Ryan Diew ’17 plunges into Shark Tank

Winter 2018
Ryan Diew '17 with laptop in Colgate's incubator space

A fledgling idea, born during an airport layover, landed Diew on the season premiere of ABC’s Shark Tank.

Ryan Diew ’17

Ryan Diew ’17 came up with his business, a phone app called Trippie, when he was a sophomore traveling from Colgate to his home in Oakland, Calif. During a long layover, he wanted to grab some food, but he also didn’t want to lug all of his carry-on baggage through the airport or miss his flight. So, he let a stranger watch his bags.

He thought there had to be a better way. So, he invented one.

“Trippie is essentially an airport mapping service that allows travelers to explore a detailed interactive map of the airport to immediately get the lay of the land,” Diew explains. “It displays menus, reviews, hours, and even calculates how long it takes to get to your favorite food spot or restaurant so you don’t miss your flight.”

With the help of alumni mentors through Colgate’s Thought Into Action (TIA) Entrepreneurship Incubator, Diew developed his idea. He taught himself how to code Swift, one of the most popular app development languages, and he has worked to refine the product ever since. He also worked with former Colgate student Samantha Braver, and the two pitched Trippie at the 2016 Entrepreneur Weekend, where they took away more than $22,000 in funding. Braver later left Trippie for a job at Apple.

In 2017, Trippie was selected as an Entrepreneurs Fund recipient, which gave Diew $15,000 toward his venture and workspace in the downtown Hamilton incubator to work full time on his product. After his business appeared in an Inc.com Coolest College Startup competition, he was contacted by the ABC TV show Shark Tank.

On Oct. 1, when Diew plunged into the tank to ask for funding from America’s most beloved — and sometimes reviled — venture capitalists, the “sharks” chewed him to pieces. Investors on the season nine premiere pulled no punches in their criticism of the app. But, Diew says, he took their advice to heart, and he has been hard at work making Trippie the best airport navigation tool available on the Apple Store and Google Play.

“I have taken heed of a lot of their advice,” Diew says. “I think that I let my emotions get the best of me toward the end. I am really passionate about this, and I broke down, and that’s something I’ve learned from.”

Trippie has expanded from four to 16 airports since the Shark Tank episode was filmed in June, and it now covers locations that account for 82 percent of all U.S. domestic air travel.

In the hours after the episode aired, Trippie was downloaded nearly 12,000 times before the web server Diew rented to keep up with demand crashed from the traffic.

“The progress that we’ve made since my pitch has been amazing,” Diew says. “We’ve expanded and added functionality, making the app better. I’ll just continue to keep pushing.”

TIA Alumni Executive Director Wills Hapworth ’07 says he’s been impressed with Diew’s grit and resilience. “[Ryan’s] response to Shark Tank and Mark Cuban’s tough questions was to double down on product development and growth so he would be prepared for the bump he expected after the episode’s airing,” Hapworth says. “He was laser focused over the past few months. That is the heart of a true entrepreneur.”

— Dan DeVries