Medill media innovation students present their startup ideas (text & video)

After 10 weeks of team-building and hard work, nine teams of Northwestern students pitched their startup business ideas March 7 to an audience of investors, entrepreneurs, students and faculty.

The presentations in the McCormick Tribune Foundation Center Forum marked the halfway point of the six-month NUvention Web+Media class. The teams — eight of which include at least one Medill master’s student — are continuing their work in the spring quarter.

MSJ media innovation student Jessica Buchleitner describes research that led to her team’s idea for Activid8, a mobile dating app.

“It really invigorated my love for the industry,” said Cally Baute, vice president and general manager of Politico, one of the attendees. “Seeing everybody tackle a problem in a way that they had to think about it holistically — who is the customer, what is the need, what is the problem that we’re trying to solve for, how can we make this valuable from a revenue perspective — those are all things that I think through in my
day-to-day profession, and those are the types of people that I want to hire.”

NUvention Web+Media is a unique interdisciplinary class in which every team is expected to launch a digital product and try to generate revenue within six months. All teams have at least two students with programming or computer science backgrounds.

“I think the NUvention experience is always amazing, because students get this very immersive entrepreneurial experience, and it’s the safest environment to fail in, which is the whole point of being an entrepreneur,” said Mary Lou Song, CEO of FuelX and a member of the class Advisory Board. “You have to be ready to fail, and you have to be ready to recover quickly. NUvention teaches you how to do that.”

The product ideas pitched at the event were:

  • Boost, “an AI-powered social media manager,” which is targeted at small business owners who don’t have enough time to run their social media accounts or enough money to hire someone to do it for them. The team includes Medill MSJ Mengyi “Jenny” Sun.
  • JugoMed, “a patient-facing health platform” that helps people prepare for and capture information related to their doctor visits. The team includes Medill MSJ Wynona Latham.
  • Teleos, which provides “a holistic view into cross-platform video insights” for media companies and organizations that distribute video on multiple platforms. The team includes Medill MSJs Nikolas Wright, Wanruo “Ashley” Zhang and Kara Voght.
  • Gateway, which seeks to help universities organize tutoring resources so students can more easily find help and tutors make the most of their time. The team includes Medill MSJ Lauren Ball.
  • FollowerStack, a service that helps businesses build their social media following.
  • A tool, still unnamed, that provides “a centralized place to track and build job applications,” especially for students who apply to dozens of jobs when graduating from college. The team includes Medill MSJ Vijeta Ojha.
  • ShareVR, software that makes it easy for people using virtual reality to capture and share their experiences with others. The team includes Medill MSJs Henry Keyser and Qiqi “Vivian” Zhang.
  • Activid8, “putting dating in action,” which helps people set up dates based on their favorite activities. The team includes Medill MSJs Jessica Buchleitner, Tingyu “Catherine” Chen and Yi “Ann” Chen.
  • Answerly, a platform that helps college students connect with faculty members. The team includes Medill MSJ Reedhima Mandlik and MSIMC student Akshita Gupta.

Devin Emory, a Medill media innovation MSJ, produced this video about the “pitch day” for his video storytelling class:

In the spring quarter, the teams are expected to review the feedback they got from the investors and entrepreneurs who came to the March pitch session — and decide whether to “pivot or persist” in the second quarter.

“We got a lot of super-helpful feedback,” said Mengyi “Jenny” Sun, one of the Medill students. “We have a lot of things to work on for next quarter, and I’m looking forward to it.”

The final presentations for the class will take place in early June.


About the MSJ Media Innovation & Entrepreneurship Specialization:

Medill website | Video | Sign up for Medill Media Innovation newsletter | Rich Gordon’s guest column (Entrepreneurial Journalism Educators Network)