This semester, HackCville launched three new programs. One of these new programs, Beta, provides program participants with existing projects or projects that continue after starting in Hustle, Spark, and Ignite. The leadership involved in Beta provides personalized mentorship and resources to assist the aspiring entrepreneurs in order to successfully grow their projects.
As we enter the third week of February, The Pioneer takes a closer look at a couple of the companies involved in the program and where they are in making their ideas reality.
Division 1-On-1 trainers was founded by Jared Vishno and Grant Sirlin, both first-year Pre-Commerce students. Division 1-On-1 aims to transform the way young athletes receive athletic training by connecting a youth athlete with a collegiate athlete. This process benefits both parties; young athletes develop their skills with current varsity athletes, while these college athletes take advantage of a flexible and efficient means to make money amidst their otherwise busy schedules. Vishno and Sirlin summarize the mission of Division 1-On-1 by saying the following: “We are motivated to solve these problems because we were both varsity athletes in high school and loved training young athletes in basketball and soccer. We also love college sports and have heard many stories of athletes who can’t afford to buy food for their dorms because of the NCAA’s restrictive monetary policies.”
The two are working to make this service comply with NCAA regulations, thereby making it legal for collegiate-level athletes to indirectly make money in their sport. Backed by a solid business plan, Division 1-On-1 won the concept phase of U.Va.’s Entrepreneurship Cup (E-Cup), an annual competition that seeks to enhance U.Va.’s entrepreneurial community. The E-Cup provided the duo with a valuable introduction to members of the U.Va. entrepreneurship community, such as Kyle Redinger, David Touve and David Richards. The team has also looked to Chip Ransler, Executive Director of HackCville, for guidance in their venture. Division 1-On-1 has been backed by many U.Va. athletes who have expressed interest in joining the service as trainers. The next step for Vishno and Sirlin is the construction of a prototype with specific features, such as in-app messaging and athlete bios. This is to be augmented with a website and additional marketing in the Charlottesville area.
MB Deliveries is led by Mark Martinkov, a second-year Economics major, and Bryan Datyner, a third-year Commerce major and Computer Science minor. MB Deliveries has identified a core problem, one that both Martinkov and Datyner are passionate about. College students frequently order-in on a tight budget yet face very high delivery fees. Furthermore, these students do not have access to jobs with flexible work hours that mold to their unpredictable college schedule. Small Charlottesville restaurants can also be hurt by high fees from other delivery services. MB Deliveries aims to lower the cost per order to the restaurants and help them be as profitable as possible.
MB Deliveries will be offering delivery service from Crozet Pizza for a 30 day trial period starting Jan. 31st: Tues.-Sun. 5-9pm. The services has the equipment necessary to begin these deliveries and continues to be in discussion with Foodio and Crozet to further solidify their place in the delivery space. MB Deliveries aims to continue hiring drivers while also increasing the efficiency of the delivery process. The team is indebted to HackCville’s Hustle Class program leads as well as other HackCvillians for advice and the opportunity to further develop their idea.
Dining Band, another team in HackCville’s Beta Program, is comprised of Zainab Oni, a third-year Political and Social Thought major; Gerard Alvarez, a third-year Civil Engineering major; Nigel Collins, a third-year Economics and Foreign Affairs double-major; Becky Katcher a fourth-year Commerce major; and Samuel Boakye, a third-year Computer Science major. The Dining Band is wearable, assistive technology with distance and sensing capabilities that has been integrated into a wristband. It provides independence and self-assurance for blind people by removing the obstacles that the blind might face while eating. In an interview with community members from VISIONS Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Zainab Oni posed the question, “What is one of the biggest challenges you face as a blind person?” Practically every interviewee replied, “Eating.” The interviewees, who encountered this problem several times per day, revealed that eating is primarily challenging because they have difficulty locating their plate on a table. Dining Band offers a remedy to this challenge. Users can wave the Dining Band over a table and upon detection of food, the band communicates with them via simple vibrations, thereby allowing the blind a chance to eat with confidence.
Dining Band’s primary goal is to improve upon their current prototype. To achieve this goal, the group aims to recruit more U.Va. talent to build a functioning prototype as well as recruit blind and/or visually impaired individuals who will user-test prototypes so that they can continuously reiterate until achieving a final product. As these goals come at a cost, Dining Band is looking to get more funding through grants and potentially crowdsourcing. Dining Band has used the following resources to get to its current stage: Visions Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Parsons School of Art and Design, MOUSE, HackCville Ignite, Works in Progress, Student Disability Access Center. Furthermore, Dining Band has been recognized by NY Tech Meetup, Huffington Post, and U.Va.’s Entrepreneurship Cup.
Valhoo is led by Ani Sridhar, a second-year Computer Science major; Patrick O’Brien, a secon-year Pre-Commerce major; Jack Marsh, a second-year Pre-Commerce major; Justin Barry, a second-year Computer Science major; and Robby Klemcheck, a second-year Computer Science major. Srindhar states the following regarding the goals of Valhoo: “We want to tell a story with data.”
Valhoo aims to be a quick, easy to use source for financial information. It is geared particularly toward amateur investors who may not have access to a Bloomberg terminal or the coding abilities to manipulate large data sets. Valhoo further strives to provide the quantitative underpinnings of any publicly traded company. The team has created a prototype website and works to solidify the website while also adding more features. Furthermore, the team looks to have friends and peers navigate the website and subsequently offer feedback on their experience. The Valhoo team was a part of Virginia Venture Fund’s V Accelerate Program for guidance and resources.
The FoodAssist team is composed of Rachel DiBenedetto, a third-year Commerce major; Spencer Gennari, a fourth-year Computer Science major; Megan Grzyb, a fourth-year Systems Engineering major, Anup Nair, a second-year Economics major; Mario Sukkar, a fourth-year Computer Science major; Avik Turkiewicz, a fourth-year Systems Engineering major; Alan Wei, a fourth-year Computer Science major; and Penny Xu, a third-year Commerce major. Mario Sukkar states, “There are 42 million food insecure individuals in the United States, yet we as a society waste over 100 billion pounds of edible food each year. These two problems should not coexist. FoodAssist aims to bridge this gap, providing tools to ensure that excess food is consumed rather than thrown away.”
The team has identified two critical needs. First, food pantries need a better system for tracking food intake, coordinating food pickups and compiling reports. Second, grocery stores often don’t claim tax incentives they were owed for donating food. The team first built a website which filled the needs of food pantries and could provide grocery stores with the value of food donated. FoodAssist had initial success, winning the Concept and Discovery rounds of the Entrepreneurship Cup and bringing two food pantries into their system. FoodAssist is now working on an Android and iOS app which helps reduce food waste from events. The app has started with U.Va. events, allowing event organizers to advertise excess food to app users, increasing the likelihood that it gets claimed and eaten. The team will then evaluate expansion into corporate events and weddings, both of which have large volumes of leftover food. FoodAssist is grateful for the help from Adam Healey, CEO of Borrowed and Blue, Sean Ferguson, a lecturer in the Engineering and Society Department at U.Va., and Alex Zorychta, program director of Works in Progress, among others
Yuki Yang, a second-year Computer Science major, is also participating in the Beta Program. While her project is unnamed, her goal is clear. Yang aims to build a computer science education program for first and second-year U.Va. females where they can learn technical and career skills. Yuki elaborates on her mission, stating, “I know a lot of younger CS students struggle to bridge the gap between class learning and applicable skills used in the real world, so this is a program for those curious and eager to learn to be connected to the resources they need.” Yang’s personal motivation stems from her involvement with Women in Computing Sciences, an organization which attempts to help girls through the same sort of dilemma within that support network.
Yang looks to further develop her new project within the Beta Program. Her goals for the future include networking with the local tech community, building efficient workshop curriculum and recruiting mentors passionate about the cause to join the organization. In conclusion, Yang is inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit of HackCville and looks forward to the support and network that will come through HackCville’s Beta Program as she continues her work.
Home Hydroponic Systems
Have you ever wanted to grow your own food at home but don’t have a garden or yard? Than Home Hydroponic Systems is for you. Home Hydroponic Systems is a project currently being designed by 5 Beta participants: 4 Undergrads and one MBA student. Hailing from a mix of years and backgrounds, (Foreign Affairs, BME, CS etc.), these entrepreneurs hope to, “bring sustainable food production into people’s homes”.
Their goal is to create, “an automated hydroponics system”, that removes, “all of the traditional time and knowledge constraints of gardening”. Additionally, they claim that their system will allow for increases in efficiency that, “will allow users to grow up to 10x more yield using 90% less water”. Such an efficiency boost could make hydroponics attractive to even non-gardeners.
Their progress so far has been met with outside recognition. A fully functioning prototype has been developed as a proof of concept, and the team has also won a GIFT grant from UVa in order to build 5 more prototypes and launch a sustainability initiative around grounds. Future plans include applying to the Darden iLab in order to refine their idea and business model.
Profit with Purpose
Profit with purpose is a Beta project started by a group of business and finance minded entrepreneurs. Five students, (all studying either Commerce or Economics), want to establish a new avenue for business minded students to pursue: Impact Investing. Related to social entrepreneurship, Impact Investing is designed to keep social purpose in mind while investing. This means funding the projects of social entrepreneurs. They believe that Uva students are uniquely situated to have impactful careers but the university lacks meaningful pathways to enter the social impact space.
Profit with Purpose is designed to fill this void. Its goals include educating, connecting and empowering students to pursue careers in social Entrepreneurship and impact investing. Launching last semester they have already seen sustainable growth. Their executive team currently stands at 10 positions and they currently have 30+ members total. Having recently pitched to the Jefferson Trust, their current goals include building relationships with other CIO’s and professional investment funds. Profit with Purpose is posed to have a major impact on improving social entrepreneurship at Uva. Visit their website for a greater overview of their team and goals or if you are interested in getting involved.
Online education is a world that ranges from instructional videos to University produced PDF’s. A group of Beta participants are looking to personalize online education. Luke Antolin, Audrey Francis and Cole Chisom are a diverse group of students, whose educational focuses range from statistics and mathematics to biology and commerce. Even though they study broad subjects, they are bound together by a passion for improving online education.
Titled AristotlED, their project focuses on the hypothesis that online education can be made more efficient if information is presented in “the optimal order, through the right medium, or with the most relevant examples for the individual student”. Basically, they hope to personalize online education, making it more effective in the process.
So far they have collected links to existing online materials and created a website that aggregates these links in the most efficient way for the average student. The next step will focus on increasing personalization through saved preferences. A combination of a web app for saved preferences and algorithms that maximize efficiency are the project’s current focus.