Showcasing Media Innovation

Media Ventures students present project ideas to a panel of experts at Pitchfest

Woman in red dress speaking in front of small gathering during PitchFest 2022.

Pei-Wen (Connie) Shao during her presentation at PitchFest 2022 in Los Angeles.

Students are drawn to COM’s MS in Media Ventures program for one reason: They want to be part of the next generation of media entrepreneurs. They spend most of the 12-month program creating a media venture from scratch or a brand extension for an existing media company. Then they head to Los Angeles, where they present their projects to a panel of industry experts at Pitchfest.  

“Pitchfest provides our students the rare opportunity to show their best work to major industry executives who generously offer feedback and guidance as our students take their next professional steps,” says Cathy Perron, a professor emerita of film and television who created the MS in Media Ventures program in 2009. “These presentations have led to many jobs for our alums in innovative media companies.”

Among the 12 panelists at this year’s Pitchfest, held on July 28, were media ventures graduates Davi de Azevedo (CGS’14, CAS’16, COM’16,’17), a senior creative producer for Buzzfeed; Lindsey Emerson (’13), vice president of product management at HBO Max; and Jonathan Goodlow (COM’15, Questrom’15), a product manager at Google. Other panelists included ​​Lee Rierson, executive vice president, global television business and legal affairs at Miramax and Howard Davine, head of operations at the independent production company Wiip, whose shows include HBO’s Mare of Easttown and Apple TV+’s Dickinson.

Our overarching goal for our students is that they learn the skills and strategies of product innovation.

Jodi Luber

“It has been an extraordinary experience to witness the network effect of camaraderie and support that the Media Ventures program has fostered. Every year our guest list grows with more alums attending Pitchfest to support each other,” says Jodi Luber (CGS’84, COM’86,’89), associate dean of faculty and student actions and an associate professor of film and television. “Our overarching goal for our students is that they learn the skills and strategies of product innovation.” The program is media-agnostic, she says, and alums have gone on to work in streaming, social media, advertising, journalism, podcasting, marketing, artificial intelligence and virtual reality. “We want them to understand what creates and sustains value for all invested parties from customers to shareholders to strategic partners.” 

This year marked the first year that presentations were back in person in Los Angeles since the pandemic forced the event to go virtual in 2020. Fourteen students gathered to pitch ideas ranging from a web platform billed as a “Buzzfeed specifically for Black womxn” to an extension for Apple Music that would allow DJs to remix, record and publish their music. (See descriptions of all 14 projects below.)

“We all now know Zoom is a wonderful and efficient tool, but there is something to be said for the lessons learned in making in-person connections and presenting in front of a room,” says Luber. “We had several students defer their admission and they entered the program this past fall. It was wonderful seeing them at Pitchfest, knowing how long they’ve waited for this moment.”

This year’s Pitchfest ventures included:

Jouman Barakat (’22)

Venture: iTuneIn

Description: Acting as a brand extension for Apple Music, iTuneIn is a virtual recording studio for DJs to remix, record and publish their music while connecting with their fans.


Jordan Ellman (’21,’22)

Venture: CarMeetUp

Description: An app that connects car enthusiasts who want to meet in the online and offline world. It helps people learn about events, get to know each other and talk about cars.


Phoebe Huff (’22)

Venture: Spotify Scrapbook 

Description: A social extension for Spotify users to share moments of their lives through music scrapbooks. 


Jannat Kakar (’22)

Venture: Loop

Description: A web platform that automates social advertising across all platforms for small and medium-sized businesses.


Aninditya Kusumah (’22)

Venture: BuYa

Description: A culturally diverse educational app for children to learn interpersonal skills through engaging, interactive and personalized books delivered by the voices of loved ones.


Manasvee Muralikumaar (’22)

Venture: SKILLIT

Description: A skills development app aimed to teach innovation and entrepreneurial skills seen in movies and TV shows to college students.


Nene Nnodim-Amadi (’22)

Venture: KIKI

Description: KIKI is all things at the intersection of Blackness and womxnhood: think Buzzfeed specifically for Black womxn. KIKI combines community care, culture and conversation for Black womxn throughout the diaspora.


Oluwaseun Ogunseye (’22)

Venture: Spotlights

Description: A video streaming platform that showcases content from emerging African filmmakers to audiences, investors and media corporations. 


Jega Park (’22)

Venture: OPEN OFFICE

Description: An app that helps colleagues communicate and collaborate effectively without any location requirement. 


Alex Posselli (’22)

Venture: GAIA THEORY 

Description: An AI-powered platform that enables sustainable purchases in a fashion marketplace.


Pei-Wen Shao (’22)

Venture: CineBud

Description: An instant messaging app that connects global film lovers to discuss movies and TV shows without language barriers.


Zeyu (Oliver) Sheng (’22)

Venture: Matches Game

Description: A free game and platform that enables people to create and play user generated content (UGC) games using proprietary 3D modeling and game development tools.


Isabela Yamaguchi (CGS’19, COM’21,’22)

Venture: Third Culture Festival

Description: A virtual international food fair where participating Third Culture Individuals (TCIs) host festival tents featuring dishes, ingredients and recipes from the different nations that make up their identities, to celebrate and share their stories with non-TCIs. 


Ryan Wayne Yuen (’20,’22)

Venture: .complement 

Description: The simple search and discover web-based solution focused on empowering influencers and brands with meaningful long-term synergistic relationships.