This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the 11 student startups participating in our in-person Terp Startup summer accelerator since 2020. Participating student entrepreneurs will receive a stipend of up to $5,000 that will enable them to work exclusively on their startups over the next eight weeks.
Founder: Marie Brodsky ’24, Mathematics
DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?
Brodsky: WISE Cities is a women-founded venture that began as an effort to support our grandparents. The WISE Cities platform is a multilingual and accessible tool that connects older adults with local services and opportunities. It is the first step of our larger initiative to rethink communities to support us as we age.
DC: At what point did you know you wanted to create your own startup?
Brodsky: I actually fiddled with creating a startup when I was a tiny 10-year-old in pigtails. It was called “Kids Consult!” and we provided consulting services to educational companies, giving them feedback on the materials they were developing for kids but often never testing beforehand. Fun fact, we won money from the Warren Buffet Grow Your Own Business Challenge. Anyway, since then I barely thought about startups until I felt the urge to go out and develop WISE Cities to solve this real problem I was seeing.
DC: Who or what is your biggest influence for your startup?
Brodsky: We’re influenced by what we’ve seen affecting our families and the similar personal experiences that the dozens of students that have joined our team have seen taking place in their own lives. From that as our starting point, we’re grateful to our dedicated group of mentors for guiding us and providing feedback on our strategy as we brainstorm.
DC: Why did you decide to start a business in this industry?
Brodsky: Because there was a need that was close to us. We recognized it, wanted to fix it, and are taking the time to learn what we need to know to make a solution happen.
DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last few months?
Brodsky: On the business side, establishing several crucial government relationships and gaining support from a range of agencies facing the problem we’ve identified. On the product side, completing the development of our platform and implementing design and functionality changes based on several rounds of research.
DC: When it comes to your startup, how do you define success?
Brodsky: We’re a social impact-driven venture. We hope to change the world for the better, little steps at a time. If our solution can begin by making life better for a small community and continually evolve to address the needs of a larger group of people, we will consider ourselves successful. As part of our company culture, we also work to make WISE Cities a fulfilling learning experience for those involved in the startup– the experience of our team members as they work on WISE Cities is a big part of our definition of success.
DC: What are you hoping to achieve during Terp Startup Accelerator this summer?
Brodsky: Preparing for our upcoming pilot launch has been our biggest priority this summer. This includes engaging community stakeholders, establishing customer relationships, quality assurance testing our platform, and finalizing the legal and logistical pieces necessary. That said, we have continued to push our research efforts, making sure we are continuing to learn about the problem and the population we serve. The Terp Startup Accelerator has been a fantastic experience and taught us to be structured about testing our hypotheses while surrounding us with a cohort of amazing, motivated peers.
DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Brodsky: You have to really enjoy solving problems because a startup is more than a job. It’s a lifestyle. It gets tough, it gets tiring, and things don’t always go according to plan. You’ll have some big losses on your way to your big wins. The important thing is to just get back up, dust yourself off, and keep moving forward. A growth mindset is crucial and you have to remind yourself to stay open-minded. It’s an awesome ride. Before you begin, make sure you are committing yourself to an idea you are passionate about.
To learn more about WISE Cities, please visit the website here.