Student Teams Compete at 2nd Annual Big Ideas Pitch Day

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By: Luis Flores

Having nurtured their “big ideas” since September, six of the most innovative finalist teams in the Big Ideas@Berkeley contest presented their projects to a panel of distinguished judges at the Big Ideas Grand Prize Pitch Day on April 25, 2013. Pitch Day contestants had the opportunity to win up to $5,000 in prize money to support their project.  Winning teams will add their Pitch Day prizes to awards in their respective Big Ideas contest categories.

Judges awarded the Grand Prize in the Global Impact Pitch Round to The Pachamama Project, the big idea of Rebecca Peters, Lindsey Dreizler, and Jessica Kretch. Their initiative promotes gender equity, education, and access to clean water and sanitation in Bolivia while also engaging the stigma around menstruation.

The Grand Prize in the Campus and Community Impact Pitch Round went to Cashify, pitched in an energetic presentation by undergraduates Shuonan Chen, Justin Chu, and Virgina Chung. Their big idea is to improve financial literacy, starting on the Berkeley campus.  Cashify uses interactive online games that engage students in what the team calls “Edu-tainment” while connecting students to on-campus financial resources. “The pitch gave us the opportunity to personalize our project… to give it a heart, a soul, and enthusiasm,” explained Chen.

Finalist teams were also awarded 2nd and 3rd place prizes. In the Global Impact Pitch Round, Emmunify, an innovative project to embed immunization records in electronically readable tags placed on phones in rural northern India, took the 2nd place prize. The 3rd place prize went to Building a Youth Leadership Association in Rabinal, Guatemala, for their project that will empower indigenous teenagers in Guatemala to form their own Youth Leadership Association.

In the Campus and Community Impact category, AMASS Media was awarded 2nd place. Their project will use a web interface to connect non-profit and small social impact organizations with early career videographers to increase the impact of organizations while building the portfolios of young videographers. The 3rd place winners behind the UC Berkeley Science Shop similarly offer non-profits, businesses, and local government free or low-cost access to student scientific research on campus—allowing students to impact social change through their on-campus research.

The six teams invited to pitch their ideas to judges and the campus community were selected based on on the high scores their written proposals received. The Pitch Day forum not only opens opportunities for additional funding to top contestants, but also gives teams the chance to present their ideas in a personal and visually engaging format—a useful skill for social venture start-ups.

“Pitching is essential in any entrepreneurial venue,” explained John Chang of AMASS Media. “You have to know how to talk about your project!” Chang stressed the importance of the Big Ideas mentors in guiding their team through the process of translating their written proposal into an engaging public presentation. Chang feels that it is these types of mentorship and experiences that put Berkeley on the cutting edge of social innovation.

The teams also benefited from the engagement with the panel of expert judges in Q&A sessions that followed each pitch. “The judges’ questions challenged us with new perspectives… I appreciated that,“ said Chen.

Cashify team members Chen, Chu, and Chung nervously awaited the judges’ decision after their pitch, which was twice interrupted by technical glitches. “We have presented in business classes and corporate spaces… [but] this was more realistic,” the team recalled. “It’s harder when you’re emotionally attached!”

2013 Pitch Day Winners:
Campus and Community Impact Round
Judges: Andrik Cardenas, Director of Operations, Center for Nonprofit and Public Leadership, Haas School of Business; Andrew Rudd, Andrew and Virginia Rudd Foundation; Christian Teeter, Chief of Staff, Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching, Learning, Academic Planning, UC Berkeley
1st Place: Cashify, a Social Platform and Business Model for Financial Literacy
Team Members: Shuonan Chen, Justin Chu, Virginia Chung
2nd Place: AMASS Media– Democratizing Access to Multimedia Services
Team Members: John Chang, Carolyn Kao, Dominick Ng, Yang Wang, Clayton Yan, Hannah Yang
3rd Place: The U.C. Berkeley Science Shop: Connecting Communities to University Research
Team Members: Karen Andrade, Erik Behar, Sushma Bhatia, Hekia Bodwitch, Melissa Eitzel, Jennifer Palomino, Leah Rubin
Global Impact Round
Judges: Marion Adney, AAAS Science and Technology Fellow; Jeff Burton, Executive Director of Skydeck, UC Berkeley; Wilfred Chung, President and CEO of the Philomathia Foundation; David Ferguson, Deputy Director, Office of Science and Technology, USAID; Braden Penhoet, Executive Director for Innovation and Business Development, Office of the Vice Chancellor of Research, UC Berkeley
1st Place: The Pachamama Project
Team Members: Rebecca Peters, Lindsey Dreizler, Jessica Kretch
2nd Place: Emmunify
Team Members: Sanat Kamal Bahl, Erik Krogh-Jespersen, Anandamoy Sen, Jessica Watterson
3rd Place: Building a Youth Leadership Association in Rabinal, Guatemala
Team Members: Michael Bakal, Kira Levy, Kimberly Vinall