Student to Receive Award for 'Crowd Scholarship' Business Idea
Nov. 12, 2013
Student loans drove Matt Hinson and his twin brother, Casey, to create a new business based on their fresh take on financial aid – an innovation that will soon net Matt a $10,000 scholarship.
Matt, who graduated with an MBA in August from the Naveen Jindal School of Management (JSOM), earned an undergraduate degree from The University of Houston in 2008. Increasingly bothered by the significant amount of college debt he owed, Matt began thinking, “There has to be a better way to finance education in the United States.”
Casey, a graduate of The University of Houston who also carried student debt, had pondered the problem as well.
The brothers developed a social networking approach to college funding that has fared well at several business-plan competitions and helped Matt earn one of the 21 scholarships the Texas Business Hall of Fame Foundation will award at the 31st Annual Induction Dinner on Thursday in San Antonio. The scholarships go to promising graduate business students from universities across the state who participate in foundation programs.
The Hinson brothers’ online venture, BrainFund, is based on a concept they call “crowd scholarships.” Similar to crowdfunding, BrainFund donors contribute to a college student of their choice. Each student creates a promotional profile that takes the place of a traditional scholarship application. Students use social media to promote their profile and attract benefactors.
Matt Hinson (left), co-founder of BrainFund, teamed up with Alejandro Jacobo, an innovation and entrepreneurship graduate, to earn the graduate division’s $5,000 first prize in the annual UT Dallas Business Idea Competition.
As the Hinsons’ website explains, the crowd scholarship concept “enables students to encourage large amounts of people to donate small amounts of money, which adds up to a lot for the college student.”
The brothers' business, Collanthropy, earns its money from enrollment – $3 per semester, deducted from the first donation – and transaction fees.
The Hinsons, who have a patent pending on their process, have continued to refine their concept even as their paths have diverged. Casey enrolled in graduate school at UT Austin and became a financial consultant in Houston. Matt earned a bachelor’s degree in construction management and began a building and development career in Dallas.
When Matt enrolled in the Jindal School’s Professional (part-time) MBA program in 2010, he signed up for innovation and entrepreneurship courses. Through those classes, he met innovation and entrepreneurship graduate student and now graduate, Alejandro Jacobo. Last fall, they entered BrainFund in the annual UT Dallas Business Idea Competition. They earned the graduate division’s $5,000 first prize.
BrainFund also picked up another $1,000 as a top-five finisher in Baylor University’s 2013 New Venture Competition.
Now a management consultant, Matt describes himself as “into business-process entrepreneurship. I definitely like innovation with the organization.”
BrainFund is a "crowd scholarship" site that allows students to finance their educations through online donations.
He also enjoys construction project management. Those affinities have him busily pursuing a provisional application for patent for a new idea – a display-technology innovation called “Rollout” that he envisions putting to work in the building trades.
Though he is not yet ready to introduce Rollout, Matt is getting more help from UT Dallas in developing it and has re-enrolled in the University. He is one of two students who have been accepted into the Jindal School’s new Startup Launch Program.
A new concentration within the Master of Science in Innovation and Entrepreneurship (MSIE) degree program, Startup Launch leads to a degree and provides space in the UT Dallas Venture Development Center, as well as mentoring from UT Dallas faculty and experienced entrepreneurs. The program also provides up to $25,000 in seed money to students or student teams with ideas that meet specific criteria. The students are expected to launch their businesses while still in school or within six months of graduation.
The Startup Launch Program is separate from the Startup Launch courses, which any undergraduate or graduate students with business ideas may enroll in, said program director Dr. Joseph C. Picken.