Wheaton’s own Shark Tank winner, Proxi, battled against six teams in a regional match for $20,000 and the chance to move on to the final rounds of the Elevate competition in Silicon Valley, CA. The judges selected RapidSOS, a business start-up from Harvard University, to receive the cash prize and Reliefwatch from the University of Chicago for second place and a trip to Silicon Valley to compete nationally for $50,000.
The Christian business competition, modeled after Shark Tank, was a partnership among schools in the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities, and was held at Wheaton for the first time in its history.
Teams also travelled from Asbury University in Kentucky, Taylor University in Indiana, and over 600 miles from Roberts Wesleyan College in upstate New York.
The team from Asbury University, comprised of Alyssa Daniels, a business major, and Anna McKain, an exercise science major, hoped to introduce and expand a mobile fitness center, called “Life Unlimited,” run out of a repurposed truck for low-income neighborhoods.
Daniels told the Record, “We partnered with two major food markets in Cincinnati, and they provide us with their fresh, healthy foods.” Low-income participants from the neighborhood receive a free meal after workouts with Life Unlimited.
One criterion of the competition was each product’s faith inspiration. Daniels said that healthy living was an act of worship, and that her team would put emphasis on building community in her fitness-truck.
“We’re not profit-building,” she said, “We’re people-building.”
Harvard Business student Ahron Oddman, offered one of the most out-of-the-box plans: a mobile app that lets customers temporarily hire travelling barbers to cut hair in the comfort of their own home.
“Uber for barbers, if you will,” Oddman told the Record, comparing his service to the recently invented taxi-ordering mobile service.
Oddman was inspired to found his business by his desire to spend more of his scarce time with his fledgling family. “For us,” he said, “this is our way of glorifying God by honoring that gift of time.”
The Proxi team, representing Wheaton College, came flush from their victory at the campus Shark Tank competition on March 17. Freshman Kelen Caldwell spoke for the team, calling it an “online, community-based marketplace, initially by Wheaton students and for Wheaton students, to connect students with needs to those with resources.”
Three of the members met during Passage at Honeyrock, quickly recognized campus needs and brainstormed viable business solutions.
Caldwell said, “We were talking about how there are so many needs on campus. We had seen things like the forum wall and our Facebook page where people would list things that they’re selling, but it was all very disorganized, so our goal behind Proxi is to provide an organized platform for all this information.”
Unfortunately for the team of freshmen, what was enough to trump Wheaton’s other business plans at Shark Tank did not win over the judges in the midst of other super-developed propositions like Michael Martin’s, the co-founder of RapidSOS from Harvard Business School.
Martin handled the business and marketing for a team of 17, mostly comprised of app developers who already churned out a number of impressive apps, including a geo-localized communication app that would send emergency texts to all cell phone owners in a designated location, an anti-terrorism app that resulted from a joint effort with the Department of Homeland Security in New York, and an automotive crash app that measures G-force, contacts 911 upon impact, and can even foresee car crashes using predictive analytics.
The app that Martin presented on Saturday was a one-push button system for smartphones that transmits phone data to 911 instantaneously, circumventing a sometimes fatally archaic, audio-only series of steps.
Martin told the Record before he took first place, “If you call 911, you go through a 1960s copper wire. All they get is voice. If someone’s shooting at you or you’re having a heart attack, you’re supposed to have this conversation where you explain exactly where your location is and what’s occurring.”
When the judges announced that RapidSOS would win the $20,000 and move on to the finals, Martin said that he felt “incredibly honored” for the prize and the opportunities that lay ahead.
Daniel Yu, the representative from Reliefwatch who took second place and also moved on to Silicon Valley, acknowledged the opposing teams’ effort and ingenuity.
“There was a wide array of products and solutions addressing problems across the social spectrum. Sitting there, I had no clue about how it was going to pan out, but obviously I’m honored to be a part of it.”
Freshman Connor Jenkins spoke to the Record after the winners were announced, undefeated. “We created this without even the thought of having this money,” he said, “and right now with our $4,000 from Shark Tank, we plan on prototyping our process.”
According to Jenkins, they had investors lined up who were willing to take a chance on the startup.
Additionally, those looking forward to the official Proxi app will have to wait no longer than the fall of 2015.