Annenberg Evening of Innovation features student startups

The Annenberg Innovation Lab hosted an Evening of Innovation at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism on Wednesday. Six student-founded startups partook in the event for an opportunity to receive $10,000 in funding.

Erin Reilly, Annenberg Innovation Lab creative director, described the Evening of Innovation as a culmination of the 2013-2014 academic year.

“It’s a program that really is to celebrate all the hard work that students and faculty and staff here at the Innovation Lab have been developing throughout the year,” Reilly said.

College Knowledge LA, RePlant LA, Snap Basket, Spheretec, Trail and XCLU were the  startups chosen to participate. Each team pitched its concept to a small audience of USC students, faculty and industry professionals.

The student-founders came from various schools within USC, including the Marshall School of Business, Rossier School of Education and Viterbi School of Engineering. These diverse areas of expertise showed through in each group’s presentation.

Trail, an event discovery platform, started off the evening. The mobile application creates an “event maven network,” where people can connect with others who share similar interests.

Users filter their feed based on event time and topic, designing a personalized search process.

“You’re only following trails of people and organizations that you’re interested in,” said Sam Sagartz, Trail president and co-founder.

Second to present, Spheretec is a disposable electronic wristband that allows people to effortlessly exchange contact information. The wristband records the names and faces of people that users shake hands with.

After removing the technology, users review the people they met and gain access to additional contact details.

College Knowledge LA, RePlant LA and Snap Basket combine community outreach with technological innovation.

College Knowledge LA, founded by Sharla Berry, Vanessa Monterosa and Christopher Perez, aims to simplify the college admission process for low-income students. The mobile app connects Los Angeles high school students to local resources and events, providing access to practical knowledge and mentorship.

Monterosa, the organization’s executive director, said that her team’s personal experiences inspired the idea.

“All three of us came from a background where we didn’t have very many role models to get to college,” Monterosa said. “We know that students today still face the same obstacles, so we wanted to create an access point, an opportunity to reach out to students.”

RePlant LA also focuses on enriching adolescents’ lives, teaching them to adopt pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors. Through a unique trans-media platform, children take direct responsibility over the life of a plant that corresponds with the life of a fictional character.

“Our goal is to build a story world that encourages the children to engage with the plants,” said Sonia Guggenheim, co-founder of RePlan tLA.

Catherine Peiper, co-founder of Snap Basket, also drew from personal experiences to start her company. The web-based application provides low-income individuals with real-time, location-based grocery pricing information.

“This was inspired in part because I spent a couple of years on food stamps, and I realized how difficult it was to buy food when you have such a limited budget,” Peiper said.

Following the five-minute pitches, guests voted for their favorite startups. People were encouraged to evaluate each work based on presentation, innovativeness, design, interdisciplinarity and potential for cultural and social impact.

XCLU, a mobile app for independent creatives to create multimedia content through live-streaming, received the most votes.

By providing an inexpensive platform for users to independently produce and monetize content, XCLU aims to foster new talent. As winner of the Evening of Innovation, XCLU will receive continued mentorship and support from the Annenberg Innovation Lab.