America's Coolest College Start-ups 2013
FamilyLeafJama Cocoa FireflyWaterDrop Shop AlcohootFlightCarBalbus Speech VIRESFlashFood JiveHealthPayTangoSoulScarf
This is Inc.'s 2013 roster of the 12 most promising dorm-room incubated ventures, and the tech-savvy, app-happy, socially-conscious undergrads who back them. They include a chocolatier, a seamstress, an obesity-fighting gamer, and a group of car-sharing chauffeurs. Pictured here in no particular order. To view the 2013 list of America's Coolest College Start-ups click here.
Wesley Zhao, Ajay Mehta, and Henry Lui believe their FamilyLeaf will fill the last big frontier in social networking--a place just for families. The site offers newsfeeds and messaging features, and allows users to build photo albums. A family history function may be coming. The site launched in March of 2012, and already has more than 10,000 users.
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Johns Hopkins student Jamasen Rodriguez wants chocolate truffles to be indispensable--the new latte to urban sophisticates. He sells his truffles wholesale to five restaurants and wine bars around Baltimore, and to consumers across the country through his website, but he hopes to eventually build a national chain of Jama Cocoa shops.
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Screensharing is not a new idea, but these three hackers from the University of Pennsylvania figured out how to make it impossibly easy--no special software required. Dan Shipper, Patrick Leahy, and Justin Meltzer coded the app at the PennApps student hackathon on campus in January 2012 and now sell it for $15 to $60 a month. So far they have 50 paying customers.
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Drilling clean water wells abroad inspired Illinois State University student Josh Weingart to employ Kenyan shoemakers to make sandals he can sell with the purpose of funding more wells. With about 85 pairs of sandals sold since its September launch, Weingart is hoping to have the first well in progress by the end of March.
Read more about WaterDrop Shop
Two former Israeli soldiers, Ben Biron and Jonathan Ofir, took a harsh reality--the high rate of alcohol-related deaths--and turned it into a potentially big, life-saving business opportunity. They created Alcohoot, a breathalyzer that wirelessly connects to a smartphone and mobile app. With it, you can test your blood alcohol level--using your height, weight, age, and gender--and, if needed, order a taxi, or find restaurants nearby.
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Flightcar hopes to disrupt the typically miserable car rental process at airports by pairing consumers' normally parked, unused cars with drivers who need wheels when they fly into U.S. airports. Their gimmick is to use valets to pick you up and drop you off at the airport in the car you're renting. The company’s founders, Shri Ganeshram, Kevin Petrovic, and Rujul Zaparde, are all only 18 years old.
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In 2011, Tufts University sophomore Jack McDermott launched Balbus Speech. Its two apps, Speech 4 Good and Fluently, are both based on proven speech therapy technology to help those with speech impediments. The apps have now been downloaded nearly 10,000 times, and while other speech pathology tools can retail for thousands of dollars, Speech 4 Good and Fluently cost just $15 and $10, respectively.
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When it comes to ambition, these seven (yes, seven) founders of VIRES Engineering, a start-up out of University of California Berkeley, may be unrivaled. The group of mechanical engineers, mathematicians, and physicists, have grand plans to revolutionize the automobiles, recycling, renewable energy, and drones. They make a transmission, recycling machine, and wind turbine.
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FlashFood Recovery uses a smartphone app to help get excess food from restaurants, hotels, and convention centers to the people who need it most. Eric Lehnhardt and a team of six others are piloting a program in Phoenix in which people who need better access to food will be alerted via text message when venues have fresh food to give.
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Dennis Ai, who struggled with weight as a child, founded JiveHealth, which creates mobile games that combat obesity. Jungo, the company’s first game, encourages 6 to 11 year olds to seek real world, healthy foods, in order to advance in the game. The game is free to download, and Ai is hoping to trigger healthier eating habits in children.
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What if, imagined Brian Groudan, Kelly Lau-Kee, Umang Patel, and Christian Reyes, students could pay for meals, access dorms, and never worry about carrying—or forgetting—anything? PayTango , a payment system that identifies users by their fingerprints, allows just that. The service, which is paid for via PayTango contracts with merchants, is free for users.
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SoulScarf’s mission is to knit together the threads of fashion and philanthropy one customer, charity, and scarf at a time. For every thick wool scarf that Syracuse University student Celeste Currie sells, she donates 20 percent of the proceeds to a charity of the customer’s choice. Founded in October 2012, she had already donated more than $2,0000 by the end of December.
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