RHBA member Oscar Pedroso and his team were awarded third place during Rochester’s first-ever Startup Weekend event.
The Startup Weekend competition, supported by the Kauffman Foundation, is a 54-hour weekend-long event during which groups of developers, business managers, startup enthusiasts, marketers, and graphic artists form teams around ideas, and work to develop a working prototype, demo, and/or presentation by Sunday evening.
“I’ve had this one idea for so long and I figured I’d take a stab at pitching the idea. What did I have to lose? Out of 30 1-minute pitches and various voting rounds, I made it into the final round of competition where I acquired 3 team members: Kevin Kaye, Justin Mockler, and Jake Tanner. The four of us spent 54 hours creating a prototype for GradFly going up against 12 teams. What an amazing group of men!” said Oscar Pedroso.
Pedroso’s idea, GradFly, is a college research website for high school STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) students applying to college engineering programs.
Kids these days are faced with so much information when they’re applying to college. For example, a particular college applicant may be following a Harvard Facebook page, a U of R admissions committee channel on YouTube, an RIT Dean on Twitter, and may even be subscribed to multiple student blogs. GradFly makes the research process painless by pulling social media streams from a particular school and organizes it in one place, saving parents and students time by doing less site-jumping.
Aside the research aspect of the site, they are creating a dynamic interactive community that encourages high school students to learn and share college research information with each other in a fun way. Oscar comments: “Education is changing with more adaptive learning tools available online; we truly believe in social learning and going against traditional styles of learning that are in my opinion, outdated. We hope to change the way students learn about their future interests.”
Presentations were delivered before a group of panels that consisted of business owners and venture capitalists. Out of 12 teams, the GradFly team came in third place. They received three months of office space at Coworking Rochester in the Cascade District and free legal services to incorporate.
“The best part about our experience is the access to mentors and a network of other people in the entrepreneur ecosystem that truly came out just to support us and the overall event. We hope to be mentors at the next Startup Weekend event next year.” adds Pedroso.
The team has agreed to stick together and they are currently working on a fundraising project through a crowd sourcing website where they hope to raise $25,000. They will use these funds to hire a developer to start building a functioning website.
You can help the team by directing high school students interested in STEM or engineering programs to fill out the GradFly survey.
The team would also love to connect with decision makers in the school district as they hope to work with high school students in the city and suburbs. You can contact Oscar Pedroso at 585-730-1413 or email