MIT Innovators: Shana Opperman and Adis Ojeda [Hippo]
March 6, 2018

Shana Opperman and Adis Ojeda give an introduction to their startup idea, tentatively titled Hippo, and their aim to combat millennial loneliness through bringing people closer together via their interests.

Can you tell me a bit about what you do here?

S] My name is Shana, and I am I second year MBA student, and a graduate researcher in the MIT Media Lab. I’m working on an idea called Hippo — the name comes from the Hippocampus, where you make new memories. Adis and I, and another partner are working on this together. The idea was created after reading MIT research that showed that while people are more connected than ever, there are increased feelings of isolation, particularly among millennials. We then found in our own research that people don’t really need a lot of help making new connections, but they do need help in sustaining ones they already have.

What we are doing with Hippo is making it easier for people to find and plan interesting things to do, with people that you care about. Our approach is to start with the people first. So, I’d tap your name and Adis’ name, and then Hippo suggests things for the three of us to do, like a grilled cheese competition in Cambridge, vs if you and I just do it alone, the recommendation changes and maybe it suggests we catch the new creature feature at The Planetarium if we both like sci-fi.

A] My name is Adis, and I’m a Junior majoring in Computer Science, concentrating in artificial intelligence, with a minor in entrepreneurship. I met Shana at a networking event for a business class here at MIT. Shana pitched an initial idea then it evolved as we found out where our passions aligned. We’ve done a lot of research, and I’ve developed a lot of the tech [for this project], which has been fun for me.

S] The thing that really gels Adis and I, is how can we use technology to help people sustain relationships and create shared memories together?

What are your goals for the future?

S] We are focusing on our Alpha launch in May. We want to get the product into the hands of Boston and Cambridge millennials.

What are your biggest challenges?

A] The biggest challenge for me is making sure I can generate the best recommendations for events. We want to make sure we have something that’s accurate, and something that’s very safe, because people are supplying us with their information. We want to make sure that it’s very seamless as well.

S] This is very much a cultural entrepreneurship in that, we are trying to shift the focus from the individual, and everything being about one person to it being more about “us”, and “we”.

What are your key skills for entrepreneurship?

A] I think, for me it’s about confidence and belief in yourself, but you have to be open for feedback. You need to listen to feedback, and be able to incorporate it into future projects.

S] It’s important to not be precious about your work, you have to be open to learning from your mistakes. It’s important to have a strong belief in what everyone is doing together as a team.


Listen to the full interview here: