NUvention Web + Media teams seek feedback from entrepreneurs, investors

SueSan Chan presents Perf at the NUvention Web+Media midterm pitch session at The Garage

Halfway through Northwestern’s flagship class in digital entrepreneurship, eight groups of students pitched their ideas to investors and entrepreneurs at the university’s startup incubator space, The Garage.

“This is a great space and we’re glad we’re able to use it,” said Mike Marasco, who leads the faculty team for the NUvention Web+Media class and directs the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “We’re actually teaching a class about accelerated startups, and we get to do that in an incubation space.”

The audience—professors, advisors, fellow students and members of the class Advisory Board—came on March 13 to hear about the students’ product ideas, their target customers and the problems their products were intended to solve.

“Teams did a great job of developing unique insights from their customer development in the first quarter,” said Todd Warren, an investor who has helped teach the class since it was first launched.

“I was impressed with how the student teams stepped out of their comfort zone to really get to know customers and determine their needs to develop initial business concepts and products,” Warren said.

NUvention: Web + Media is a two-quarter course in which teams of students from all over the university collaborate to develop digital business ideas. Programs heavily represented among the students include computer science, the Kellogg School of Management, Engineering Design Innovation and the Medill School’s Media Innovation & Entrepreneurship MSJ specialization.

This year’s teams presented these eight product ideas:

Coinscious is an app geared to young professionals that aims to help them think about their finances in a new way — by categorizing their expenses as money well spent, or not — so they can make better financial decisions in the future. “You’ll have better control and heightened financial consciousness to drive that habit change,” said team member Brett Bergstrom, a Medill MSJ student.

Perf is an e-commerce platform that can help people find the perfect scent — “a scent someone will remember you by,” said team member SueSan Chen, an Engineering Design Innovation student. Using a quiz format, the Perf team designed the app to translate answers into a “scent profile” unique to every user. “We believe our solution is perfectly fit for people new to the scent market, looking for an expressive, non-traditional online experience,” said team member and economics senior Justin Fleischmann.

Tribe is a career application that “intelligently” matches people looking to transition into a new career with people who’ve already made the switch. The team’s first target market is former journalists. “At Tribe, we empower pivoting journalists by giving them a better sense of that next identity, and leveraging the ‘we’ve got your back’ community that already exists in journalism,” said team member Harriet White, a Medill MSJ student.

Corinne Osnos presents Kyte to the class advisory board

Kyte is a mentorship platform that provides accessible and “empathetic” guidance to students who are the first in their families to attend college. Corinne Osnos, a team member and Medill graduate student, said Kyte matches users with another first-generation student and with someone who has completed his or her education. “Once paired, the triad works together for one year to help students achieve shared goals, and they also can share experiences and provide advice,” Osnos said.

Pallergy is a personalized app that can store your dietary and allergy restrictions, inform you of places to eat that cater to your needs, and allow you to connect with others to share your food experiences. “We want to give a sense of being simple, clean, fresh, and safe because that’s what Pallergy is all about,” said team member Alex Qi, a Medill graduate student. “What we’re really aiming for is to get that clear, critical community interaction where restaurants are going to feel obligated to give us their allergy information,” said Andrew Lapin, also a Medill student.

Ver.ID is a platform powered by blockchain technology that aims to provide a faster and more efficient way for employers to verify education and prior employment for job applicants. “As time goes on, every record that’s added to the blockchain will form an employment history for the user,” said team member Hannah Cui, a student in joint master’s program in business and engineering design. Ver.ID would provide user interfaces for both job applicants and employers.

Tangerine is an app that provides customized advice and recommendations from nutritionists at an affordable price. “We turn one time consultations with nutritionists into ongoing personalized meal recommendations,” said team member Eli Cohen, a senior computer science student. Users can connect to a nutritionist of their choice for a 30-minute video call in order to collect information about medical and dietary histories, goals, and food preferences. “In the future we will be the lead generation for delivery services, and we will be building partnerships with health insurance companies,” said team member Abeer Barram, who is pursuing a master’s degree in project management.

Jyo Nag introduces an example of a prospective MBA student who would benefit from myapp.MBA

myapp.MBA is a platform that helps prospective MBA students complete their applications to their dream schools. “The MBA application process can be challenging to manage,” said team member Jyo Nag, a Kellogg MBA student, “especially since applicants are working full time.” The app seeks to streamline the process by consolidating all the notes, documents, and resources their users need — and get feedback on their applications from current students. “I could go onto the feedback tab and submit my essay for advice from a current MBA student for a much lower rate from what it would have cost to get that advice from an MBA consultant,” said team member Daniel Nussbaum, a computer science and economics major.

After each presentation, advisory board members gave feedback to the teams. They also filled out a questionnaire about each team’s proposal and ranked the ideas presented.

Mike Marasco at The Garage: “This is a great space and we’re glad we’re able to use it”

According to Marasco, nearly 30 members of the advisory board attended, coming from as far as Spain to attend.

“People from east coast, west coast — all come just because they enjoy the opportunity to hear ideas from the students and to interact among themselves and with you,” Marasco said. “One of the most important benefits from this class is the networking we try to enable.”


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)