Tag: Weel

Awards

Summer Award Winner: Weel Working to Solve Major E-Commerce…

Summer Award Winner: Weel May Solve Major E-Commerce Conundrum

 
Mobile users accounted for more than half of Internet traffic in 2017, yet retail purchases from mobile devices resulted in less than 25 percent of e-commerce spend. So, why are consumers reluctant to buy on their smartphones and tablets? Eyan Goldman has answers.

“Most e-commerce vendors don’t want to spend the money to develop and maintain an app which people may not adopt,” the rising sophomore at Johns Hopkins University says. “Additionally, e-commerce hasn’t yet integrated a social experience like what is traditionally found in retail shopping.”

The solution, Goldman believes, is a social platform known as Weel that transforms how shoppers interact with websites and enables them to easily connect with friends. Weel’s progress and potential earned it FastForward U’s third-ever Summer Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Award.

“Eyan and the Weel team demonstrated uncommon dedication, as well as a comprehensive understanding of their product’s marketability and the next steps in its development,” says Darius Graham, Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures’ director of student ventures. “We’re excited to see how much progress the team will make over the summer.”

Weel’s platform — which Goldman, a computer science major, is developing with Cal Lavicka, a high school friend currently studying at Carnegie Mellon University, and Johns Hopkins classmates — uses an intelligent layout system that simplifies the user interface of e-commerce webpages to make browsing, shopping and purchasing on websites much simpler.

A social component of Weel enables shoppers to elicit peer feedback simply by pressing and swiping the image of a product to a Facebook friend. This action seamlessly sends all of the product’s data to the friend who can weigh in before a user makes a purchase.

“Our platform transforms the way users interact with retail websites,” Goldman says. “Weel is designed to work on any website instantaneously as our technology does not require the consent of the host website.”

Weel plans to roll out a beta of its platform for iPhones this summer and to have a full launch in early 2019. (Those interested in participating in the beta can contact Weel at beta@joinweel.com.)

To monetize the platform, Goldman plans to engage brands and provide them opportunities to show Weel users products similar to what they share with friends. When a user purchases one of the suggested products, Weel would receive a portion of each sale.

“With Weel, brands don’t have to fear being hurt by having an online ad placed on a website with which they’d prefer not to associate,” Goldman says of his platform’s advantage. “Additionally, brands also have the opportunity to advertise directly to someone who they know is interested in a similar product.”

The Summer Award, funded by an anonymous Johns Hopkins University alumnus, provides Weel with $10,000, a space to work for the summer and mentorship from the FastForward U team and the Summer Award donor.

Weel will use the funding to cover Lavicka’s rent in Baltimore as well as bring on two interns who can develop the platform’s user interface. Without the award, Goldman says, the team would have had trouble making progress in June, July and August. Goldman and Lavicka live in New York City, but the city would have made getting space and talent cost-prohibitive.

The value and opportunity of the Summer Award has made it highly sought after among Johns Hopkins’ student ventures. This year, 14 highly qualified teams applied for the award.

“We were really impressed with the applicant pool for this year’s Summer Award as it represented the most advanced undergraduate startups at Hopkins,” Graham says.

Receiving the Summer Award is just the latest support Weel has received from FastForward U. Last fall, the group filled out FastForward U’s general interest form to better understand the resources and support it could provide. Shortly thereafter, Weel was named to the 2017-2018 Ralph S. O’Connor Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Fund cohort and received additional mentorship and guidance.

“FastForward U has been unbelievably helpful,” Goldman says. “We definitely wouldn’t be as far along as we are today without them.”

Weel is the third team to win the Summer Award. The first two teams, FactoryFour and MoTrack Therapy, have used the funding and mentorship the award provides to advance their companies.

FactoryFour, known as Fusiform when they received the award in 2016, has moved into its own space in Mount Vernon, added clients and was recently named to Technical.ly Baltimore’s realLIST as it develops a solution for digital fabrication.
 
MoTrack Therapy, last year’s Summer Award winner currently developing a platform for better at-home injury rehabilitation, was recently recognized as a finalist at Baylor University’s New Venture Competition and won $1,500.

Goldman believes Weel can follow in the footsteps of those two budding ventures.

“My dream for Weel is to have it become a really popular and useful resource for people,” Goldman says. “I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think that there was at least a shot at that.”
 

Learn more about FastForward U!

 

Student Ventures

The 2017-2018 O’Connor Fund Cohort Aiming to Commercialize Disruptive…

The 2017-2018 O’Connor Fund Cohort Aiming to Commercialize Disruptive Ideas

 

Ralph S. O’Connor and his wife, Becky

They’ve identified major challenges, now five ventures led by Johns Hopkins students have the opportunity to develop innovative solutions with support from FastForward U’s Ralph S. O’Connor Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Fund.

The fund — founded by Ralph O’Connor, a Johns Hopkins Krieger School of Arts and Sciences alumnus, and his wife, Becky — will provide each member a $5,000 non-dilutive grant, an opportunity to earn $5,000 more and mentorship from FastForward U.

“Where some see only problems, this group of precocious student entrepreneurs sees opportunities to drive change through innovation” says Darius Graham, director of student ventures. “We believe that our 2017-2018 cohort possesses transformative ideas and the skills and tenacity to bring them to life.

“We hope that, like in years past, the teams use the resources the O’Connor Fund provides to reach their full potential.”

Over the past four years, the O’Connor Fund has supported 17 teams of Johns Hopkins student entrepreneurs. Already, a number of these have begun disrupting industries. Take, for example, Fractal Tech, a cybersecurity startup acquired by Sunayu last summer. Or, consider Proscia, a startup that has raised over $1 million to develop its digital pathology platform.

Due in part to the successes of these peers, interest in the O’Connor Fund has spiked. Over the past two years, the O’Connor Fund has received a total of 71 applications, compared to a total of 29 for the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 cohorts.

“Demand for programs like the O’Connor Fun has surged,” Graham says. “Through FastForward U, we hope to empower students to pursue innovation and entrepreneurship while in school or at some point in their professional careers.”
 

The 2017-2018 O’Connor Fund Cohort

 

Venture: Atana
Lead: David Shi (Senior, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences)
Description: Atana is creating secure and scalable distributed ledger infrastructure for collaborative research and development networks.

“We are hoping that the O’Connor Fund will help us secure additional strategic partnerships and accelerate our current pilot studies,” says Shi, the founder and CEO of Atana.
 

Venture: OtoGlobal Health
Lead: Aseem Jain (Senior, Whiting School of Engineering)
Description: OtoScreen is an affordable, smartphone-based Otoacoustic Emissions device that is designed to penetrate the developing world health care market and establish the standard of care for pediatric hearing screening in developing countries.

“We look forward to working with FastForward U to achieve business goals and hope to leverage their connections to find Johns Hopkins professors who can help us improve our technology,” says Sanjay Elangovan, OtoGlobal Health’s COO. “Although our device is ready for testing, until now, we’ve lacked the necessary funding. The O’Connor Fund will help us obtain better hardware for our technology, and will enable us to validate our idea.”
 

Venture: Treyetech
Lead: Eric Chiang (Senior, Whiting School of Engineering)
Description: Treyetech is a business-to-business venture that facilitates corneal transplants with a new device and disruptive workflow, improving patients’ vision beyond the current standard of care.

“The Treyetech team is thrilled to be a part of the 2017-2018 Ralph S. O’Connor Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Fund cohort, and we look forward to JHTV’s guidance and support as we navigate manufacturing and testing for our device,” says Stephanie Cai, a co-founder of Treyetech and a senior biomedical engineering major. “The O’Connor fund will provide us the resources necessary to conduct important pre-clinical studies and push forward with commercialization in the coming year.”
 

Venture: VersaMaker
Lead: Travis Chan (Sophomore, Whiting School of Engineering)
Description: VersaMaker is a maker device with modular tool heads so that the users can change its functionality from 3-D printing to CNC routing to laser engraving to liquid printing and more — all from a single, versatile machine.

“The O’Connor Fund’s monetary award will allow me to prototype and reiterate my product much faster. I will use the $10,000 and additional funding, towards prototyping, conferences, customer research, and possibly towards creating a crowdfunding campaign,” says Chan, the founder of VersaMaker. “However, the O’Connor Fund offers more than just money. FastForward U sets up each company with an experienced mentor from their Mentor-In-Residence program and I hope to get some advice and connections from this opportunity. In addition, FastForward U offers accounting/tax resources and legal support which will definitely come in handy for me around tax season and when I patent aspects of my product.”
 

Venture: Weel
Lead: Eyan Goldman (Sophomore, Whiting School of Engineering)
Description: On a mission to connect friends through commerce, Weel is creating a digital platform which introduces the social aspects of retail shopping to the rising world of ecommerce.

“The capital provided by the O’Connor Fund will enable Weel to accelerate its timetables by expanding our development capabilities, ultimately enabling us to have an earlier beta release,” says Goldman. “The resources the O’Connor Fund provides are especially exciting. As an early stage startup, we use all resources available to us. Being part of the Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures ecosystem is something that we really look forward to.”

 

Click here to learn more about the Ralph S. O’Connor Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Fund!

 

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