Alumni spotlight: At the 2019 Fall RAISE Forum, investors hear from two Goizueta alumni whose companies use online technology to find babysitters, help people with cognitive impairment.
Ifrah Khan 17BBA, co-founder of Usit, grew up babysitting. Over time, she developed a network of contacts through her parents and teachers. When she moved to Atlanta for college, however, she no longer had access to her babysitting community. To find babysitting work, she relied on a Facebook group run by her sorority. That was when she realized how challenging it could be for both sitters and parents to find each other, especially on short notice.
To address this problem, Khan created Usit, an on-demand babysitting app that connects households with college students from accredited universities in Georgia.
When building Usit, Khan also wanted to create an alternate avenue for her peers—especially women—to participate in the gig economy. Driving Uber or Lyft isn’t always safe, and most college students aren’t in a position to become Airbnb hosts. Khan wanted to give her fellow college students the opportunity to make extra income safely and easily.
As more and more parents and sitters used the app, Khan saw even more benefits than she expected. “Once I launched it, I saw the opportunities it brought to students,” Khan said. “More than just the gigs, it was the connections and the network.” She saw pre-law students connect with parents who were lawyers, job-seeking seniors making connections with executives at locally-headquartered companies—all through babysitting gigs booked on Usit.
When developing the app, Khan’s priority was to make sure it was simple and easy to use: “the perfect app that I would want as a college student, and the perfect app that a busy parent would want.” The user-friendly interface is a reflection of Khan’s greater goals for Usit. “We don’t want to be just tech-enabled,” she said. “We want to be a high-tech company.”
Khan’s interest in technology started at Goizueta. Originally, her goal was to get a job in finance after graduation. Once at Goizueta, she found herself enjoying her tech-focused classes, like Intro to Coding with Benn Konsynski, the most. Then she traveled to San Francisco on a trip organized by Goizueta’s Career Management Center, where she had the opportunity to visit offices of tech companies like Airbnb. “That was so exciting to me,” she said. “My whole world changed.”
Since launching in early 2017, Usit has attracted a growing user base and made significant progress without fundraising. Now working to raise the company’s first round, Khan is ready for the next step. “It’s time to really get down, disrupt the industry, and dominate the market.”
“I wanted to do more. I wanted to build something.”
That’s why Matt Golden 01BBA left a successful career in IT and finance consulting to co-found MapHabit, a visual-mapping system that helps individuals with cognitive impairment establish healthy routines.
Golden experienced how cognitive decline affects family and caregivers first-hand when his uncle and mentor was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Golden witnessed his uncle’s struggles as the disease progressed, and saw how his own relationship with his uncle changed and how the disease impacted family members. “That whole experience really changed my perception on life,” Golden said. It wasn’t until much later that he would channel that experience into a business he hopes will help others in similar situations.
Golden met neuroscientist and Emory Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Dr. Stuart Zola by chance—they live on the same block. While Dr. Zola was out walking his dog, the two started talking. They drew on Zola’s neuroscience expertise and Golden’s experience in implementation and fundraising, and formed MapHabit.
With no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, lifestyle interventions and behavioral changes like those promoted by MapHabit are the biggest key to slowing or even preventing cognitive decline.
Golden said MapHabit can also benefit individuals with other types of cognitive impairment, like children with special needs or patients with mental illnesses. Giving individuals the tools to complete daily routines on their own helps them feel empowered, Golden explained, and that can be more effective than following instructions from a caregiver or parents.
MapHabit works, Golden said, because it’s simple. “Even if you’re non-verbal, even if you speak another language, if you’re presented a series of pictures in a logical order, you can follow that,” Golden explained. “I think that’s why a lot of people have invested their time and savings in us, because they believe that a simple approach is really what is needed.”
MapHabit was recognized early on by Georgia Research Alliance, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that coordinates research efforts between Georgia’s public and private sectors. The National Institute of Aging, a division of the National Institutes of Health, also contributed funding along with private investors.
Encouraged by their early success, Golden and Zola are focused on using visual maps to help as many people as possible. “We want this to be the standard of care for anyone with cognitive impairment,” Golden said. “That’s our ultimate goal.” They hope to expand from the assisted living and home health spaces into the consumer, long-term care insurance and hospital systems, both in the U.S. and abroad. “With a low-cost, non-invasive tool like this, we believe we can get worldwide adoption over the next five years,” Golden said.
About RAISE Forum
RAISE Forum was founded in 2014 by Barry Etra, president of angel investment group Keirestsu Forum Atlanta, as a vehicle for bringing together startups and investors from across the Southeast. The Forum helps keep early-stage companies in the region by funding them locally. Now an integral part of the Entrepreneurship program at Goizueta, RAISE Forum is held in the Spring and Fall at Emory University. To learn more about the event, visit www.raiseforum.com.