This week I had the pleasure of attending the final round of the InVenture Competition at Georgia Tech University in Atlanta. InVenture is an innovation competition for undergraduate students at Georgia Tech. Students can work independently or in teams to develop and present inventions, which will be judged by an expert panel. Over 200 competitors introduced their inventions in a preliminary round, and the finals were narrowed down to four teams and individuals. The concept was modeled after the former ABC television show American Inventor.
To preface, I was in awe of all the inventors. There were some really impressive entries, and I am positive all of the undergraduates who participated have a very bright future. While I have a deep rooted passion for entrepreneurism, I was there because one of the participants, Joy Buolamwini, had invited me. When I first met Joy, it was hard to believe I was talking to someone who had turned 19 a month earlier...yes, 19. It is difficult for me to come up with the proper adjectives to describe Joy. She is genuine, focused, highly impassionate and one determined individual. She asked if I would meet with her to discuss her idea called Admissions Conquered. Joy had approached me in the early stages of the competition via our Mediacurrent contact form on our website– as you can imagine most web development firms get a lot of head scratching requests from aspiring entrepreneurs – ideas like “I want to clone the next MySpace or could you build a fantasy baseball site like ESPN for under $1000” are two of my favorites...ummm, yeah about that. However, Joy’s inquiry was different.
Admission Conquered is a web based system that makes the college application process easier by centralizing resources, and allowing users to find what is personally relevant for them. Joy’s idea was inspired by her own difficulties in trying to educate herself on the oftentimes confusing college admissions process. She set out to be a change agent and share the wealth of information she had gained after being accepted to the most elite universities in America (Harvard, Yale, and Cornell to name just a few). In the end, she decided to accept the prestigious Stamps Scholarship at Georgia Tech to pursue a career in Computer Science with a focus in Computational Media.
Anyway, this all leads me to Drupal. Joy had always been a fan of Drupal, and the decision to use Drupal as her CMS to build out a prototype of Admissions Conquered was an easy one. While she is a talented web designer in her own right, she was looking for as much help as she could. After we met, I told Joy Mediacurrent would assist in anyway that we could – office space, Drupal know-how, business and advisory services, etc. She thought forming an alliance with a local Drupal shop like Mediacurrent would bode well in front of the judges.
While Joy put on an extremely strong presentation it was not meant to be. The panel decided to go with an idea called DialPrice by computer science major Roger Pincome. Incidentally, Roger’s idea is brilliant. In short, he developed an application that allows consumers to competitively check product prices by simply texting a UPC code in their cell phone. If you are a venture capitalist I’d strongly suggest you reach out to Roger before someone else does (including me :-).
To conclude, we have not heard the last of Joy. I’m happy to report that she will continue to plow forward with Admission Conquered. In fact, she has already lined up numerous speaking engagements with area high schools where she’ll pitch the concept to student focus groups. She will also be presenting at an upcoming Atlanta Drupal User Group (ADUG) meet-up. When I talk to Joy again, I’ll share a quote that I ironically enough saw on a recent post from Dries Buytaert, the leader of the Drupal project – he said one of his favorite sayings while he was a college student was “flying is learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss (Douglas Adams).” Good luck Joy!