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Student teams compete for Impact Fellowship

Last Saturday, Feb. 10th, seven student groups competed for fellowship prizes to fund their startup projects designed to address pertinent needs. Working with alumni coaches on how to pitch their ideas, the first-place team won $10,000 in addition to experiential learning grants. The runner-up was awarded experiential learning grants from the Career Center: $5,200 for each continuing non-senior student on the team. The students started their projects between September and October, were matched with alumni mentors to guide their projects and wrote their proposals in January. The presenting teams were the finalists of this lengthy process. 


The Carleton Impact Challenge ceremony began in the Weitz Cinema with a speech from President Byerly praising how this challenge allowed students to “go beyond the disciplinary boundaries” of the classroom and connect with each other, combining skills in an interdisciplinary fashion. This is the third year Byerly has attended this event. Michelle Mattson, Carleton’s provost, also spoke, thanking 24 Carleton alums for their support as coaches, mentors, judges and donors.


Each team’s pitch detailed how their specific idea was important, and how it differed from and exceeded competitors. They also explained how they would make a profit off of their idea beyond Carleton funding. Presenters answered questions about the logistics of their plans’ implementation, how they planned on marketing and promoting their idea and their target audience.


Persimmon, from Nic Berry24, Albert Jing  ’25, Geoffrey Jing  ’25 and Duy Nguyen25, is meant to give Internet users more power over how their data is used and sold. This startup uses an application programming interface (API) and machine learning to scrape top companies for information pertaining to a specific user, and repackages the information into what these companies may be thinking or assuming about the user. For example, if Target or Google thinks that a user is an impulsive buyer, Persimmon lets the user know this so that  they can better orient themselves with respect to your relationships with these industries.


The first pitch was QR Kindness, from Asher Stolberg  ’25 and Zach Gordon  ’25. Their app intends to serve as an easier and more efficient way to donate money to people in need. Unhoused people sign up for a Kindness Card through a partnered shelter or a proof of unhousedness. Donors can send money via a QR code on the Kindness card or via the QR Kindness app. The donor would be able to pinpoint the location of the person they just spotted with a map feature and donate to them. The donor would be able to see the donation receiver’s  age, basic needs and other details. The app would also ensure that the money that is donated is used well, as the Kindness Card is linked to the unhoused person’s ID. Money can be spent in partnered markets, stores and gyms that use identity verification. To turn a profit, 5% of each donation would go to salaries and app maintenance.


FlowWay, from Sam Ederington  ’25, Allison Tran ’26, Sophia Ying  ’26 and Lucy Zhang  ’26, is an app to help users deal with stress. The team mentioned that costs related to stress amounted to around “$300 billion annually,” with “75-90% of doctors visits… related to stress.” The app would guide the user through techniques of acupressure and meditation, with a better layout and more intuitive use than other meditation apps. The student team connected with medical experts to examine their app’s efficacy, and profits would come from a paid “pro” plan.


Eventer is an app meant for universal and easy event scheduling, created by Dexter Kong  ’26 and Owen Zhang26. It is geared towards Carleton students for the time being. The app features tags, notifications and a variety of search options. You can search by date, topic or event location to find events you may want to attend, and it is very simple to make your own event that others could sign up for. Profit is made through ads inside the app.


EduBridge, from Isabel Folger24, Ali Ramazani24 and Varun Saini24, aims to connect aspiring high school students who need help with the college admissions process to college students who have already gone through it. The team noted that one in six schools do not offer advanced placement (AP) classes,  and that 86% of parents interviewed by the team were interested in free college preparation resources. Funding would come from donors with several tiered subscription plans that could support one student for a term, one student for a year, an entire class for a term or an entire class for a year. From the team’s survey, they have found “18 Carleton students interested in tutoring,” and “12 Northfield parents pre-registered” for their service, although they are also looking for more support.


WiseWays, from Jiale Wan26 and Yining Pan27, is an artificial intelligence (AI) note-taking app. It is meant to address the loss of information that occurs when one temporarily diverts their attention to the act of note-taking during a lecture. The app would record the lecture and then generate visualizations based on the content of the lecture, as well as further questions to test retention. The app uses technology from OpenAI’s GPT-4, including sophisticated, open-source voice recognition, and is able to differentiate between multiple speakers. The product is not only suited for the Carleton community, but for any student conceptualizing their lectures, or even employees summarizing their meetings.


Sportslink, from Quinn Brannan25 and Sam Zachs25, strives to provide a foundation for connections between coaches and student athletes: it hopes to become the equivalent of  LinkedIn for athletic college recruiting. They illustrated the haphazard email campaign run by many high school athletes looking for recruiters, and a lack of a structured method for coaches to sort through applications. The team also aims to close name, image and likeness deals with third parties through the app, and to take a 1% cut of these deals for app maintenance and salary.


After the pitches, professor Nathan Grawe hosted an alumni panel with Catherine and Curt Gunsbury, (both class of89). The married couple spoke of their path toward owning a business and the challenges they faced. They shared that being your own boss allows you to set your own meaningful path and emphasized the importance of taking risks, although Catherine advised students to “be smart about [their] risks” and to always have a backup plan.


The students and alumni then convened in the Weitz Commons space. There, Grawe announced the winners of the competition: Persimmon came in first, with Sportslink in second. Sportslink received $10,400 in experiential learning grants, and Persimmon $25,600. Persimmon also won a bid in the Minnesota cup semi-finals. The other teams are still able to continue developing their ideas and to request funding from the Career Center.


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