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Westlake Students Win National Entrepreneur Pitch Competition


Six students from Westlake High School won a national contest, and with it, $ 10,000 was donated by Uncharted Learning, to help them with the launch of their new GiftE gift basket app. The group reached the final competition after being chosen as one of the top five teams in the country.

GiftE grew out of the high school business incubator program last year, which is part of a nationwide program with a curriculum produced by Uncharted Learning. The team received $ 15,000 this spring when they won a pitch night in a competition with 30 Westlake entrepreneurial teams. The students also received a $ 10,000 investment from the local company Powerpack.

GiftE is a free interactive app for users to store, redeem, send and donate their gift cards, according to student Jash Desai.

Desai said he got the idea last year as part of the incubation program when he noticed he had dozens of gift cards that were mostly expired or long unused.

“I was like, there has to be a better way than to lug it all around and forget about it all the time,” he said.

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Desai said the app has a social component and a financial component, like the popular Venmo money-sending app, but for gift cards. Gift cards are a huge industry that’s only set to grow, he said, so it made sense to digitize them.

“It’s kind of like a style of social media where you can search other people’s profiles and view their wishlists,” he said. “It’s also an online marketplace where you can redeem gift cards with people you know. “

The team, which includes Desai and her senior colleagues Emily Weiner, Nina Velacheri, Radhika Gautam, Amir Aleghaband and Leo Weihe, spent the year working on the company. The app is slated to launch in August and Desai said part of it was aimed at helping local businesses.

The app will offer subscription services allowing businesses to access the Nifte Notice feature, which ping gift card holders who have outstanding balances with participating businesses when they are near a physical store with a reminder to use the gift card. The app also collects analytical data on spending habits that stores can access as part of a subscription package, Desai said.

The team has already partnered with regional Westlake companies and chains, including Texas Honey Ham, Tyler’s, Tiff’s Treats, Tony C’s and Rudy’s.

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The app also has a charity component, which allows users to donate to teachers or non-profit organizations that have profiles in the system. The team is working with the Eanes School District as well as some schools in Austin so that the community can donate gift cards to teachers. With the launch in August, the team hopes teachers will access the app in time to request gift cards to help them stock their classrooms for the upcoming school year.

“Teachers are always asking for things to help spruce up their class, or for school supplies for the students themselves,” Desai said. “We also allow people to donate directly to nonprofits and charities. ”

Desai said the group is also working with Austin Pets Alive, Dress for Success Austin, and the Miracle Foundation.

The app’s target market is teens and young adults, who Desai says are most likely to receive gift cards as gifts, as well as adults with children in that age group who are the most likely to receive gift cards as a gift. likely to offer gift cards.

Students will also have the chance to continue working on GiftE as part of the Westlake Accelerator Program next year.

Katina Kenyon, the team’s mentor, said she was incredibly proud of what they were able to accomplish. Kenyon co-founded his own software company, Applaudo Studios, and serves on the board of directors of the Westlake Innovation Fund, which supports the incubator program.

“The future is bright. Having these brilliant young entrepreneurs and being able to work alongside them during the school year is not only promising for me, but their ideas and energies were limitless,” she said. watching and their creativity was a highlight for me. ”

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