For a second year in a row, we’ve introduced the idea of urban challenges as business opportunities to a class of MBA students at the University of Chicago Booth School. Over the course of 10 weeks, they were tasked with researching, interviewing, designing, prototyping and making the business case for a potential solution to an urban challenge. Those solutions had to be based on a thoughtful understanding of the problem and shaped for business viability, impact and ability to build a software prototype (we used Bubble to make this part easy).
How did the teams do?
Each week, we introduced the teams to visiting speakers and coaches, including Jill Ford (City of Detroit), Jeremy Goldberg (City of San Francisco), Jascha Franklin-Hodge (City of Boston), Jeff Wilson (Kasita), Donnel Baird (BlocPower), Sascha Haselmayer (Citymart), Sander Dolder(NYCEDC), Lemu Coker (Verizon Ventures), Kendrick Nguyen (Republic.co), and many others — and they were blown away. Some offered to be first customers.
What software startups can 40 MBA students possibly build in 10 weeks?
See for yourself.
Below are the high-level statements, screenshots and demo links for the solutions the teams came up with. The final presentations and written reports (which we recently finished reviewing) would knock your socks off.
Nothing Beets You
A group pool grocery shopping app that allows people living in food deserts
to have more frequent grocery deliveries by having one person shop for multiple people/families.
Nothing Beets You is a two-sided platform that connects grocery shoppers with people who want groceries delivered in nearby neighborhoods to address food deserts. Initially, we want to focus on developing the buyer side of the market — people who will post their grocery lists. Our target consumers are busy single parents, who are conflicted between trying to feed their kids healthy meals, and their time constraints to travel to a grocery store, to purchase their groceries at an affordable price. These target consumers are willing to travel to grocery stores far away, but resultantly shop infrequently.
60+ Private Club
A one-stop platform that provides elderly with simplified and
organized information around their federal, state, and city rights / benefits, empowering them and that also provides them with information about activities (social, volunteer, mentor) in their surrounding communities, allowing them to identify and register for these events and thus increasing their integration and inclusion in society.
Care to Apply
A platform service for parents and childcare providers to seamlessly connect and engage in the application and enrollment process for childcare.
For parents: A one-stop-shop that allows parents to seamlessly search and apply to multiple childcare providers by using a “common app” for childcare programs.
For provider: A centralized system that allows childcare providers to capture all application and enrollment information by using the Care to Apply online platform.
For communities: An online platform that allows members of the public to identify and report blight issues in their neighborhood and surrounding communities by allowing them to take and submit photos, write reviews, and rate public harm of properties/vacant lots, ultimately allowing local government and developers to better prioritize which blighted areas need the most assistance and to determine what would be the best use of that assistance.
For developers: An online platform and database that allows socially conscious developers to gain insights on where to build/purchase properties by providing them with access to information on blighted properties and communities directly from the people that live and are invested in the area.
Mobile-based web application connecting impact-minded consumers with mission-oriented small businesses in underserved communities.
We empower consumers to make impact-conscious purchasing decisions through
embedding impact information within the consumer’s existing information search venues, which also increases critically needed positive exposure for local businesses at exactly the right place
A mobile application that allows grocery shoppers to purchase the exact portions they need without paying extra by enabling users to efficiently group their grocery lists and shop for each other.
Group Grocery’s goal is the address the waste people generate by buying grocery portions too big for them to cook in a timely manner. Because shoppers cannot always find adequate package size and because bulk size packages are cheaper, grocery shoppers often buy too much food which they will not have time to cook and which will go to waste. Other solutions to reduce food waste at the consumer level have not been successful, mainly because few people are very concerned with it and we want to address it by bringing in a solution that is more convenient for the user than the current situation. A lot of people don’t like to go grocery shopping, and we allow them to go less often by grouping similar grocery lists, with one user completing the shopping for all matching lists. The owners of those lists can then collect their exact needs at a predetermined location house. Our key differentiators are focusing on the consumer market rather than the retail market, and focusing on user convenience, rather than the waste directly.