News at Smith

UMD Alumnus Talks E-commerce and Pivoting on Bootstrapped

May 15, 2018
Entrepreneurial Spirit


The Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship produces Bootstrapped, a podcast featuring founders, investors, and serial entrepreneurs. The podcast is hosted by Elana Fine, Executive Director of the Dingman Center, and Joe Bailey, Associate Research Professor at the Smith School. Each episode brings a different startup story to life with special guests offering advice and lessons learned on topics that range from fundraising and marketing to team formation and customer acquisition.

On this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed UMD alumnus and co-founder of Zentail Daniel Sugarman ’10. Sugarman and his co-founder, Daniel Sperling-Horowitz, first launched a business called HD Trade Services that used technology to decrease fraud in international trading. After entering Y Combinator, they ultimately realized their business model was not sustainable, pivoted, and renamed themselves Zentail to offer their strong automation and data analytics software to retailers. Today, Zentail is an e-commerce platform that gives online retailers and brands the ability to sync catalog and inventory data, maintain competitive pricing, obtain analytics and ship products through channels such as Amazon,, and Walmart. In this episode, Sugarman shares how forming a network and understanding the capital structure behind his startup allowed him to pivot his idea to a different runway while leveraging his current strengths.

Sugarman graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in Computer Science in 2010 and began pursuing his PhD at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. In 2011, he met up with co-founder Sperling-Horowitz and they started HD Trade Services where they later joined the Y Combinator cohort of summer 2012. It was in 2014 that both officially pivoted to Zentail, and this year they are projecting to serve about one billion dollars in the e-commerce industry.

To listen to this episode and gain further insights into the startup world, subscribe to Dingman Bootstrapped on iTunes or download the episodes on the Dingman Center website.

About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty master's, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

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