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The JV Growth team outlines its project at the third annual Kellogg Education Technology Incubator (KETI) pitch competition.

The Kellogg Education Technology Incubator held its third annual pitch competition

Bringing students together... with an app

Third annual KETI competition focuses on improving the Kellogg experience

By Theo Anderson

11/23/2015 - Projects that will connect students with each other — and with broader communities — dominated the third annual Kellogg Education Technology Incubator (KETI) competition.

Eight teams representing the Full-Time, Part-Time, Executive MBA, JD-MBA and MMM programs pitched their ideas on Nov. 18 at the Jacobs Center. Five were chosen for funding in a selection process that involved audience voting and a panel of judges.

KETI provides support to students who have an idea for using technology to improve the Kellogg experience. The level of funding varies but is typically about $10,000. Teams also receive mentoring from the Kellogg Innovation Network and have the opportunity to pilot their ideas at Kellogg during the winter and spring quarters.

The incubator received 27 proposals for consideration, said KETI President Sravani Ramisetti ’16, the most ever for a single competition.

Class acts

The audience gave its most enthusiastic support to “6 Degrees,” a website now in beta testing that matches Kellogg students who have similar professional and personal aspirations and allows them to chat directly with each other.

The inspiration for the site was “a classroom exercise where we saw the power of the Kellogg network in helping students achieve their dreams,” said Tracy Xu ’16, one of the team’s three members. “We wanted to extend that same effect across the entire student body.” She said the funding would allow the team to improve the existing platform, develop a mobile application, and reach a larger audience.

“Daybreak,” another funded project, is a daily email newsletter that features stories about students and goings-on at Kellogg, as well as insight into the food and entertainment options in Evanston and Chicago. Like “6 Degrees,” it emerged from a classroom exercise. The founder, Rachel Xanttopoulos ’17, responded to a question about life goals by saying she wanted to start a media company.

“Our professor asked if anyone in the class would be willing to help me with this,” she said. “To my surprise, a lot of my classmates raised their hands. It turned out a lot of them had connections in media, relevant skills, and some had even started their own blogs. And all of them volunteered to help.”

A new ‘Joint Venture’

Two other funded projects aim to foster networks and facilitate information sharing. “JVs Growth” will develop a website that helps the partners of Kellogg students — also known as “Joint Ventures” — by giving them a tool to discover companies, entrepreneurs, students and other people who are relevant to their professional development. “Frank” will be a student run, actively managed platform that makes students’ assessments of potential employers accessible in one place. The platform will collect details about students’ internship, interviewing and recruiting experiences.

The fifth funded project, “Opti-Ed,” is a web application aimed at Executive MBA students, designed to bring greater clarity and transparency to the process of scheduling electives.

The number of high quality, diverse proposals has increased remarkably since the inaugural KETI competition in 2013, according to Linda Darragh, executive director of the Kellogg Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative (KIEI).

“Every year, the quality has gone up,” Darragh said. “People understand the competition more. The pain points they're targeting are bigger, and they have really creative solutions for them.”