OHIO students use Startup Weekend prize to develop subleasing app

A website designed by five Ohio University students that connects subleasers to interested renters won the fourth annual Startup Weekend competition held at the Ohio University Innovation Center on March 13.

During the 54-hour program, students pitch their start-up ideas, form teams around the most successful pitches, and spend the remaining time developing those business concepts.  At the end of the weekend winners are announced, with prize packages awarded to the top three groups. These prizes offer services to help the students further develop their businesses.

Subbit came in first place, with second place going to Smart Headband and third place to Job Flirt.

Ohio University students David Alexander, Phillip Cook, Drew Harper, Marcus Yeagle, and Yonry Zhu formed Subbit’s team.

“I think the most compelling case for the app is that all three of us — myself and my two coworkers — all need to find subleasers and we can’t,” said Zhu, a sophomore studying physics in the Honors Tutorial College. “But then you look at the Facebook Ohio University Class of 2016 page and it’s completely [filled with] people looking for subleasers and subleases.”

Yeagle, a junior studying computer science, said he came up with the idea after noticing how many flyers posted around campuses advertised for subleasers.

The second- and third-place winners also sought to fill gaps in the market. Smart Headband could check if an athlete might have a concussion at a fraction of the price of similar products.

Job Flirt offers an online job search ideally suited to millennials. It mirrors the format of a dating website: people enter their interests and credentials to be matched with possible jobs.

Startup Weekend was a crash course in entrepreneurship for all participants. Zhu said his biggest takeaway was learning how to convincingly pitch to investors. The entire group learned how to create business models, code, and start market validations in the short span of a weekend.

On the heels of its win, the Subbit team (now composed of Alexander, Cook, Yeagle, and Zhu) has moved into offices at the Ohio University Innovation Center, part of their prize package for winning first place.  The group will continue to develop Subbit and hopes to be working in Athens and Columbus by the end of the year. By 2017, Yeagle said Subbit aims to be in all the universities in Ohio.

Stacy Strauss, associate director of the Innovation Center, is impressed by the Subbit team members and looks forward to seeing their product develop.

She also has practical advice to offer. “Once they’ve mitigated any legal barriers, they need to conduct exhaustive market testing and promote their product in time for the new academic year,” she said of their ideal next step.

Subbit is also set to meet with a graphic design firm to get marketing and brand logos, another feature of the prize package.  Such components allow Startup Weekend winners to invest in their business before it makes direct returns.

Zhu said the most important part of the package, however, is advice from investors and people who have successfully created start-ups.  He also credits Startup Weekend’s atmosphere with encouraging him with take more initiative.

“It puts you in an environment where if you want to do something, the only thing stopping you is yourself,” Zhu said.

Article Written By: Hannah Koerner

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