we are completely driven to push FIN forward,” concluded Suarez.