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Tales of a Startup: Jeweled

Transitioning Into A More Meaningful Relationship with UC San Diego founded Jeweled

June 9, 2021

Jeweled is a trans-centric dating app made for trans and trans-attracted users, founded by M.D./Ph.D. student Daniella McDonald and UC San Diego Health registered nurse Avi Manullang, brought together by passion and purpose.

In the past decade, there has been a positive shift in gender culture—a tipping point for trans folks as they are finally celebrated publicly and fall in love, transitioning into more meaningful relationships.

Jeweled app founders Daniella McDonald and Avi ManullangBorn out of StartR Inclusion at Rady School of Management, the company is committed to gender equality, working from the inside out. The app is embedded with psychosocial features to empower transgender and transgender attracted users to evolve their relationships.

Read more on their entrepreneurial journey in the UC San Diego ecosystem and their commitment to #knowyourworth

What excites you about your work?

Avi and I met on a dating app over a decade ago, but not to date! It is hard to find community in the trans world. Meeting on the app was a way for me to meet people like me. We realized dating apps could be that hack to form more meaningful connections. Dating as a trans woman is so much harder, many times people do not treat us as humans. This is something that really caters to a community that is silenced, oppressed and even killed. We want to make Jeweled a wellness app, not just a dating app.

Screenshot of Jeweled appEvery once in a find that rare gem in the dating world. That’s how Jeweled came about - we are all jewels. Incorporating during a pandemic gave us time to really explore the idea, with an increase in nearly 1.5 million people using dating apps. Our app includes psycho-social therapeutic issues, including checking in on mental wellness in addition to a robust matching algorithm that matches you as a gemstone, a sort of treasure hunting.

How did you first get involved with The Basement & the UC San Diego entrepreneurial community?

Ana Moreno was my initial contact in the entrepreneurial world on campus, as well as my labmate. She told me about StartR Inclusion, which my founder and I applied for in March 2020. We divided and conquered the ecosystem, with myself applying for BlackStone LaunchPad Fellowship and Avi applying for StartRImpact. We have done different competitions together or separately as co-founders.

Each incubator has led me to another pitch competition and a new step unveils. We’ve never started a company before. We are just trying to get as much exposure as possible and seed feeding. Jacques Chirazi of Basement Blackstone LaunchPad has been incredibly helpful, connecting our team to a variety of competitions and opportunities.

Each incubator has led me to another pitch competition and a new step unveils. We've never started a company before.

What campus resources have helped you throughout your student entrepreneurial journey?

Kimberly Davis King from Rady has been invaluable, showing us connections and who to talk to. This last month, we incorporated officially through Cooley to become Jeweled Inc., thanks to these incredible experiences at UC San Diego. It’s all so new for us. We don't have an MBA, but we are learning every day. I'm driven to find people that can help put this company together.

Jeweled founders in their scrubsHow do you balance being a full-time student while also running a startup?

As a combined M.D./PhD, sometimes I’m not sure how I do it! I’m defending my thesis at the end of June, while attending weekly pitch comps and meetings. It’s incredibly exciting with lots of noise and moving pieces. Luckily, I have an incredible team. We have grown to a group of six employees including alumni. I am so thankful for my team and the impact they bring. It's definitely a passion project!

What role have mentors played in your success/journey?

Ana Moreno was my peer mentor, I must have called her over 10 times in a week on Zoom with questions! She would break down how to do a pitch, or how to raise funding. I didn't know the business side of things, so we were constantly asking her questions. She inspired us but also made you really think. As a business woman, she was approachable and a real inspiration for me as someone my age.

What advice would you give to another UC San Diego student thinking about starting a company?

It’s okay to not have the answers...I didn't. I think there’s this idea that you have to have it all figured out. That’s simply not true. It's the opposite. You learn more and grow more by messing up. I have failed every week in the company’s growth and development. We keep learning. 

I think there's this idea that you have to have it all figured out. That's simply not true. It's the opposite. You learn more and grow more by messing up.

It’s okay to be wrong and fail. Learn from those failures. As long as you have that passion, you can definitely do it. You just have to try it. Ask a lot of questions!

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