Most Georgetown students are familiar with the crowdsourcing platform Kickstarter. Milan Patel (SFS ’14), however, wants to tailor crowdsourcing to Georgetown with UniSprout, a university-specific crowdsourcing website.
Founded by Patel and Jigar Majmundar, a senior at the University of Michigan, last spring, UniSprout is designed to facilitate small alumni donations to support student projects.
The site launched for Georgetown students last month and has been operative at Michigan as of August. Three student projects are currently featured on the website. Seun Oyewole (SFS ’14) and Keegan Carter (MSB ’14) created We Are the Loop, a mobile application designed to show students events taking place in the greater D.C. area in one place. Carter and Oyewole have raised $1,100 from eight donors on UniSprout with 19 days left in their fundraising period. While there is no way to differentiate between alumni and non-alumni donations, Oyewole and Carter know of one alumnus who has donated thus far; the other donors are either friends or anonymous sources.
“It’s very simplistic,” Carter said. “Once you get on, it’s very clear what the purpose of it is.”
Carter and Oyewole plan to use the funds raised on Unisprout to expand their brand and update their mobile application.
Shelby Bartemy (COL ’14) has used the site to promote her own startup, Clean Water H2OYAS, which aims to raise awareness of water scarcity around the world. The group plans to use funds raised through UniSprout to build a second clean water well at the Nyumbani village outside of Nairobi, Kenya, with which it has partnered since 2012.
“[UniSprout] is highly accessible, it’s pretty self-explanatory, they allow you to include a video that explains your cause,” Bartemy said. “It allows potential donors to learn more about your cause in an easily accessible format, rather than having to do a lot of research.”
Thus far, H2OYAS has received $50 from two donors, with 22 days left in its funding cycle. The third project featured on the website is Ed-Strong, which aims to connect universities with the communities around them, giving college students the chance to use what they learn in the classroom to benefit those in neighboring areas. Thus far, Ed-Strong has received $110 from three donors.
Patel drew on lessons from other student-run startups, including Hilltop Consultants, the Hilltop Microfinance Initiative and the Compass Incubator program. He gleaned experience with crowd funding from a now-defunct start up art company that provided affordable, one-of-a-kind art, Art Ouvert, to construct his plan for UniSprout.
“I kind of combined the two,” he said. “If we brought this to the university level, you can bring in alumni to donate directly to students.”
The founders have started developing an initial alumni database. They have also contacted the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative and other crowdsourcing sites for advice.
The site currently requires approval for ideas to be posted, though moving forward, Patel did not foresee an approval system remaining in place.
“Eventually, once we gain enough traction … it will just grow organically,” Patel said. “You can put your ideas up there and if people think it’s a good idea they’ll help you fund it.”