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SANDY — When Alta High junior Sean O’Bryant arrived at school Friday, he was dressed for success.
Clad in a dark suit and blue tie, he looked the part of budding CEO more than a teenager going to school to pitch an idea for a new mobile app during a “Shark Tank”-like contest.
O’Bryant took first place in the inaugural Kick-App Idea Competition, where students were asked to come up with their best ideas for new mobile apps. His winning pitch was for the “iScholarship app” — a comprehensive database of every scholarship available to prospective college students.
“It allows students to select the scholarships that interest them the most and filters them based on their particular abilities,” he explained.
The idea was developed based on his experience of sifting through countless pages and various sources of information in search of money for college.
“We have to do all the searching on our own, and there is no one source to go to,” O'Bryant said. The app would offer a “one-stop shop” for students looking for school funding and could draw advertising from colleges and universities that send junk mail or email that students typically throw away or delete.
O’Bryant hopes to get the project going by next year.
Sponsored by the In Pursuit of Perfection Foundation, or IPOP, the top 10 finalists out of 200 applicants were given three minutes to present their ideas and business proposals to a panel of judges made up of entrepreneurs and business people. Students vied for $5,000 in scholarships, with $2,000 going to the winner.
Plus, the judges could eventually provide mentoring to the students or invest in one of the winning ideas.
IPOP founder Amy Rees Anderson is a successful entrepreneur and the former chief executive officer of MediConnect Global Inc., a medical record retrieval and digitization firm that was one of the largest cloud-based health information exchanges.
Since selling the company for $377 million, Anderson has become an active angel investor, and she recently founded the IPOP Foundation — a charity focused on helping educate and mentor entrepreneurs.
A lot of time they discount themselves because they don't always know what they are going to be, but we really wanted them to see that they are smart enough and good enough.
–Amy Rees Anderson, IPOP
Anderson said she didn’t know whether students would be enthusiastic about the project when it was first launched. As it turned out, the program was very popular, and she anticipates expanding it to more schools next year.
“The ideas they came up with were wonderful," she said. "(They were) really, really good ideas that could easily get funded and become real companies.”
Besides teaching entrepreneurship, Anderson said another aim of the program is to instill confidence and self-worth in students who participate.
“A lot of time they discount themselves because they don’t always know what they are going to be, but we really wanted them to see that they are smart enough and good enough,” she said. “(We’re) trying to get them to pursue anything … just have goals and go after them.”
Alta Principal Fidel Montero described the program as “an opportunity for students to connect with the real world.”
“To have their own idea and to have a community partner come in and fund that idea … what high school gets the opportunity to do that?” he queried. “For our students, it gives them the real-life experience of going through the process of thinking about the concept, pitching it to a panel of CEOs and having an opportunity to have a company invest in it. It is a phenomenal opportunity for them.”
Montero said the program helps students become critical thinkers and develop entrepreneurial skills they will need to be successful when they “go out in the real world.”
And from the looks of things, O'Bryant and his fellow finalists are well on their way.