At the kick off to University of Chicago’s New Venture Challenges, two first year teams were awarded $10,000 to fund their dorm room ventures.
The judges decided to split the first place prize at the College New Venture Challenge (open only to undergraduates), awarding $10,000 to both Athenir, a research aggregate service, and UProspie, a service that connects prospective students to undergraduates on a college campus.
Athenir helps students finding sources in a new way, said Bryan Waterhouse, the first year at UChicago who founded the company along with a high school friend (who is a student at Stanford).
“There’s a visual searching component, gives you an opportunity to see a visual summary of your topic first, then dive into subtopics,” he said. There are also citation features, which was the original inspiration for the site. “Sometimes it takes longer to cite the sources than it does to write the actual paper, which we thought was kind of ridiculous,” said Waterhouse.
The platform is initially geared toward high school students, though in the future they hope to expand to educational institutions of all kinds. The $10,000 will go toward hiring an extra developer, going to edtech conferences to talk product with teachers, and fund server costs and infrastructure needs. Campus representatives are also in the future as the company hopes to push their product further.
UProspie is an online social service that helps students get the inside scoop on their future university. It connects high school students with undergraduates based on shared interests in order to explain what can’t be conveyed through brochures or campus tours, through both in person and online interactions. The inspiration came to UChicago first year co-founders Jason Li (a Shark Tank alum) and Raymond Han as they began their freshman year at UChicago (another co-founder goes to Columbia University). Though they heard in advance it was a place where “fun comes to die,” once on campus they were happy to find there was a niche for everyone. “Schools are more than stereotypes, and they are more than a rankings or an admissions number,” said Li.
They also hope the service can be a tool for low-income students hoping to find someone on campus who can speak to their experience transitioning to higher education.
The funds will go toward making the site run smoother and faster, plus bringing their team together (they have four people now, but are bringing in three interns this summer). This money is in addition to the earnings from nine other college venture competitions they will have competed in once the school year is over.
Here are the other winners:
$4,000: Ping!, an app that uses geolocation software and user preferences to notify users of deals nearby.
$2,000: Basic Ballot, a tool that gives users best-fit voting recommendations through an algorithm that takes into account user-provided information and changing preferences over time.
$2,000: Flyer, a mobile app (described as “visually rich” by the founders) that allows users to find the best nightlife and social activities nearby.
$2,000: Squire, an online collaborative learning tool that aims to engage students and better manage classrooms.
“It was great to see the Chicago community coming out,” said Han of UProspie. “We’re not very known for having a startup culture, but it is great to see all these new ideas popping up.”