Williams Summer Institute for Entrepreneurship
The Williams Summer Institute for Entrepreneurship (WSIE) is a program designed to guide students through the process of brainstorming a business idea, creating a minimum viable product and launching the product. Although launching a fully functioning business is not a requirement of the program, it offers an opportunity to develop something meaningful that could potentially become a successful business or an enriching experience.
The Berkshires can often feel small when you do not own a car or have access to transportation. First generation, low-income and international students often struggle to obtain transportation while on campus, and this contributes directly to their overall Williams experience. Being unable to reach area stores for essential items such as medicine, hygiene products or food creates a significant amount of unnecessary frustration. My partner, Kenneth Chiu, and I decided to help by creating a ride- sharing website that allows students to carpool with members of the Williams community. This system of transportation allows students to explore the Berkshires more efficiently and conveniently while also reducing the amount of carbon emissions released by cars.
Guided by the Business Model Canvas strategic management template, we began brainstorming what this service could look like and how it would be different from existing services. We knew our target audience would be Williams’ students, faculty and staff, but we also knew it could potentially expand to include places like North Adams and Pittsfield. After establishing our goal and target audience, we began the customer discovery phase, which included a mix of students and staff. The ’68 Center for Career Exploration was invaluable in gathering data, and many of the staff were more than willing to sign up for an interview with us. We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of support and input that we received. A major pivot in our design process was realizing that being a technical founder was not necessary to create this product. Initially, my partner and I began looking into creating a mobile app with all the bells and whistles, but we quickly realized that bootstrapping was our best option, and we decided to create a website through a company called Wix. This gave us more time in the customer discovery phase and more opportunities to meet with staff at the Zilkha Center to discuss the sustainability aspect of our service. As part of this process, we decided to include a way to measure the amount of carbon emissions to show users how their choice to use our service was helping the environment. Thanks to a savvy suggestion from Sean Ford ’90, interim CEO of Algorand, we realized that we needed to gamify our product to incentivize potential drivers. During this process I realized that entrepreneurship was something I planned to continue in the future. I can confidently say that addressing sustainability through innovative techniques has become my life goal at this point.
I would like to thank Mr. and Mrs. Case and the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for allowing me to experience such a wonderful opportunity.