On his first day of summer vacation after his freshman year at Turpin High School, 14-year old Emerson Walker did something unusual. Rather than “taking it easy” after a week of final exams, he decided to come pitch an idea at Cincinnati’s 4th Startup Weekend event.
The problem: schools hand out flimsy planners each year that get ripped up and lost. Also, teachers are entering assignments into web portals such as Schoology and Blackboard.
The solution: a planner that works on smartphones and tablets, that automatically pulls assignments from the web portals, allowing students to “triage” assignments into specific activities on their digital planners.
Another high schooler registered for the event, Will Muller, who is finishing his junior year at Indian Hill High School this week. Once Emerson’s idea was selected into the top 8 from more than 30 pitches, Will joined his team, along with several other inpiduals including Kelly Schwedland, an Entrepreneur-in-Residence for Indiana-based Elevate Ventures, and Nat Finn, a social media specialist who accompanied Kelly as part of their preparation to bring a Startup Weekend event to northwest Indiana.
“Originally, Kelly and I were going to hang out in the shadows, learn, study, appreciate from afar but not get in the way of the weekend’s natural flow. Star Trek fans would know this as the Prime Directive. A 14-year-old-kid named Emerson changed our minds.” Nat blogged.
Over the course of the weekend, Emerson and Will got out in the field to do in-person validation, and learned that their product, which went through several name iterations throughout the weekend, would be best marketed to parents of junior high students, who are highly motivated to help their children develop good planning habits.
Emerson and Will delivered a succinct, clear pitch, that won over not only the judges, but also won the popular vote from the attendees.
Fellow organizer Rodney D’Souza and Northern Kentucky University professor was in touch with university during the weekend to discuss potential scholarship offers to the boys, and Kelly was in contact with Schoology CEO Jeremy Friedman.
The team won a “lunch with a VC” prize with judge Dov Rosenberg from Allos Ventures, to which Emerson responded, “I already had two lunches with a VC this weekend,” referring to lunches with Kelly during the weekend.
Emerson and Will took Monday off, but will be back at it on Tuesday, setting up shop at Cintrifuse. Their first order of business will be setting up a Kickstarter campaign to raise $5,000 to fund the development of the app in collaboration with INTERalliance of Cincinnati.
Another great chapter of the Cincinnati Startup Weekend story comes to a close, this one will be hard to top.
Find out more about mPlanner @ http://mplanner.co and on Twitter @ewalk10