Fourth-year pharmacy student Michael Zhang was so enriched by his experience in developing his start-up company CrowdQuarter at the U of T Engineering’s Entrepreneurship Hatchery that he contributed his $10,000 prize from the national Walmart Green Student Challenge right back to the Hatchery.
Last summer, Zhang partnered with Satyam Merja (EngSci 1T5) at the Hatchery to develop a social media customer rewards app for retailers called DealsHype. They were recognized for their great idea with an Orozco Prize, named after the Hatchery’s executive director, Joseph Orozco, and sponsored by ECE Professors Jonathan Rose and Vaughn Betz. DealsHype allows users to earn rewards for sharing photos of their favourite brands or venues via social media, which, in turn, provides retailers with valuable analytics and enables them to offer more targeted loyalty programs.
“Our experience at the Hatchery was absolutely amazing and we were able to gain great advice from our advisors, Professor Betz and Rotman student Elton Law,” says Zhang. “Their insights in software development and business strategy have truly helped us develop a successful technology start-up.”
Since then, Zhang and a team of marketers and engineers formed CrowdQuarter at U of T to further develop analytics tools and mobile apps. They took one of their ideas to the Walmart Green Student Challenge: an app that helps people make healthy and sustainable shopping choices by leveraging personalized analytics and their network of friends. It was awarded the $10,000 first-place prize by a panel of executives from Walmart Canada, Google Canada, Ford, S.C. Johnson and Son, Bullfrog Power and Canadian National Railway. CrowdQuarter promptly contributed the prize money to the Hatchery.
“I hope that this donation will help to support and expand the amazing work that is being done at the Hatchery,” says Zhang. “From our personal experience in the program, we knew exactly the kinds of challenges that would be faced by future entrepreneurs. We felt that the donation would greatly help to fund summer fellowships and awards for future start-ups, which are crucial in helping others scale their businesses at the Hatchery.”