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Entrepreneurship

Power Pitch Winner Encourages Healthier Eating With AI-Powered App

Children who are picky eaters are not unique, but LittleMoochi – the winner of Forté’s 2019 Power Pitch competition – offers a unique solution. The concept for LittleMoochi lies at the intersection of a critical health issue (children’s nutrition) and a cutting-edge technology (artificial intelligence). A mobile app that allows children to “adopt” virtual pets powered by artificial intelligence (AI), LittleMoochi users take photos of the food they eat and “feed” their pets the same meals. Through interaction and engagement with their pets, children learn about nutritional food choices and the importance of adopting healthy eating habits.

The seed for the idea

LittleMoochi is a response to alarming statistics: more than one-third of children in the U.S. today are overweight or obese.  Summer Xia, CEO of LittleMoochi and one of three founders, is a mother of a five-year-old daughter who is a picky eater. While MBA students at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School, Summer and her co-founders discovered other parents with similar challenges in getting their children to make nutritious food choices.

The power of complementary skillsets

After brainstorming potential solutions, they landed on LittleMoochi because it enabled the founders to apply their complementary skillsets. As Summer explains, “One co-founder is a PhD candidate of Carnegie Mellon’s machine learning program and is an expert in AI. Another founder and I are MBA students so we have the business part. We are a task force, and everyone has a specific domain.”

Summer also has an undergraduate degree in computer science and another founder has a degree in accounting – both very useful backgrounds for launching their business.

Resonating with the Power Pitch audience

Summer pitched her business idea during Forté’s 2019 MBA Women’s Leadership Conference in Chicago in June. The Power Pitch audience – approximately 650 MBA students, business professionals, and three esteemed judges – selected LittleMoochi to win both the judges’ selection and audience favorite awards, totaling $10,000 in cash prizes.

LittleMoochi was one of 38 competition entrants and was selected from among three other finalists who also participated in the Chicago competition:

  • LifeWeb: Ali Briggs & Rachele Louis, Northwestern Kellogg School of Business
  • Packed by Sarah: Sarah Izzo, Duke Fuqua School of Business
  • Trippi: Heather Jackson, Harvard Business School

Judges evaluated each team based on how convincingly they presented their business concept, as if they were potential investors.

“In front of 600+ MBA peers, Summer Xia brought LittleMoochi to life and convinced both judges and the audience the potential for long-term success. This is probably one of the largest audiences they’ll be pitching, a very daunting task,” said Arrion Rathsack, Director of Forté’s MBA and Professional Programs and the competition’s founder.

The 2019 Power Pitch competition judges were:

  • Stephanie Breedlove, Co-founder of Care.com Homepay, Author, Investor
  • Barbara Clarke, Founding Principal, The Impact Seat
  • Janis Collins, Co-founder of The Refinery

Taking advantage of school resources

Summer recommends that MBA students with a business idea leverage the resources available at their schools while they are still students. At Tepper, for example, Summer says she has received a lot of coaching and mentorship from professors. The LittleMoochi team also found interns willing to work for free when they promoted their business idea at a career fair.

“Your two-year MBA is precious time to leverage all the resources you have. At the beginning stage, money is not the most important thing, but validating your product is,” she explains.

Winning the 2019 Power Pitch competition was yet another validation for LittleMoochi.

About the Forté Power Pitch competition

The purpose of the Forté Power Pitch competition is to encourage and support aspiring women entrepreneurs by offering a high-profile, real-world challenge at the Forté MBA Women’s Leadership Conference, now in its 16th year. The spirit of the competition is to focus on ideas that are conceived and/or further developed as part of the business school experience.

Statistics reflect the urgent need for increased focus on women-founded/owned businesses in the U.S. In 2018, companies founded solely by women received just 2.3% of the total capital invested in venture-backed startups in the US. The Forté Pitch competition provides an opportunity to grow the ranks of women entrepreneurs by demonstrating to women at top MBA programs – some of whom are aspiring entrepreneurs – how it can be done.

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