In March 2020, the world was turned upside down. People everywhere were told to self-isolate and social distance to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Many people were stuck at home with family and friends, but there were some who were completely alone.
It was at this time that Michelle Houchins, a computer science major at Arizona State University, decided to do something. “I was lonely, and so were my parents, even though we had each other,” says Michelle. “I could not even begin to imagine what it was like for those who were completely alone with no one for company and comfort during such trying times.”
So, in the fall of 2020, Michelle joined a research group at Arizona State University under Professor Bradley Doebbeling. They worked to derive a solution for social isolation and loneliness impacting the older adult population during the COVID-19 pandemic and afterward. Over the course of a year, they conducted 22 virtual interviews with older adults in the community, asking questions about social engagement, pandemic adjustment, and connectivity strategies.
“It was extremely eye-opening talking with people in my community and hearing just how prevalent the need for social connection was. All of us need people in our lives, no matter what age,” says Michelle. With a newfound passion and interest in human social connection, Michelle decided to continue this research for her honors thesis project. She created a multi-user social media application for older adults called Venture Together. With Venture Together, users can discover an online community centered around their outdoor activity interests.
Over the course of a year and a half, Michelle designed and created a usable prototype of Venture Together. A single user was able to create posts and search for adventures in their area. Due to time constraints, she was unable to complete the final version of the mobile application. However, this all changed when Michelle enrolled in an Entrepreneurship and Value Creation class. In Professor Sebold’s class, students get firsthand experience in creating a startup venture. They spend the entire semester designing a product or service and by the end, every student can call themselves a founder of a new venture. Michelle decided to use this class to bring Venture Together to life.
Using her past research and thesis work, Michelle created an evidence-based pitch deck for Venture Together. The deck outlines her revenue model, go-to-market, and future plans. You can find her pitch deck here. The semester may be coming to a close, but her work is far from complete. Michelle plans to expand Venture Together and bring it into her community in the near future. “Venture Together is just getting started,” she says. “Far too many people in this world are alone. We need to change that.”
Want to check out Venture Together? Click here.
Want to watch Michelle’s pitch? Click here.