Living in Boston for the first time as a freshman was a little nerve-wracking for Jade Hebling ’18.
“I grew up in a suburban area, and it’s really hard to get used to getting around the city at night, especially alone,” said the Marketing Communication major.
Now, as a senior doing the Emerson Experience in Entrepreneurship (E3) program, Hebling wants to channel those anxious memories into a venture that she hopes will take the top prize at this year’s E3 Expo.
This year’s Expo, in which student entrepreneurs pitch their business plans to industry judges for prize money, features 11 ventures and keynote speaker Samir Rayan, co-founder of Next Big Sound, recently acquired by Pandora. It will take place Friday, April 27, 12:30-5:00 pm, in the Bordy Theater.
“I’ve worked shoulder-to-shoulder with many entrepreneurs, and I can most definitely tell you that Emerson’s E3 entrepreneurs have the passion and grit to make the world a better place,” said Senior Executive-in-Residence Lu Ann Reeb, director of E3. “Just wait and see at this year’s E3 Expo on Friday!”
WalkSafe would be an app that uses crowdsourced user data and police data on crime and drug activity to help users map the safest pedestrian routes in unfamiliar cities.
There are existing apps that allow users to notify loved ones of their locations and destinations in case of emergency, Hebling said, “but nothing preventative.
“I wanted to take that idea, and my own experience as a scared freshman” and create a new app, she said.
She compared it to Waze, the GPS navigation app that uses crowdsourced data on accidents and roadwork to map the most efficient route home. WalkSafe would use information on poor lighting and areas of harassment to direct users to the safest likely route.
Initially, the app would be tailored and targeted to colleges and universities, which would pay a subscription rate in order to offer it to students free of charge. Eventually, she said, she would like to see it expanded to the general public for a $5/month user fee.
Emerson basketball player Michael Sheng ’18 noticed that for a smallish arts and communication school without a huge sports culture, Emerson College has a fair number of alumni who work in professional sports.
The Visual and Media Arts major came up with BaseSports, a networking platform that connects prospective student athletes with coaches, as well as current college students and alumni with people in the wider world of athletics, from the training room to the front office.
“I don’t want to just limit it to players, coaches, and teams,” Sheng said. “I want to expand to athletic trainers as well, referees, every avenue to be in the professional sports world.”
Previous E3 Expo winners include EvyTea founder Evy Chen '11, Temple Twist creator Jon Allen '14, and last year's winner, Lea LeBlanc '17, whose Wunder incontinence garments were accepted into MassChallenge.
Neither Hebling nor Sheng know if their ventures will become a reality; apps are expensive to develop and build, and they need to focus on finishing their senior years and getting jobs. But both said they’d like to see their ideas come to fruition, and that the E3 program was a great place to start.
“As a student entrepreneur, I think [E3’s] been a great structure for me,” Hebling said. “We were exposed to people at MassChallenge and different incubators around the city, people at MIT.”
“I think Lu Ann is an amazing teacher,” Sheng said. “Throughout the whole year guided us in the right direction. She got us to narrow down what, exactly, the company is. Overall … it really is a great launch.”