Was it a matter of chance or written in the stars?
An unexpected meeting seven months ago in Las Vegas left Hunter Rosenblume with a big idea – could he monetize a web browser that works without connecting to the Internet? Now he has withdrawn from Georgia Tech with the backing of angel investors to bring “Cosmos Browser” from the heavens down to reality.
Rosenblume, who was a sophomore computer science major, formally launched Cosmos Browser this month with its 17-year-old inventor, Rohith Varanasi. The program uses the SMS communication layer to provide very basic, text-only Internet search – no images, no sound, no video – just links. That means anyone with a mobile phone, but no data plan, can browse for free.
The golden goal is to license Cosmos Browser to mobile phone carriers as a lead-generation tool. The two also are thinking about going even bigger – using the technology to generate leads for their very own virtual carrier.
“In developing countries, people don’t buy data plans because they can’t afford to or they aren’t yet aware how powerful Internet access can be on their phone,” the 20-year-old chief executive says. “Carriers can choose to give (Cosmos Browser) to their customers for free… then send them reminders to buy a data plan if their browsing habits grow or change.”
Rosenblume stayed in touch with Varanasi after meeting in Las Vegas. Varanasi created Cosmos Browser at hack-a-thons when he was 16, Rosenblume says; knew he stumbled onto something big, but the teen didn’t know how to monetize it. Meanwhile, Rosenblume was co-director of "Startup Semester," a student-organized, pre-accelerator at Georgia Tech that helps first-time founders understand their own products and customers. He helped mentor two teams that became InVenture Prize finalists, says Academic Advisor Christen Steele. He also completed the GT 2803 course "Your Idea, Your Invention" as a first-year student.
It was a Rosenblume’s mentor from an internship at Detroit Venture Partners that really got the ball rolling. Cosmos Browser was encouraged to apply to TechStars – Detroit’s technology accelerator. Rosenblume spent most of Spring ’15 laying the groundwork – outlining the business, seeking mentors and funding. The intense demands meant the startup or his grades would suffer if he tried to do both. So Rosenblume hitched his wagon to the stars and formally withdrew from Georgia Tech in March.
Cosmos Browser was accepted into TechStars this June and awarded $120,000 in seed funding for a 7-10 percent equity stake.
“This is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but what’s the fun in easy?” Rosenblume says.
Cosmos Brower is based in Detroit during the three-month TechStars program, is hiring interns, and looking to add a full-time role this fall.