Questrom Students in Accelerator Spotlight
10-week Innovate@BU program features impactful student startups in the clean energy, education fundraising, and sustainable boating space.
This summer, Innovate@BU is host to sixteen teams comprised of BU students and recent alumni with early-stage startup ideas from creative, social, tech, or consumer ventures. We had the pleasure of speaking with three Questrom students participating in the program who are using the accelerator to create value for the world.
For Part-Time MBA graduate Rouwenna Altemose (Questrom’18), it was never a question of whether or not she would change the world—it was only a matter of how. Originally from Kentucky, Rouwenna moved north in 2004. A Smith College graduate, she earned her BA in Astronomy & Physics. While she was there, she realized that, among her many strengths, she was exceptionally good at explaining nebulous concepts to people in a way that they would understand. “I live for the “aha!” moments, the moments when you truly understand something for the first time.” That appreciation for the “wow” factor coupled with her skills and passion for educating others set the stage perfectly for her business venture. She is a co-founder of All In Energy, which creates energy savings in underserved communities and diversifies the clean energy workforce through a career pathway program.
All In Energy was born to address four interconnecting issues—the slow process of climate change mitigation efforts, the lack of access to state energy efficiency programs in low- and moderate-income and diverse communities, clean energy companies having difficulty finding new hires with sufficient experience, and the underrepresentation of women and people of color in the clean energy workforce. “I was always passionate about advocating against wars, domestic violence, poverty, racism, sexism, and the like, but I realized that climate degradation really affected all of that,” she shares. Thanks to her intersectional approach, All In Energy can do great things for the community.
All In Energy is currently launching their programin Codman Square, in Dorchester, Massachusetts, to bring no-cost home energy assessments to help residents save on their utility bills, opening residents’ eyes to the fact they can save both money and the environment. Rouwenna is also hoping to expand the All In Energy team, with aims to build the board of directors with attention to women and underrepresented minorities.
Her advice to anyone seeking to jumpstart their idea? “Connect with everyone. When you’re first starting out, talk to everyone. Just getting your ideas out into the world provides space for feedback, which will only strengthen your idea.”
Social Impact MBA graduate Shironda White (Questrom ’18) earned her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science at Spelman College. During her time at Spelman, one of her close friends had to drop out of school due to financial reasons—thus sparking within Shironda a drive to help students afford increasingly pricey college tuition. She began working with that same friend (who, five years later, completed her degree) and raised as much as $20,000 a year for other students on crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe. In their efforts, they realized that traditional crowdfunding platforms didn’t provide the tailored, specific help that students need to pay for school—so they set out to change that by creating Cause EDU.
Cause EDU is a FinTech and EdTech company focused on education philanthropy. They aim to make it easier for donors to help students raise money for school. “44% of students drop out of college within 6 years,” Shironda shares, “and 2/3 of them are leaving for financial reasons.” With such high numbers, Cause EDU aims to not only to help students pay for their education, but also to encourage donors to give more, educate students on financial literacy, and to help match students with appropriate scholarships.
Cause EDU has its own crowdfunding platform with options that include recurring donations, mandatory enrollment verification, and direct-to-school payment, lowering the risk for donors and increasing their likelihood to give. Donors can see how much students are raising, ensuring that the wealth is spread around. “It’s all about transparency,” Shironda says. “It levels the playing field and makes funding more equitable for all students, and it takes the guesswork out for the donors.”
Now, Shironda is the CEO of Cause EDU (and her friend is the COO), but they have goals to expand. “Right now, we have a small team of incredibly dedicated people, but we’re trying to scale up. That way we can help more students raise money—there are millions of students who need our help.”
Daylin Frantin (BSBA ’19) may be young, but he exemplifies what it means to be an innovator. He is the co-founder and CFO of Flux Marine, a company dedicated to clean, sustainable, and reliable tech for the boating industry. “Drawing from the electrification revolution of the automotive industry, we have adopted similar technology and developed an electric outboard propulsion system, eliminating common failure points of existing gas engines,” he says of the venture.
After starting as thesis work at Princeton University, Daylin was brought on-board to kickstart the company. Since Daylin has joined Flux Marine, they have leveraged over $100,000 in funding, partnerships, accelerators, and mentorship.
The one aspect Daylin appreciates most about working with Flux Marine is the venture’s innovative nature. “Innovation is more than having a big idea. It takes a collective group of driven individuals who aren’t afraid of uncertainty,” he shares. “A successful innovator can get people to share in their dream.”
His advice moving forward? Start early. “Take the risk now,” he says. “It’s easy to get guidance while you’re still in school. Professors are a great resource, especially at BU, where the BUild Lab has put entrepreneurship on the map.”
For more information on these incredible startups, visit their websites, All In Energy, Cause EDU, and Flux Marine.