Sitting on the edge of their seats, the members of WoCo & Co. nervously waited, hoping their team name would be announced in front of the hundreds of spectators and reporters gathered at the Yelp headquarters for the Technovation World Pitch. In addition to coming in second place globally and first place in the United States for their positivity-promoting app, PraisePop, WoCo received the inaugural UN Women Prize for the Top National Team in the 2015 Technovation Challenge.
In June, the team, consisting of Qiqi Ren ’15, Sloane Sambuco ’16, Jenny Huang ’16 and Moe Sunami ’17, ventured to San Francisco for five days to compete at the 2015 Technovation World Pitch. WoCo earned the chance to present their app to several hundred spectators, including representatives from leading tech companies and reporters from the “Wall Street Journal” and CNET, as well as to tour the offices of major companies such as Twitter and Amazon.
“My highlight of the event was before our pitch when we had to do some kind of expo, a poster session of our app. Someone at Apple, Inc. offered to contact us so that we [could] work with them and they [could] help us make and develop the app. That was cool, just to get some one-on-one feedback on the app and be treated as professionals,” said Sunami.
Huang said, “Personally, when we started the competition it was just for fun and just to see what we could do. To get to the top six though and be named number one in the U.S. and number two in the world was insane.”
Sambuco said, “We got third place at regionals so we thought the entire competition was over. [We thought] we wouldn’t get to go to San Francisco and do the World Pitch, but then we saw that we made it to semifinals which was crazy, and then we got placed among the top six, which was even more so.”
PraisePop aims to spread happiness, an issue that WoCo believes Andover struggles with. They cite their firsthand experience with the problem as one of the team’s greatest strengths.
Huang said, “We’ve experienced the problem ourselves which really helped when developing the app because we could cater the app to all the users… we are the users.”
Sambuco said, “We also bounce our ideas off each other… we’re not all coming from the same place, so we carry a lot of different opinions which translates to what the user will experience with the app. We’re diverse.”
WoCo acknowledges that part of their success comes from genuine dedication to their product, despite the fact that they had a late start to the competition.
Sunami said, “By Spring Break we had just decided on our app. We were working on it in April which was really late compared to everyone else, but once we got into it, it blew up and we kept working. Our goal was to get to San Francisco.”
As of right now, the team is diverting their attention to the release of PraisePop on the iTunes App Store and the start of the promotion for the app here at Andover. A launch party will take place this Fall Term on campus.
“We’re starting to promote it here because even though the app is going to be out on the App Store, it’s just going to sit there if we don’t do anything about it. We’re trying to foster a community of PraisePop users, first at Andover, then other schools. We’re going to have campus reps at other schools around Andover and schools in different places in the US. A lot of people thought this was a good idea and wanted to support it,” said Sunami.
Huang said, “What we’re really aiming for comes after the competition. We want the app out in [the App Store], and we want to see the user-base grow and to see people spread positivity.”
Moe Sunami is an Online Associate for The Phillipian.