Learning, Launching & Ready for What’s Next: Graduation for Spring 2023 Tech Internship Program & Tech Side Hustle Students
“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”
Those powerful and famous words from tech and education pioneer Alan Kay were felt in full effect throughout Northeast Ohio on Wednesday, June 7 at a virtual “graduation” event marking the successful conclusion of Spring 2023 for both the Tech Internship Program and the Tech Side Hustle. The event also served as a celebration of entrepreneurship and innovation in practice.
Two of our technology-focused, signature programs, the Tech Internship Program and the Tech Side Hustle provide ways for students to lend their technology skills to a growing venture or get support to launch their own startup, respectively.
During the virtual event, students from both programs presented on their work over the past 6-12 months, and more importantly, on how they will apply what they learned from their experiences to exciting future endeavors.
Tech Internship Program Students
EEC program manager EbaNee Bond launched the Tech Internship Program in the Fall, matching students to tech startups throughout Northeast Ohio.
Funded by the Ohio Third Frontier & Technology program, the Tech Internship Program offered more than just paid work experiences in the startup world. The program includes mentorship and other professional development opportunities.
“We didn’t just select students who wanted to work with a startup,” Bond said during the June 7 event. “We selected students who have their own entrepreneurial aspirations.”
Employers, too, were chosen not only based on their need for additional hands on deck.
“I wanted to honor the companies who were willingly interested in investing students and mentoring them,” Bond said.
Global Health Metrics
Two students in the program interned with Global Health Metrics (GHM), an app development company in the healthcare space.
Jakob Danniger and Pranav Dhinakar (Case Western Reserve University) worked together at GHM to help launch a new mental health screening and intervention tool designed for college students. However, Jakob and Pranav had slightly different roles.
Among his many tasks, Jakob conducted vast end-to-end testing (commonly referred to as e2e) through evaluating the results of scripted user inputs. The experience enabled Pranav to take a deep dive in coordinating a web development project through Github, the popular open-source collaborative platform.
Jakob cited that what made the experience special was the fact that it “felt good to work on a product that helps people.”
“[This internship] made me a strong person,” he said. “It helped me bolster my resume and also my confidence in programming.”
Following the position, Jakob is developing an app to help college students register for classes.
For Pranav, the position at GHM marked his first major foray into full-stack web development.
“Other interns don’t have much opportunity to make changes,” he says. “But at GHM I was able to make some significant contributions. This was very valuable to me.”
Akron-based Fontus Blue is a leader in water quality optimization software. The company worked with student intern Anna Wolfinger (Baldwin Wallace University) over the course of Spring semester 2023, who took on a variety of tasks and projects.
“My main areas included social media, market research, and sales and business development,” she said.
Having held past internships with a variety of brands and through owning her own consultancy, Golden Spark Solutions, Anna has extensive experience in the work that Fontus Blue needed her to perform, which led to great results.
“We were able to achieve a 200% increase in webinar attendees through social media promotion,” she reported.
Although this experience gave Anna the opportunity to hone her existing content creation skills, she was also able to apply the use of artificial intelligence to her marketing communications work, building off a foundation she learned in a course on content marketing at Baldwin Wallace.
But some of the biggest takeaways and learning opportunities for Anna were rooted in her digital marketing work. Rather, she learned to step outside of her comfort zone by attending high-level meetings with subject-matter experts, exploring the water quality field (about which she knew little previously) and focusing on sales results more so in this role than in past positions.
Director of sales and marketing Jeff Biberdorf said after Anna’s presentation that she was “one of the best interns ever!”
“She can give herself even more credit for how she helped us out.,” he added. “She enriched follower accounts and sales process.”
Courtesy Cups specializes in providing menstrual supplies to women in austere environments, such as women in the military. Its core product is a portable menstrual cup cleaning kit.
University of Akron law student Ayesha Ahmad worked with the company for 8 months in an evolving role. She began her internship in Fall 2022 focused on market identification and customer outreach. This included conducting interviews with prospective end-users and supporters and developing pitch decks and other sales materials
Later, in Spring 2023, Ayesha’s work shifted toward operations, managing projects conducting beta testing, and working in product design.
At the end of the internship, Ayesha was promoted to operations manager -- which is just one of the many hats she wears.
“I’m writing a book, working full-time at Joann, and am always open to new opportunities,” she said.
hChoices is a Northeast Ohio health & wellness technology company that leverages technology to enable organizations to accumulate data, disseminate customized programming, and demonstrate impact.
John Carroll student Zach Graulich worked at hChoices to support digital marketing for health departments across three main tactical areas: email marketing, social media, and web content.
In this capacity, Zach led an email campaign to health commissioners to promote hChoices. He also created daily social media posts across networks for the company founder’s non-profit initiative, We Thrive Together. Lastly, he created digital web-based guides to help senior citizens use the Internet and various social media tools.
Zach explained that he didn’t just hone digital marketing skills through the Tech Internship Program. The experience offered so much more.
“We learned to further develop networking abilities,” he said. “Guest speaker's really taught us about the power of networking, which I used to build my LinkedIn network.”
Through an important connection he developed during the program -- as well as the insight and guidance of program manager EbaNee Bond, Zach was selected for The Entrepreneur’s EDGE, a full-time summer consulting internship program.
EasyAssessRX provides remote therapeutic monitoring solutions for behavioral health. The founder, a parent of a child with ADHD, wanted to streamline the assessment process and the idea for the company was born.
The target audiences consist of psychiatrists and other healthcare providers to use with patients and their families.
Baldwin Wallace University student Juliet Penrod worked with EasyAssessRX over Spring 2023 as digital marketing manager, focusing on web design, social media operations, and content marketing.
“I felt like an equal in the company,” she said. “And I learned some important lessons to keep in mind in my future.”
Juliet explained that her work at EasyAssessRX taught her about the importance of effective communications between members of a team.
“It’s way better to over communicate than under communicate,” she said.
“I also learned it’s OK to have limits on your expertise, and that it’s OK to ask for help,” Juliet added. “ I learned to be honest and not push myself into things you cannot do.
Juliet will apply some of the marketing work she did later this summer as an intern with Hey Now! Media, a branding and digital marketing agency in Cleveland.
Spring 2023 Tech Side Hustle Cohort
Entrepreneur-in-Residence John Knific explains that one of the best reasons to apply to the Tech Side Hustle program is how it helps student-entrepreneurs “create a bridge from an idea you want to explore to vetting that idea.”
“What’s important about these programs isn’t just about perfecting the pitch but rather to give students the space and resources to learn entrepreneurship,” he added.
Tech Side Hustle founders go through a 4-month set of workshops and other sessions to help them survey the market, conduct interviews, and access more resources to prototype or even go to market.
Bopping by Tim Zvoncheck
Cleveland State alum Tim Zvoncheck founded the capacity management app Bopping to help bars and nightclubs track the number of people on site. This functionality would allow venues to offer a “skip the line” feature, digitally identify patrons, and improve customer experiences overall. The Tech Side Hustle program helped to identify a path forward.
“My next steps are to build the platform this summer, develop a monetization plan, and begin to grow a customer base,” he said.
Tim will develop Bopping as part of a CSU accelerator program in June 2023. His growth plan includes offering tiered services to customers.
Student Scope by Zoe Wrisley
“When I came into Tech Side Hustle, my idea didn’t have a name,” reports Kent State University Student Zoe Wrisley, citing one of the benefits of the support she received through the program.
Eventually, the name Student Scope was selected for Zoe’s idea of a communications app between parents and schools and other student- and youth-service organizations.
Tech Side Hustle also helped Zoe to narrow down the actual scope of Student Scope to provide one superior core function as opposed to many disparate functionalities.
“This is a great example that it’s more important to nail one feature and delight users with it than to offer so many features just for the sake of doing so,” remarked Knific after Zoe’s presentation.
Zoe will continue to develop Student Scope as she transitions into Kent State’s graduate educational technology program.
Eremos by Madison Kurtz
“I learned that my app’s potential users might be on Instagram for one purpose and The Bible app for another, but they didn’t have one place to do everything they’d like to do,” explained Ashland University’s Madison Kurtz.
Eremos is a journaling app that will offer users “a space for young adults to spend quiet time with God,” Madison shared. “Through [Tech Side Hustle] I learned from interviewing customers and others how to expand this idea.”
One of the additions Madison plans on making to the app will be a “For My Eyes Only” tab of her journaling app. “During interviews, customers said they valued privacy.”
After completing Tech Side Hustle, Madison will continue to develop Eremos as well as related merchandise and a YouTube channel.
While she’s clearly on the path to bring her product to fruition, she plans on following a key insight she learned over the past Spring semester:
“Slow down and start small.”
Sage advice for any founder.
Double Story Type by B. Hrjna
“I make fonts with superpowers that will make your brand shine and your audience remember you,” said B. Hrnja, a May 2023 Baldwin Wallace University grad who launched Double Story, an independent type foundry, during his senior year.
With a target audience of lead designers and art directors, Double Story’s value proposition isn’t just a creative font called Soobi, it’s in how the product is distributed.
“I offer licensing differently than most foundries today,” they explained -- sharing that this is a major pain point of customers in this space, which will reach a market value of $1.2 billion in five years. Double Story’s approach makes licensing its custom fonts easier, simpler, and faster.
In addition to promoting the stress-fee licensing feature, B will continue to add new typefaces to the Double Story family and build the overall business, using two recent micro-grants from BW LaunchNet and additional training from the BW Start Smart technology credentials program.
Global Recipe Sharing Application by Sami Contreras
Ashland student Sami Contreras used her time in Tech Side Hustle to work on a recipe sharing application, focused on international cuisine, which can also potentially serve as a hub for food influencers.
“Food brings people together,” she said. “I wanted to do something that would encourage individuals to try new foods.”
Sami got the idea for her app while studying abroad in Spain and aims to “help people connect on a global level.”
The core functions of the app will include accessing recipes from cultures around the world; selling spices and ingredients; and community/social components such as a discussion forum.
After completing the program, Sami has begin developing a WordPress website to house her growing venture.
Both programs will offer opportunities in Fall 2023.
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