The Pitch Winners: Where Are They Now?

By Annette Denekas, The Dartmouth Staff | 5/12/15 7:00am

The Pitch, according to Neukom Digital Arts Leadership and Innovation Lab executive director Lorie Loeb, is an event that “provides a place where students, faculty and staff can pitch their big ideas” before a live audience and panel of judges. The participants, 20 groups in total, have just two minutes each to present their innovations before the panel selects three winners. The audience also chooses a fourth.
Loeb says she looks for ideas that “could make an impact.” She said she is impressed by the increasingly strong quality of the pitches, as well as the huge diversity in the types of ideas. The event will continue this term, with the final pitches heard on May 28 at 7 p.m. in Loew Auditorium.

I spoke with some of the winners from the fall and winter to see how their projects have developed since The Pitch.

Stephen Malina ’15 and Matt Ritter ’15 worked together to develop RepCoin, an online marketplace where users can label themselves as experts in various skills. Others can then confirm these skills through a currency called “reps.”

According to Ritter, it “creates a consolidated source of reputation, something that is very fragmented on the internet right now.”

Malina and Ritter are both writing their theses on RepCoin, so they’re currently focused on completing the academic analysis of their idea. After winning in the fall as the audience choice, their site reached its most active point in March at 400 users. This made them realize “it would take a lot more work to get beyond the Dartmouth plateau and break into a wider market,” Malina said.

George Boateng ’16 presented SpeedAlert!, a device for vehicles in Ghana that displays a car’s speed next to the speed limit of that area, at The Pitch in the fall. Boateng has since been working on building and writing code for the device. He’s also been in communication with the National Road Safety Commission in Ghana to acquire the speed limits in certain locations.

Shannon Carman ’17 collaborated with Dartmouth Humanitarian Engineering and graduate students at Thayer to develop SafaPani, a filter that removes arsenic from groundwater in areas like Nepal, Bangladesh and India. The funding that they received has been helpful for completing the project, Carman said.

“We’re building more prototypes to speed up the testing process,” Carman said. “This summer we’re going to do extensive testing, then run field trials to see how well it actually does in-country.”

Carman hopes they will eventually have a partner in-country to help tap into distribution networks.

Haider Syed, a Ph.D. student in computer science, co-created Altr, an app that students and instructors can use in the classroom. It records class lectures and allows a student to mark a certain section as “important,” “confusing,” “on-exam,” and “a reminder, and stores the clips, which can be shared with others.

Instructors can receive real-time feedback through the app or they can view it after the lecture. Currently, Sayed says they’re “further developing the student side, which will hopefully be completed by the end of the term to test it with students next fall.” They are also working to make it available for iPhones. His team will be pitching the idea again at the 2015 MassChallenge in the semi-final round.

Loeb hopes The Pitch will help to carry ideas to whatever their next levels may be.

“It’s a great way for testing — they can learn from it and take it to the next project,” Loeb said. “It creates a kind of spirit of creativity that we hope to foster around campus.”

Annette Denekas, The Dartmouth Staff