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April 23, 2013

Undergraduates compete in the Booth league

This spring, 17 teams will be competing in the Booth School of Business’s 17th annual Social New Venture Challenge (SNVC), a competition for start-ups that intends to address social issues in innovative ways. Fifty-five thousand dollars in total prizes will be distributed among the winners, with different sums of money granted to each winning team, in order to continue their work and further develop their business ideas.

Up against some of the most seasoned Booth students are two undergraduate teams: Carbon Groove and Project SAM.

Carbon Groove is a Web site that allows people to track the carbon footprints of their purchases by linking a credit or debit card to the site. “What we want to do is get a much more personalized and holistic view of the carbon footprint by looking at all of your consumption information,” said second-year Daniel Yu. The Carbon Groove team is made up of third-year Tamara Kawadri and second-years George He, Daniel Shear, Ben Siegel, and Yu.

Now that the project has been accepted into the SNVC, the team members are developing a Web site, which they hope to open up for user testing soon.

Kawadri touted the ease of use of the Web site. “Our project requires minimal manual entry, so it’s suited more to the average person, rather than someone who’s super environmentally conscious,” he said.

The team members hope to increase their project’s impact by allowing people to share their footprint data on social media and instituting a point system that challenges users to lower their footprints over time.

Yu is also a team member of Project SAM, which formed in fall 2012. Project SAM would allow health clinics in areas without reliable Internet connections to text in their inventory needs, streamlining the communication between clinics and their suppliers.

Project SAM’s other team members are third-years Chloe Sui and Dhrooti Vyas, second-years Hope Bretscher, Victor Kung, and Pete Vilter, and first-year Fredui Boulton.

The team formed when Sui, who has visited Peruvian medical clinics and is involved with GlobeMed, an RSO focused on combating issues of global health and poverty, spoke with Yu about inventory problems she had observed in clinics that didn’t have a reliable Internet connection. The two came up with the idea of an SMS-based inventory reporting system and decided to pursue it further.

“A lot of problems [in global health] are not easily solvable, so when I learned about a problem that was solvable through technology, I was really motivated to get it built,” Sui explained.

Team members spent 10th week last quarter at the Microsoft ImagineCup competition and both Yu and Sui are studying part-time this quarter in order to focus on the competition.

Through talks with GlobeMed, Project SAM has already spoken with several clinics in Peru and Uganda, all of which seemed enthusiastic about the idea, Sui said. “There’s an e-mail [we received] from a doctor in Uganda which says, ‘We need to pursue this [partnership] at all costs,’” she added.

The winners of the SNVC will be announced at the end of May but both teams have goals beyond winning the contest. “Our goal is definitely to build the project, not to win the competition,” Yu said.

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