UBound wins 2nd place at Startup Weekend EDU

Great news: my idea, UBound, won second place at Startup Weekend EDU! We also took first place of the votes of other participants.

Startup Weekend is a 54-hour business plan competition. Participants show up on a Friday, give a 60-second pitch to everyone (if they want to), then form teams to work on the best ideas for a day and a half. On Sunday, the teams pitch their business to a panel of judges who have never heard them before. I’ll write more about the experience and the other awesome teams in another post, but I wanted to share about my team and what we worked on.

We pitched UBound, an online platform to connect high school students with college students and professionals who can answer their questions about getting into and attending college.

UBound Logo

Problem: Many Americans aren’t applying to college, or aren’t applying to the best colleges for them, because they don’t have enough information.

This is a huge issue especially for students of color and low-income communities. As the income gap continues to grow between college graduates and those who have only attended high school, the proportion of low-income students at our top institutions isn’t going up. Many students don’t know anyone who can tell them why they should go to college, how to get in, or even how to pay for the application process. Colleges may have the money to support these students, but most aren’t very good at connecting with them.

Solution: UBound is a free online service that puts high school students in touch with older peers who have successfully made the transition to a four-year institution.

High school students can log on through social networks. Once inside, UBound presents them with a list of advisors who can tell them how they got into college, how they made the decision to go to a specific school, and how they paid for it. Users can see the academic timeline of any advisor, chat with them in a single click, and get notifications about upcoming deadlines for colleges UBound thinks would be a good match for them.

For college students and professionals, we’re offering a free and easy way to connect with younger people that many already mentor through offline programs. Student groups and companies can organize online advisement and reach a much wider group of younger students.

Colleges can have a basic profile page for free, and for a fee can recruit specific students on the site or advertise to students. Advertisers can connect with high school and college students around the country.

The UBound Team: Everyone came at the idea with a lot of passion, and we all had complementary skills:

ubound team
From left: Prasanna, Takashi, Kristopher, and Talia.

Parisa Esmaili, Business and nonprofits

Kristopher Francisco, Technology and business

Takashi Fuke, Design

Noelle Guarin, Mentoring and high school education

Prasanna Ramanujam, Code

Talia Wise, Marketing and communication

Next Steps

This is an issue that I’ve been thinking about for some time, so it was great to see so many other people thought it was a worthwhile. I was especially encouraged by the vote of other participants. Mine was one of a handful of higher ed ideas, so I was glad to see that it resonated with a very capable crowd mainly focused on K-12.

I’d love to hear what colleges actually think of something like this. We got great feedback from people involved in mentoring and high school administration. I’d be interested to see what college admissions officers have to say. If you are involved in any step of the admissions process on either end, please leave a comment or contact me (finnbarsmith@gmail.com or @finnismundi).

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