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This guest blog was written by Alexandra Debow (Tandon ‘24), co-founder & CEO of Somewhere Somehow (swsh).
In Fall 2022, I started building social apps as a junior at NYU Tandon to help you share your time with the people that matter. Within a few months, this project became swsh.
swsh’s mission soon became to build social products to deepen the connections that matter to you – to become the easiest and most fun way to help you keep in touch with friends and family around the world.
For those that don’t know, “swsh” is an acronym for the phrase “somewhere somehow.” But what does “somewhere somehow” mean, and why did I decide to call our startup this?
I was born and raised in the transient city of Hong Kong. People were always moving in and out. I learned to make friends with people as quickly as I had to say goodbye to them. Since my family and friends were scattered around the world, I had to learn how to keep in touch.
Keeping in touch is tough — so tough. And, it can be pretty damn lonely to always feel like you’re saying goodbye.
Eventually, I said my goodbye to my home in Hong Kong for a new adventure. First, I lived in Miami and Toronto where I met and reconnected with family members. This was an experience that the pandemic granted me, and one that I am eternally grateful for. As Covid-19’s intensity decreased in Hong Kong, we returned back home so that I could graduate in May from high school.
So, I moved onto my next adventure. I said goodbye.
My next chapter brought me to Shanghai for NYU Shanghai. Due to China’s strict Covid-19 regulations, I couldn’t leave mainland China for the duration of my stay. I entered China when I was 18 and left when I was 20. I couldn’t see people who I had known my entire life (including my family) for two years, so I needed to create a new family in China.
Luckily, through the expansive entrepreneurial network of both NYU Shanghai and the city Shanghai, I quickly found a new home. I connected with the NYU Shanghai’s Program on Creativity + Innovation and like-minded students and professors to build upon my interest in entrepreneurship.
However, after almost two years, this chapter, too, came to a close, and I moved onto my next adventure. I said goodbye again.
I began studying at NYU Paris where I once again became acquainted with new people, environments, and experiences. I enjoyed being able to study, work, and travel with friends from all over while I was in Paris. The diversity of the student body at NYU Paris enabled me to explore ideas outside my traditional sphere of both building but also connecting.
Once again, I had to say my farewells to my new friends as I headed to my next adventure. I said goodbye.
San Francisco is where I began my next chapter. Between the wave of summer tech interns and silly Silicon Valley slang, I found a new community of friends.
After some time, I once again left – this time, for NYU Tandon.
By now, I had had enough of saying goodbye. I knew I was going to see these people again. I just didn’t know how or when.
So I started saying “See you again somewhere somehow.” This phrase represented to me the movements we all experience in our life, the chapters we close, and the new adventures that await us. But instead of saying goodbye, we instead lead with hope by saying that we will see each other again somewhere and somehow.
My last move was from San Francisco to New York (where I currently live). It was on the first day that I moved to New York (Aug. 31, 2022) that I stopped saying goodbye and started saying, “See you somewhere somehow.”
I believed in the sentiment of seeing the people that matter to you again so much that I decided to start a company around it. This company’s mission was to deepen the connections with people that matter to you. There was no name nearly as encapsulating as “somewhere somehow.”
I began building and testing swsh with friends around me at NYU. Quickly, I found traction among my friends which led me to reach out to the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute to gain support. One of the first people we met was Darren Yee (Venture Associate at the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute) who to this day remains a strong mentor and supporter to us. He encouraged us to apply for the NYU Startpu Bootcamp program where we learned about rapid user interviewing and testing. While I was at Tandon, I enjoyed exploring the MakerSpace, too, connecting with other like-minded builders.
As the semester was winding down and swsh was winding up, we decided to apply to both the Berkley Center for Entrepreneurship’s Entrepreneurs Challenge and the J-Term Startup Sprint. To our surprise, we were accepted into both. At the J-Term Startup Sprint, we made lifelong friends with the other NYU startup founders and mentors in addition to learning the valuable tactical lessons of forming theses, validating and invalidating, and iteration cycles.
Come spring 2023, as we focused more energy on swsh, we also had the chance to ramp up our involvement in the Entrepreneurs Challenge, where we soon became finalists. The entrepreneurial waves that we built within NYU started spreading as we met more and more entrepreneurially minded students who we formed startup communities, ambassador programs, and events with.
To this day, we are so lucky to have this NYU entrepreneurial community that we get to call home.
Now you know how “swsh” got its name — and how NYU helped us get there. The only last thing I can say here is I hope I see you (yes, you who is reading this) somewhere somehow 🙂