When you bring middle and high school students together to develop a web app to help teens start a business, anything can happen. For the 50-plus participants in the Mogul in the Making Hackathon – hosted by Get Schooled, Accenture, and Viacom on a recent June weekend – the gathering proved to be an intense competition.
The Shark Tank-style hackathon, held June 4 and 5 at the Viacom headquarters in Times Square, required students to compete in teams to develop their app ideas. Each step was tracked on a leaderboard and the seven teams took turns meeting with the board of advisors to try and move into the top spot. Inspirational coaches Top Chef Kwame Onwuachi and 12-year-old Cory Nieves of Mr. Cory’s Cookies were on hand to offer advice on being a successful entrepreneur.
“When you’re starting a business, make sure you put your heart into what you do,” Nieves, who has become a savvy business owner who has already expanded his cookie operation into a commercial space, told the teens.
On the second day, the teams prepared to pitch their ideas to the judges. They started by making 30-second commercials to practice the art of storytelling and get them thinking about how to position their app in the marketplace. The commercials were posted to Instagram and YouTube and used as part of the final presentation to the judges.
The teams were excited as they practiced their speeches, finalized their Power Point presentations, and completed their app mock-ups. A few teams even developed working prototype apps to show the judges.
The teams were judged on originality, storytelling, user experience, and value-add for young entrepreneurs. In the end, the judges selected two teams to take the final prizes: team Cyberhawks –Kenneth Mason, Michael Vasile, Michael Boyle, Greg Sarafian, and Samantha DeLorenzo – took first place for their GreenHarvest app, while team Ignition – Ernest Konadu and Ahashan Amin – took second with the Ignition app. Both apps stood out for their ease of use and innovative approach to helping teens start a business.
Inspired by Chef Kwame’s story of wanting to start a business while lacking resources, the Cyberhawks created GreenHarvest, an app that helps users manage their expenses, especially in the beginning when capital is so limited. Users select the industry that best matches their business, and are shown a list, including market prices, of all the supplies they will need to get started. This list can be used to create cost projections and reduce expenses.
Ignition walks users through each stage of their business plan process and offers advice for success using a three-step plan to help build connections, create a business foundation, and, finally, optimize their business.
“I’m just glad I didn’t give up,” Ahashan said. “I learned a lot about persevering. I’m glad we stuck with it.”
The winning apps will be combined to create one designed to help teens across the country start their own business.
Viacom has hosted several hackathons in recent years, beginning with an employee event in 2014. The student hackathon is part of a larger company initiative to encourage tech education among students, a priority that was underscored in last year’s three-day program for under-resourced youths with ScriptEd and the company’s ongoing collaboration with Girls Who Code.