Winners of “Big Idea” Entrepreneurship Contest Announced
Published: Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 00:11
The contest What's the Big Idea?, sponsored by Kenyon's Innovation Greenhouse, a division of the Career Development Office, awarded $500 to four separate business plans last month: SocialBuzz, Reserve Green, Ski ID and Aquaponics.
The winning entries "had very concrete vision[s] of what they were trying to make, and they had a very good way of presenting that information," said Scott Gosnell, program coordinator of Innovation Greenhouse.
Zac Zaremba '12 and Jack Whitacre '12 plan to co-create SocialBuzz, a mobile application that proposes to connect its users with an array of compatible matches. By identifying users who are physically close to one another and notifying them of matches in their area, SocialBuzz will shift social networking away from purely virtual space. "If you're with somebody in the same room, say you're in MiddleGround, and your results are compatible with mine, [your phone will] vibrate. It's in your choice to interact with them on your phone and meet that person," Zaremba said.
SocialBuzz is part of an emerging interest in geosocial networking, where geographic services, such as GPS capabilities, expand or change social dynamics. The program works with a user's responses to a series of questions and generates data to determine his or her compatibility with other users. When a match is within a certain range, the application buzzes, leaving the choice to initiate interaction to the user.
Possible interactions include friendship, relationships and "casual hook-ups," Zaremba said. SocialBuzz, which Zaremba and Whitacre conceived in the library one night, is a response to what Zaremba and Whitacre both described as a gap between social interactions online and social interactions in person.
"There was this kid sitting in front of me on Facebook going through these pictures, and I was in a bunch of them," Zaremba said. "I had no idea who this person was. It made me realize just how weird it is to have these online profiles in which we know about each other's lives, but we don't know each other."
Zaremba and Whitacre hope to use social media as a tool to facilitate more personal connections between individuals. "There's a tendency for people to get lost in their own worlds, myself included," Whitacre said. "However, when I have reached out, it's led to positive outcomes. This personal extension takes a type of courage, and our app will help."
Zaremba and Whitacre plan to enter their proposal in the Burton D. Morgan Business Plan Competition later this semester.
Nick Gasbarro '15 thought of the idea for his company after a long football practice. "I was really thirsty — I was drinking tons of Gatorade, tons of bottles of water. … I had probably five or six bottles and just tossed them in the trash can," Gasbarro said. "And I thought, ‘There's a problem with the way we recycle.'"
His winning idea, the Reserve Green bins, fuses a trash can for waste and a recycling bin for paper and plastic. The 16"-high, 13"-deep and 16"-long bin has separate compartments for garbage, recycling and paper. The Reserve Green units aim to make recycling easier and more convenient.
Reserve Green's motto, "Conveniently changing the planet," speaks to his conviction that if recycling is made more accessible, it will save money and reduce environmental impact. "Fifty percent of your waste is garbage. The other 50 percent is recyclable.
Right now, Kenyon specifically, and most colleges across the nation, don't acknowledge that other 50 percent, and they're wasting money. … [It's] not good for the environment," Gasbarro said.
Gasbarro's vision is to replace every existing metal trash can in dorm rooms with one Reserve Green unit. The initial cost of the units would be recovered by the amount of money that the College will save. After testing the public response, he hopes to expand to other colleges, boarding schools and even office spaces.
The students who participated in the idea contest voted Reserve Green the best idea. Gasbarro is now creating a prototype of his idea that he plans to enter into the Business Plan Competition.