Junior computer science major Tom Vazhekatt balances a full college workload along with being the cofounder and CEO of his startup route optimization company, Routora, ambitiously taking on a route that propels his career and education.
Vazhekatt launched Routora on March 30, 2022. The business’s primary goal is decreasing the amount of time spent on the road, helping users save gas. It operates on a multi-stop basis, mapping out the shortest and most efficient routes between multiple destinations. Today, it has amassed over 6,000 users on its website and has saved users from driving approximately 600,000 miles during their trips, translating into approximately $100,000 worth of gas.
Vazhekatt’s idea traces back to when he was running errands for his family, leading to his gas expenses to rise. A couple years later, his idea took root after being introduced to a service learning designed course, UTDesign EPICS. After being assigned to build a new routing system for the nonprofit Trusted World, Vazhekatt saw the need for the program in people’s personal lives and used the learning experience to turn his routing concept into a startup with friends from both UTD and Notre Dame University.
“My role for Trusted World was [to] essentially help build a better routing system for their fleet of drivers, because they were doing a lot of deliveries in a given day. So that’s what I did,” Vazhekatt said. “I built out the system for them and then at the end of that project, I realized that there was a personal need for this kind of product. Like when it came to me running errands. But there was also a very big business need. So that’s when I decided that this would probably be a cool thing to just build out and make available for everyone.”
Vazhekatt said being both a CEO and student results in lot of overtime work. Combined with being on the soccer team, his professional and education commitments usually mean Vazhekatt’s work-life balance is put in a compromising situation. He manages all this by making sure to schedule his classes and work obligations on designated days of the week.
“It’s been consistency, right from the beginning, if I kind of lacked a little consistency at any point then then that’s when the motivation and sort of the trajectory starts to slow down,” Vazhekatt said. “But because I’m consistent, and the people that I work with are also consistent, and we all motivate each other, that’s been the number one trait that’s like pretty much bolstered us to continue to build out this product and help our users.”
UTD has supplemented Vazhekatt’s design ideas, offering him a new perspective on entrepreneurship as a student and providing insight on technical aspects of his business. Vazhekatt correlates learning experiences on the soccer field and in his courses to his role in the start-up.
“I stopped to be a leader on the field and doing that has also enabled me to be a leader of this company,” Vazhekatt said. “I’m a computer science student, and I’m building this product. I’m actually programming the product, right. So, a lot of the stuff that I learned in class and different classes that I’m taking are supplementing the work that I’m doing with Routora …”
Vazhekatt is taking his company further by announcing plans to design a mobile app with his associates. He wants to push boundaries to make driving trips more efficient for people, while also utilizing and engaging in college life. Vazhekatt aims to maximize the potential of Routora’s purpose and mission.
“In the end, if we can save our users time spent on the road and money spent on gas as well as reduce our carbon footprint, that is what accomplishes our mission. And if we can continue to do that, then I see a bright future ahead of us,” Vazhekatt said.