Rocket Pitch Winners share their unique ideas

Twelve Howard Community College entrepreneurial program students pitched their innovative business ideas to a panel of business professionals at the 2021 Entrepreneurial Celebration held online Dec. 8.  In this event, each student had five minutes to explain his or her project.  Judging is based details including content, idea, marketing, feasibility, financial model and delivery.  

The top two scorers win the Rotary Rocket Pitch Prize sponsored by Columbia-Patuxent Rotary.  This year’s $1,800 first-place winner is Seth Greenberg’s “Track Them Down” infestation app/website.  The $700 second-place winner is David Longard’s “ZaLa” web browser.

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“Track Them Down” is focused on rats, which Seth called the most infamous, dangerous, destructive and infectious of pests.  He said infestations are treated like a private issue, but the rat population can spread from house to house long before exterminators arrive.  Warning neighbors as soon as possible is key.  Informing the database about a discovered infestation means one person can help thousands of others to be on the lookout for rodent trouble.  

“This is saving a neighborhood’s quality of living, not just protecting a specific house,” Seth said.  “This is not just one person's problem.  This is a public issue because we're all affected by pests.”  There are 125 million homes in the U.S., but a rat database would be helpful not only to homeowners, but also to farmers, construction workers, office building tenants, restaurants and all property owners.  “You can download the app, or you can access the website and find out where rats have been spotted,” Seth explained.  “All it takes is a little bit of knowhow and a little bit of a commitment for us to actually be in connection with each other.”

“Track Them Down” is a company about advertising and awareness.  Seth estimated the cost of making the app and website is $10,000 to $20,000, with maintenance of these two platforms running at $600 per month.  Rates for companies to advertise on the website and app would be 1% of a dollar per view.  Using the town of Frederick as an example, he said that if half of adults there were monthly app/web users, a single advertiser would pay $280 a month to be able to sell their products under a banner or picture that's part of the general website. 

David Longard’s ZaLa web browser promises to give its users privacy, unlike the major browsers such as Google, Yahoo and Bing.  “They track everything including personal information purchase history, website behavior, and even where you are,” David said.  “These browsers track all this information to create a profile of you to sell to companies to create ads.”  

ZaLa won't engage in that practice because its market is “those who truly value internet privacy, who feel exploited and disturbed by the invasive nature of major internet browsers, and who are fearful of their personal information getting into the wrong hands” David explained.  ZaLa is subscription-based so it’s not dependent on ads, and thus not dependent on tracking/sharing user information.  

“Currently, it's estimated that there are roughly 313 million Internet browser users in the world,” David said.  “Although omnipresent competitors like Google and Safari dominate the market share, the demand for privacy is here from users tired of being tracked and scared of their data being collected.  We obviously don't think we're going to dominate the market, but we will be aiming for a small group of loyal users to compete with the behemoths like Google.”

David estimates start-up costs of $100 million, based on $70 million to develop a prototype, $5-$7 million for a 50-person development team, $3 million for 24/7 support for users, and $20 million for advertising and overall refining.  ZaLa’s income strategy gives customers two options, a $19.99 monthly subscription or a $200 flat annual subscription.  “Even if we only get 1% of the overall 313 million internet users to use ZaLa all in one month, we will make $60 million in revenue, and that’s just the beginning” David said.  “This unique business model offers true privacy that no other browser can.  Remember, at ZaLa your privacy is our promise.”

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