The Winners of our Venture Challenge!

For the third consecutive year, the Brown Institute partnered with Columbia Entrepreneurship to offer a segment of the StartupColumbia Venture Challenge dedicated to media initiatives. The first round of our competition started with 21 teams. Like previous years, we were amazed at the variety of projects being pitched and the breadth of expertise on the teams.

Some were trying to repair journalism’s business model with clever payment schemes or new ways of matching advertisers and content creators. AI played a significant role in this year’s projects, serving as a tool for optimizing site functionality and content delivery, as well as aiding in reporting. And there were several single-subject news sites proposing new forms of reader engagement around strong local reporting and deep investigations.

After two pitch sessions, we named nine finalists who competed on March 25th.  Our judges that night were Carolina Valencia, Director of Partnerships and CommunicationsDirector of Partnerships and Communications at Epicenter-NYC; Emily Goligoski, Head of Research & SVP at Charter; and Richard Witten, Head of Columbia Entrepreneurship and Senior Advisor to the President of Columbia University.

Honestly, every single pitch was fantastic and choosing winners was difficult! But, after a lot of deliberation, here’s the winners for the 2024 Media Track  of StartupColumbia’s Venture Challenge.

We had a tie for Third Place,:

  • Pitch, Please! A Marketplace of Story Ideas: A project by Meghnad Bose (2024 Data M.S.), Trisha Mukherjee and Dina Katgara (both 2024 M.S.) that will streamline the journalist-to-newsroom pitch process.
  • PrivaSee: Yuqi Cheng (2024 Data M.S.) and Yanan Sun (2024 Dual Degree CS/Journalism M.S.) proposed an AI-based tool for auto-scoring and visualizing privacy policies.

And in Second Place:

  • In Old News LLC: Shalaka Shivaji Shinde (2023 Data MS) with partners Sanshey Biswas and Manon Verchot pitched a service for diversifying video journalism through a free footage library.

And our First Place project:

  • FaultLines: Taha Ozturk and Jacob Sirota (Architecture MA, GSAPP) developed an interactive AI-powered earthquake risk assessment platform.

Congratulations to our winners! Our final pitch session was so exciting to watch. The teams were enthusiastic and professional.

Each of the four winning teams will be enrolled in the Brown Institute’s Summer Entrepreneurship Program and then go on to compete for a $100,000 Magic Grant. Follow this blog to see how these projects evolve over the next few months.

Thank you to everyone who participated and, again, congratulations to our winners!