Spotlight on 2015 NYC GenTech Winners: RIME
Challenging. Eye-opening. Life-changing.
These are the words high-schoolers use to describe NYC GenTech, a tech-entrepreneurship summer program for students in lower-income communities across all five boroughs. GenTech provides hands-on learning experiences and mentorship opportunities for NYC’s budding entrepreneurs.
On September 17th, NYC GenTech finished off its 4th year with a standing-room only Demo Night.
Three finalist teams pitched their mobile apps and socially-minded businesses for the top prize of $5000 and a chance to pitch to a top New York City VC firm.
The evening was a culmination of the students’ hard work, and an example of how young New Yorkers can be extraordinary social innovators when given the opportunity and support.
Students learned the fundamentals of tech and entrepreneurship during a two-week bootcamp held at Cornell Tech NYC’s campus at Google, and navigated their way around Silicon Alley at mentorship sessions held at tech companies such as Warby Parker, LivePerson, and Palantir.
The three final teams presenting were:
- PhoNYC Frenzy: an app that supports English Language Learners to improve their skills through interactive games.
- RIME: an app that helps busy urban residents create the simplest route for multiple destinations and social networks
- Tempus: an app that supports high school and college students on their path to figure out a major or career that best suits them [pictured, above left].
Six semifinalist teams even competed for the Audience Choice Award by giving 60-second pitches and demoing their app with lightning speed.
And the grand prize winner is…
Second and third place accolades were awarded to Team Tempus and PhoNYC Frenzy respectively. The Audience Choice Award went to Politeia, an app that aims to educate young adults about politics and increase youth involvement in government.
We spoke to two team members of the 1st-place RIME team, Christopher Martinez, a high school sophomore from Queens, and Syed, a high school junior from Queens, about their experience with NYC GenTech. They used one word to describe it: “INTENSE.”
What problem does your app RIME solve?
Christopher Martinez (CM): RIME tries to solve the problem of not being able to effectively route your day while trying to meet up with your friends.
Syed Rahman (SR): I cannot express the amount of times I have gotten lost when I was trying to meet up with my friends and I wished I could see where they were.
What was the biggest challenge your team faced while building the app?
CM: The biggest challenge we faced were some of the tech-related problems with building the app.
SR: We really needed a tech mentor to help us with the front and back end of the App—not to mention keeping our cool at the intense sessions during the heat wave, which would get very crazy occasionally!
What is the best advice you received during the program?
CM: The best advice that was given to me came from one of my mentors Bryan Shao (of J.P.Morgan) while I was stressing out over the pitch. He told me that I shouldn’t worry about the others in the competition because as long as we are giving 100%, what more could you do, really?
SR: Bryan also offered me advice on how to present in front of over 300 people and keep my calm and nerves. He also taught me that just having confidence in myself will go a long way through life.
What did it feel like to win the competition?
SR: There were a lot of feelings! First of all, I felt that all of our hard and grueling work had paid off, all the tears and arguments and shouting matches...and that we could finally take a rest after working NON-STOP on our Pitch and Presentation for weeks!
What was it like working with the mentors?
CM: Working with the mentors was absolutely amazing. We couldn’t have asked for better mentors!
SR: Our Mentors were extraordinary! They were all cool and likable people that transformed us from high school students to business people in a span of six weeks.
Our mentors were able to understand things from our point of view and offered very insightful advice and opinions that helped us out throughout GenTech that eventually culminated in us winning 1st Place!
A Word From the GenTech Mentors
It isn’t just the students who gain from NYC GenTech. RIME mentors, Bryan Shao and Eric Donado [pictured left to right, above] with GenTech students Christopher and Syed, chimed in with a few highlights from their experience.
Describe the connection you were able to make with the students.
Eric Donado (ED): Our mentor group was not too far off in age from the students in RIME, so sessions often felt like conversations with a younger sibling or friend. We emailed regularly with students, held practice sessions outside official GenTech hours, and are planning a reunion dinner to celebrate their great work in the competition. I was very proud of all of them standing on the stage at Demo Night and look forward to continuing to cheer them on in whatever may come next.
How important are the skills GenTech students learn for today’s workplace?
Bryan Shao (BS): Technical skills are indeed important in today’s workplace as there has never been an easier time to build technology products and start businesses revolving around them. In addition to the technical skills, the soft skills the students developed—working together, having passion for their work, empathizing with their customers, and solving problems—will stay with them for a lifetime.
What did you enjoy most about being a mentor in GenTech?
BS: I enjoyed being able to watch the students grow and learn valuable entrepreneurial skills which they will use for the rest of their careers.
ED: I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the team progress throughout the program, focusing their idea and executing on the core features they wanted to develop in their MVP. The students supported each other in their tasks and worked collectively to ensure that they didn't miss a beat in the process. Seeing team members pick up the slack when others were swamped without any prodding from mentors was perhaps most rewarding.
Congrats on another successful year, GenTech! The program is testament to what any New Yorker can achieve with an entrepreneurial spirit, sense of possibility, and drive to make the world a better place. These students are the future of tech. Check out some of their tech visions with these photos in our #FutureNYC campaign.
GenTech is part of a series of initiatives that NYCEDC supports highlighting the importance of youth as the next generation of talent in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM). These programs include the Computer Science Opportunity Fair and the 10 under 20 Innovators to Watch award in partnership with CE Week. Read more here.
GenTech was developed in partnership with and administered by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE). For more information about ways you or your business can get involved with GenTech, contact us at [email protected].