Mimicking start-ups by creating tomorrow’s products

UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media students had a taste of working in a start-up accelerator during the semester in Teaching Associate Professor Kate Sheppard‘s “MEJO 463: Creating Tomorrow’s Products.” The entrepreneurial course culminated in “Pitch Day” on April 20 when the student teams pitched their digital product ideas to a panel of guest judges in the Reese Innovation Lab.

Sheppard says the value of spending a semester researching and refining an idea lies in critical thinking skills and learning to communicate with a team. “In the Reese Innovation Lab  we try to simulate what it’s like developing and testing ideas in the real world. To do so, we learn the processes of evaluating our ideas based on their desirability, feasibility and viability. These are valuable skills to anyone working in media today, where you may be the one to develop the next big idea — or even just figure out how to make smaller changes happen. We do so in teams, bringing together different interests and skillsets just like you would in a newsroom or startup,” said Sheppard.

The panel of guest judges included:

Watch the four teams pitch their products below.


SLYCK, a drink-ordering app that saves customers from long waits at bars, was presented by: Michelle Chang, Alexandra Hehlen, Ryan Herrera, Alexis Juarez and Tucker Key.

Team: The Local Optimist

The Local Optimist, a website and app providing an optimistic take on hyperlocal news, was presented by: Caroline Baxendale, Johanna Cano, Elia Essen, Hans Harlacher and Kaitlin Harlow.

Team: Frankli

Frankli, a website for students researching professors and courses, was presented by: Kyle Eng, Caeli Harr, Campbell Payne and Rachel Ross.

Team: iBallot

iBallot, an app geared at young people to participate in local elections, was presented by: Raphaelle Aubert, Rachel Bridges, Raven Norton, Yujie Tao and Emily Wakeman.