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Drexel LeBow Team SP.LA.SH Wins Top Prize in Liquidnet Impact Competition

May 04, 2011

MBA student Andrew Kennedy’s Drexel LeBow education is paying for itself already. During the past two weeks, two Drexel MBA teams have taken home grand prizes that include cash awards in case competitions -- and Kennedy has been a member of both. The latest one also gives him the satisfaction of knowing he's contributed to something larger than himself.

Kennedy and team members Kate Lang, David Gottfried-Stern and Sean Giffels took home the top prize in the Liquidnet Impact Challenge with their online charitable giving tool, SP.LA.SH – an acronym for “Strengthening Philanthropy. Leveraging Associations. Serving Humankind.” SP.LA.SH promotes “crowd-sourcing smart giving,” according to the team’s presentation.

The competition’s top cash prize of $10,000 will be split five ways -- $2,500 goes to the charity of the team’s choice, Jumo, and the four team members will split the remaining $7,500.

"The reaction has been phenomenally positive," Kennedy says. "With the discovery that there is a lot of positive reaction to SP.LA.SH, the team is in the process of turning [the idea] into a real life business plan."

Just two weeks ago, Kennedy and three Drexel LeBow teammates won the Association for Corporate Growth’s ACG Cup Competition. That team also took home a $10,000 cash prize.

SP.LA.SH combines two primary technologies that assist in charitable giving. The first is a robust search engine that aggregates information from existing websites that review and rate nonprofits (such as Charity Navigator) to develop a ratings system that is personal to the end user. For example, if a user specifies that transparency is most important, the search/aggregation function will weigh search results that emphasize transparency more heavily.

The second technology SP.LA.SH utilizes is the ripple effect -- a tool used to measure overall impact. After a user has created a summary of his or her research and shared that summary with his or her network, SP.LA.SH will show how many times that research has been viewed as well as the donations raised as a result of sharing that research. 

Kennedy says these case competitions are teaching him a lot about successful team building. “We put together a project that is extremely interesting,” he says. “The diversity of the team helped to create a project that is marketable, financially plausible and technologically possible.” He says the team worked very hard, spending a total of 80-100 hours on this project.

“The skills of each team member were utilized to the full extent, and we integrated all of our experiences into a single winning concept.”

Kennedy explained that upon entering the competition, the SP.LA.SH team choose Jumo as the recipient of part of its award money if it won because it already has the credentials and personnel to make a big splash in the social networking sphere. “Jumo is still in beta phase, and we believe that by adding many of the features that we suggest in our presentation, it could revolutionize the way donors, beneficiaries and nonprofits interact.”

The Liquidnet Impact Competition was created around the idea that in a more perfect world, nonprofit donors would behave like investors, efficiently allocating capital to organizations that are sustainably achieving the greatest social impact. The competition called upon students to create ways for traditional investors and donors to become “social investors” who demand a social return on their money.

Two other Drexel LeBow teams participated in this competition: AppImpact, a website and mobile phone application that allows donors to track and measure the impact of their donations, was created by MBA students Aditya Edakkoth, Duy Nyugen, Jesse Suthanaseriporn, and Saffet Atahan Agrali; and Easy Donor, which seeks to bring the efficiency of the free market to the field of nonprofits by instituting an online bidding exchange for donations, was created by MBA students Jason Zola, Huilan Zhou and Sachin Sawant, and MS-Finance student Mengsu Liao.