Two computer science students and one computer engineering student, who made it their personal goal to create a software application that supports food banks and pantries, earned first place and a $3,000 award in Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Fast Pitch Competition, hosted by the College of Business and Economics.
The team, Bag/Get, includes computer science students Alan Cortez and Rohan Kunchala along with computer engineering student Cesar Rojas. Their project derived from their personal experiences accessing food pantries.
The Bag/Get software application helps users locate food pantries in their area and provides updated information on walk-in hours, appointment bookings and food inventories.
“Members of our team have faced food insecurity and relied on Associated Students Inc. Food Pantry. Rohan decided to look deeper into the ecosystem — he found a rabbit hole of problems that food banks, pantries and communities face today,” said Cortez. “After roping Cesar and I in, together we created Bag/Get: a software platform with the end goal of helping the community ‘bag’ their troubles and ‘get’ one step closer to sustained food security.”
In under 90 seconds, the student entrepreneurs pitched their cutting-edge technology solutions to seven industry judges, including Natalia Razeghi, vice president of wealth management private banker for US Bank, and Justin Sanders, an intellectual property attorney.
The team members began working on their Bag/Get pitch in the spring, scribbling on white boards, conducting food bank and pantry market research, and collaborating with CSUF management lecturer Jeff Greenberg.
Kunchala said their current challenge is to design a user-friendly software application that is easy to navigate.
“We’re working to create the most optimal user interface that anybody can pick up with ease. For example, during our market research with food banks, one common pain point we found is that they’re frequently under-staffed, and their existing processes are often handled by volunteers,” said Cortez. “We are in the midst of building an application where volunteers and staff don’t have to waste time learning intricate software, which would enable them to better focus their time on the plethora of other responsibilities they handle.”
The team credits its rewarding entrepreneurial journey to their adviser. Greenberg was instrumental in educating them about market research, validation and the lean startup methodology.
“After I graduate this semester, I plan on pursuing a master’s degree to become a computer science professor or working in a web development position to create meaningful solutions for the modern world,” said Cortez.
Kunchala, who teaches data structures and algorithms to students as an Algo officer for the Association for Computing Machinery student chapter on campus, said, “Entrepreneurship, professorship or a career as a technical product lead are all on the table for me. I chose CSUF because of its thriving computer science student community.”
Titan Fast Pitch Program Fosters Innovative Thinking
Through the Center for Entrepreneurship’s annual Titan Fast Pitch competition, students from Southern California middle schools, high schools and universities pitch their business concepts in 90 seconds to judge investors and community business leaders for the opportunity to win cash prizes.
The theme for this year’s competition was “Changing the World through Social Enterprise,” demonstrating how businesses can be a force for positive change in the world by integrating social and environmental goals into core operations. “Changing the World through Social Enterprise” is about harnessing the power of entrepreneurship and commerce to create a more just, sustainable and equitable society. Social enterprises including companies like TOMS, which donates a pair of shoes for each one sold, and Patagonia, which promotes environmental sustainability while manufacturing outdoor clothing.
“The Titan Fast Pitch competition provides a unique and enriching experience that goes beyond traditional classroom learning, offering students the opportunity to develop essential skills, build networks and cultivate the mindset needed for success in the entrepreneurial world,” said center director John Bradley Jackson.
He added that the Center for Entrepreneurship aims to guide students in brainstorming, pitching and networking to create a holistic approach to enhance students’ chances of success in entrepreneurial competitions.
Captivating the audience’s attention with a quick pitch requires effective communication, a compelling story and a deep understanding of the audience, explained Jackson.
Jackson said that Bag/Get received the first-place award for its market need and compelling value proposition. The team also demonstrated a viable and scalable business model.
“Bag/Get also embraced social entrepreneurship,” said Jackson. “Unlike traditional charity or philanthropy, social entrepreneurship applies business principles to social problems such as using market mechanisms to create sustainable and self-sufficient solutions.”
The team envisions Bag/Get as a reliable and robust application that can increase efficiency in food banks and pantries.
“In the immediate future, I foresee a continued spate of interviews with pantries and food banks and pantries across the country to better understand their experiences and needs,” said Kunchala. “Further down the road, I expect for our product to stand up to the rigors of commercial and enterprise use by a number of food banks, their partnered food pantries and pantry users. It’s certainly a technical challenge for us, but we’re both well-equipped and passionate.”