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Business & Entrepreneurship

StudyTree in Global Finals of Microsoft Imagine Cup

July 24, 2015

The StudyTree team after winning the Microsoft Imagine Cup United States Final, from left to right, Robyn Freedman, Ethan Keiser, and Phuoc Phan. Courtesy of Microsoft.
The StudyTree team after winning the Microsoft Imagine Cup United States Final, from left to right, Robyn Freedman, Ethan Keiser, and Phuoc Phan. Courtesy of Microsoft.

Her team may be facing the top competition in the entire world, but Robyn Freedman isn’t sweating it.

Freedman is one of three students in the company that developed the StudyTree app in Drexel’s Baiada Institute for Entrepreneurship. And after winning the United States phase of Microsoft’s Imagine Cup, the company was chosen to participate in the World Finals at the end of this month.

But Freedman knows her company has something that is almost as good as gold in the business world — marketability.

“We’re live on the three best mobile platforms and we know users love StudyTree,” Freedman said. “This combined with real data makes our product marketable — a winning factor in any business pitch competition.”

StudyTree is an app that allows students to receive peer-to-peer tutoring help on demand. It creates a marketplace where student tutors can be paid directly by those who are being tutored.

Just three months ago, StudyTree — the combined effort of Freedman, fellow founder Ethan Keiser and Phuoc Phan — took first in the Innovation category of Microsoft’s Imagine Cup United States Finals in San Francisco, netting the company $4,000.

The Imagine Cup is an annual technology competition run across the world that seeks to foster and develop the ideas of college and high school students.

The StudyTree team during their presentation at the Microsoft Imagine Cup United States Finals. Courtesy of Microsoft.
The StudyTree team during their presentation at the Microsoft Imagine Cup United States Finals. Courtesy of Microsoft.

Competing in the World Finals means a potential $50,000 windfall for the app.

“The World Finals are a much larger scale than the national finals,” said Phan. “It’s a similar format in that we have a tech expo and a presentation. However, this is in front of 30,000 people.”

While the United States Finals pitted StudyTree against 11 opponents, the World Finals field is made up of 32 other teams culled from 164 teams who won in their categories in their respective national finals.

“I’m more excited than nervous right now, but I’m sure that may change five minutes before we present,” Freedman said of the competition.

In addition to the Imagine Cup contest July 29, the team will be a part of Microsoft OneWeek, during which there will be workshops, networking events and a People’s Choice competition.

“Getting to meet likeminded students with such fascinating products and ideas is exciting,” Freedman said. “I know the other teams are our competition, but it doesn’t mean we’re not excited to get to know them and learn about their products.”

From just the Innovation category StudyTree will compete in, products include a computer screen designed to sense and react to the movement of air that was developed by a Japanese team, a piece of wearable technology designed to exchange information via a handshake designed by a team from the United Kingdom, and an app that helps correct posture and fight spinal issues dreamed up by an Azerbaijani team.

But StudyTree looks to be a formidable opponent. The team did not rest on its laurels after winning the United States Finals.

“We have been making our user interface easier to use on iOS. We’ve also developed the app for the Google Play Store and Windows phones,” Keiser said. “We’ve built an awesome portal for universities to use — this includes analytics data for reporting and an easy way to keep track of the students and tutors.”

The Close School’s done its best to help prepare the students for their time in the spotlight.

“We’ve utilized our Close School mentors as a wall to bounce ideas off of and to practice pitching in front of,” Keiser said. “The entire Baiada Institute has really helped us out by connecting us to the right people and guiding us in the right direction. We’ve been able to turn to Chuck Sacco or any of the resident entrepreneurs to answer questions using their own experiences as examples.” 

But no matter what happens at the World Finals, it won’t shake the determination of the StudyTree team.

“If we win, we’re going to raise our first round of seed funding,” Freedman explained. “If we lose, we’re going to raise our first round of funding.”