Relaxing at CGI U

By Yeshwant Chillakuru

This was my second time attending Clinton Global Initiative University, and it gave me a new perspective. Last year, I was rushing, competing the Resolution Project Social Venture Challenge, as well as trying to make as much out of the opportunity as possible. Returning the second time, I was much more relaxed (likely the California atmosphere may have helped as well. I landed Thursday late night, but the fun began Friday morning. I went on a pretty exciting run and discovered Mad Mark’s Castle and the beautiful garbage art on this park along the Bay, just past the Berkeley Marina.

At the conference I got to meet many old friends as well as make some new ones. I saw people from GW that I hadn’t been in touch with for some time, like Max Grossman. Also, I met many friends from the Resolution Project, both Fellows and the Resolution Team itself, and its always great to catch up and see how people are doing beyond just their commitment. At the networking event, I ran into people from University of Delaware, which is always exciting because there are so few Delawareans out there, especially in California.

The conference itself was a valuable learning experience. During the office hours with Bre from Indiegogo, I learned that Indiegogo opens up their API to certain development teams, of which is a huge resource for our venture to take advantage. Project Dream Miles has come along way since our original inception during CGI U last year. While our development timeline has been delayed, we learned strong lessons in team management, recruiting members, and project design. Now we are mid-development, and we have a strong team that can execute with Danish, Charlie, and Chanu. We are currently finalists for the GW New Venture Competition, so our prospects are looking strong and the changes we have made appear to be moving us in the right direction.

Project Dream Miles Making Strides

By: Yeshwant Chillakuru

Project Dream Miles has come a long way since we first started as just a concept. We’ve restructured to a solid team of 3 GW students, Charles Dorward, Danish Imtiaz, and myself. We faced several challenges but accomplished major milestones bringing us closer to the launch of the Project Dream Miles app where every mile you run raises money for a local charity of your choosing.

Our first challenge was communication over the summer. As a team of students scattered across the country, we were all working remote on PDM. We had to figure out proper consistent communication across multiple time zones (I was in England for a month) in order to ensure that we stay committed and move forward on such a young project. Despite this challenge, over summer we made strong progress and designed our application.

Our next major challenge was iOS app design. Creating an entire application and user experience from scratch poses a lot of risks. We have to understand how people interact with our product, what gestures feel natural, and what command flow makes the most sense. To address this properly, we created a prototype using Photoshop and Invision, an online prototyping tool, to simulate the experience of using the app before building a functional version of it. This way, we could gain valuable feedback from potential users to optimize our UX.

Now we have moved on to the development phase and are planning a launch in 2016. In the meantime, we are reaching out to charities to list on our app to which users can donate. Additionally, we have conducted surveys and receive hundreds of responses to help us figure precisely the amount to donate per mile and understand what other fitness related apps users are using.

Project Dream Miles

yeshwant-clinton

March 19, 2015

My name is Yeshwant Chillakuru, and I am the co-founder of Project Dream Miles (PDM). PDM’s other co-founder is Kyle Lennon, a student at the University of Delaware and a friend of nearly 5 years. We are a nonprofit organization based on a mobile app that uses running to raise funds and awareness for local at-risk students. Using our mobile app, you can track you runs and get detailed stats on your run. Also, for every mile logged on the app, our sponsors, who in return get marketing outreach to a highly relevant user group, donate towards a local charity that mentors students. We have developed a business plan as a foundation and have created a partnership with a local organization called Teens Run DC that uses running to mentor students. We are currently working to prototype the application’s user interface and reaching out to developers to prepare for the app dev process. One of the major hurdles we face is finding a sponsor, since we are at the early stages of app development, but we seek to gain track interest of our target audience through a website, which we hope to launch soon (pdm.io), to prove to sponsors that they can gain a return on investment.

The experience at CGI U was unreal. Despite almost missing my flight, not because of weather, but because of the metro, I got to the conference on time to present for the Resolution Project in the semifinalist round at a science fair-style poster display. PDM moved on to the finalist round, presenting to a judges panel early the next day, Saturday, in the morning. Despite getting grilled on financials, and feelings somewhat iffy, PDM was recognized as one of the 23 teams that won the Resolution Project, from an initial 191 submissions. I am extremely excited to become a Resolution Fellow. The seed investment ($5k) and, more importantly, the access to a huge community and network will allow PDM to accelerate its growth.

Other than the Resolution Project, I learned of many amazing projects being carried out by even more amazing individuals. The networking opportunity was great, and I heard so many stories about people doing amazing things. I even discovered that one friend I made there may be interning in DC over the summer, and another Resolution Fellow will be interning in DC starting mid-March. GW’s location in DC allows you to truly cement some of the connections you form.

Additionally, the speakers were amazing. Two of my favorite were Vivek Murthy, Surgeon General of the United States, and Tawakkol Karman, humans rights activist that lead “Women Journalists Without Chains” and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011. Vivek Murthy was extremely eloquent and structured his stories so well that you felt as if you could follow his footsteps, while Tawakkol Karman showed her passion on the CGI U stage for her work. Both speakers were inspiring to say the least.

See Yesh’s profile on The Resolution Project‘s site, and visit Project Dream Miles’website!