by Lucia Maffei
Student startups, perhaps most of any other ventures, excel for enthusiasm, fantasy and willingness to learn.
As 2017 come to an end, we’ve taken a look at the most promising early-stage student startups we’ve covered this year. We’ve found interesting ventures in almost every school of the Boston greater area, from MIT to Babson College. We’ve also found a great variety in the industry they’re in, from dental appointments to market research, from retail to online services. When possible, we got in touch with the founders to include the most recent updates on their startups.
With that in mind, here are eight Massachusetts student (and just graduated) startups to watch in 2018:
Since we profiled the company in April, TeamTactile officially incorporated as a startup (on November 27, 2017). The company is now transitioning from raising school funding to looking for seed funding, co-founder Jessica (Jialin) Shi said in a follow-up interview. The company won the $10,000 2017 Lemelson-MIT Student prize (in the category “Use it!”) for developing Tactile, a device that translates printed text into braille. Currently, TeamTactile is in the process of developing a final fully functional prototype, Shi said. The team is down from six to five members – Chandani Doshi, Jessica (Jialin) Shi, Charlene Xia, Tania Yu and Grace Li – as Chen (Bonnie) Wang left to work full-time in California.
CliqBit (Babson Summer Venture Program)
As Millennials become older, corporations wonder how to market products and services for the generation that follows Millennials – the young adults born between the years 1996 and 2010, know as “Generation Z.” CliqBit, a startup founded by Olivia Joslin and Hannah Wei, said it can offer insights. CliqBit charges companies for providing market research from a specific profile of “Gen Zs”. The company went through this year’s Babson Summer Venture Program and is a part of the Babson WINLab.
EarlierCare (Boston University)
Straight out Boston University’s Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, EarlierCarepartners with local dental clinics to make their unexpected openings available for re-booking through the EarlierCare app. The venture is an idea of George Kwon and Peter Wilson, who co-founded the business with Daniel Brownwood. The company won the first prize – $15,000 – in the New Venture Competition at the Boston University startup incubator BUzz Lab, where the company also has its office.
Cardly (Northeastern University)
One of the retail startups in our list is Cardly, a startup born out of Northeastern University that sells eye-candy phone pockets to a Millennial audience. In other words: created by students for fellow students. Juniors and co-founders Connor Gross and Giovanni Armonies-Assalone said that since they’ve started the company in April 2016, Cardly has sold a little over 25,000 phone pockets, making an annual revenue that surpasses six figures. Recently, they’ve added three new designs to a total of 13 different products they sell on the Cardly website.
Darkroom.Tech (Boston College)
Another online platform, this time for photographers. On Darkroom.Tech, photographers can upload and showcase their work through galleries, set the price for each printed piece, and get in touch with potential customers. According to co-founder and CEO Theo Chapman, the company makes money by taking five percent of each transaction and it’s profitable. Darkroom.Tech was among the three teams who completed this year’s Soaring Startup Circle Venture Partners (SSC VP) program, a 12-week summer program for Boston College startups.
Sophia (MIT “delta v” accelerator program)
The online database of therapists that offers matching services to potential patients is an idea of Eva Breitenbach, an MBA graduate from MIT’s Sloan School of Management who was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy and later created the venture to help people in need of a trusted therapist. Since September, the company has began monetizing by charging therapists a referral fee for clients who are paying out of pocket, Breitenbach wrote in a follow-up email. In addition, Sophia is developing partnerships with “multiple private high schools, universities and one large local employer” to help the university counseling centers refer students to outside therapists and provide Sophia’s services to employees as a benefit. Those partnership are confidential, Breitenbach wrote.
Abridge News (Harvard Innovation Labs)
One of the most ambitious ventures in this list, AbridgeNews is a website and newsletter where readers can find balanced summaries of selected opinions on a variety of topics, from North Korea’s missile tests to the Senate-approved tax bill. “Moving forward, a big focus will be on increasing opportunities for user interaction and commentary on the site,” CEO and founder of Abridge News Laura Carpenter wrote in a recent email. The company is part of the Harvard i-lab VIP Program and was selected as one of the 15 teams for the Harvard Business School Rock Accelerator Program in October.
ZIRUI (Mount Holyoke College)
A small, yet effective and long-awaited idea. This is the feedback we got after publishing the story of Regina Ye, a senior at Mount Holyoke College who had a bad experience with her suitcase and decided to solve her problem once and for all. After a bottle of make-up remover leaked and ruined all her clothes, Ye invented ZIRUI – a magnetic beauty case that stores liquids safely. The Kickstarter campaign she launched, which was 100 percent funded, raised almost $21,000.