Student Entrepreneur Chris Carter Develops SceneAssist.com
This story is part of a four-part series featuring Cameron School of Business student entrepreneurs.
Chris Carter developed his search engine for nightlife after wondering what to do with friends one night and wanting to know the hot places in town. His website SceneAssist.com will go live later this spring, allowing users to find food and drink specials, local events and live music by searching 150 categories.
“You can communicate with your friends about going out for the weekend, and it’s not just bars and clubs,” he said. “It’s all the restaurants in Houston.” Carter said the site functions similar to Facebook, and it was custom-designed by his business partner, a programmer. Users can create a profile linked to Facebook, and SceneAssist.com pulls in their Facebook pictures, likes and dislikes and friends. Users can create events, and the site will notify friends via email or text message based on their preferences.
Venues manage their own content with a free lite profile, and they can pay more to upgrade. Plus, Carter negotiates discounts with each vendor exclusively for his site’s users.
Having worked on the idea since 2009, the site first went live in September 2010 under the name HappyHourNights.com, and Carter said there were 400-1200 people visiting the site each week with 25 bars and restaurants participating. However, a change in the company’s partners and business structure required the site to come out under a new name, SceneAssist.com.
Carter has learned a lot about setting up corporations, having setup articles of incorporation for his company twice. One of his partners is his uncle Ron Burr, the founder of NetZero, and Carter said he has been helpful in setting up introductions and connections to intellectual property attorneys for strong patents and copyrights.
For instance, users can create a pub crawl map showing friends where they are going out for the night at different times, and Carter said his company owns a patent for color-changing icons as part of the Pub Crawl feature, showing who has arrived at each location. Carter also thinks the site is helpful as a travel companion because the features are geo-located.
Carter is a transfer student from Texas A&M University and started off as a business major at UST. Then, he realized the importance of finance for keeping the books, so he changed his major.
“I wanted to be very good at what I was doing, and [finance] also gave me practical applications for the knowledge that was taught in class,” he said. “I was able to go back to work and apply it and really see how it works. It really reinforced everything.”
Carter credits Dr. Joe Ueng, associate professor and chair of economics, finance and decision information sciences, as an advisor, helping him figure out what direction to take his company. He also received help from Dr. Phillip Bell, who advised him on corporate and dissolution issues. Professor Ramon Fernandez, assistant professor of accounting, also provided accounting advice.
While SceneAssist.com does not have any other employees, under HappyHourNights, Carter said he employed eight UST students part-time in administration and sales and other area college students.
Within the next few months, Carter plans to finalize development of the new site and grow more users and customers. “Ultimately, I’d like to sell it,” he said. “I’d like to build it up and sell off the programming.”
Last year, Carter started another company Midas Spirits, selling and distributing Passion Tequila, a hot pink tequila, to local bars. He would like to continue to start more companies. “I’m a big fan of the creation phase.”
UST Resources for Entrepreneurs
For students who are looking for more resources for starting and growing their own businesses, UST offers an undergraduate class, MGMT 3330: Small Business Institute, taught by Andrea Condon, and a graduate class, MBA 5362: Entrepreneurship, taught by Dr. Cristian Morosan, assistant professor of management and marketing.