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Three startups to watch founded by Memphians under 25

Nick Parinella introducing Kangroozie at the Nashville chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

Memphis’ college-aged entrepreneurs are inventing apps and products that respond to the needs of a young, tech-savvy generation.
Memphis’ college-aged entrepreneurs are inventing apps and products that respond to the needs of a young, tech-savvy generation.
 
Four 2010 graduates from Memphis University School, Norfleet Abston, Harry Hill, Austin Magruder, and George Utkov created the “intown” app, which they see as a way to use social media’s location tracking capabilities to get more people interacting face-to-face.
 
“The problem we're facing today, especially in our generation, is that we’re spending more time in this nebulous cloud,” said Hill. “Intown is an attempt, a hope, toward bringing those people back down to earth where we can nurture real meaningful relationships.”

Harry Hill (L) and George Utkov, founders of the "intown" app.The app syncs to the user’s Facebook and GPS location to find Facebook friends that are in the area. It’s especially useful to find friends while traveling, Utkov said.
 
The team developed the app themselves over the past two years and funded its launch privately through investments from friends and family.
 
Over 1,000 people signed up for the app on its first day listed on the Apple store in January 2017.
 
Two of the developers still live in Memphis, but the “intown” team doesn’t see a need for physical office space or hiring a dedicated developer. Ironically, the app was developed online as the friends lived in separate cities.
 
“It’s headquartered on Google Chat,” said Utkov, a project analyst based in Austin, Tex.
 
The next step for “intown” includes an added event planning feature. Other features are down the line, but Hill said those will be kept to a minimum as the team doesn’t want to detract from the app’s value in facilitating in-person meet-ups.

A screenshot of the "intown" app
 
Nick Parinella, a senior at Rhodes College in Memphis, took a class assignment on entrepreneurship to the finish line.
 
“I brought in this rough prototype, and now I’ve worked with a handful of companies with everything from legal issues to setting up manufacturing,” Parinella said, adding that he has a patent pending for his Kangaroozie product.
 
His product, a beverage holder made out of foam with a exterior waterproof pocket, was selected in January as the regional winner of the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards. In March, Parinella will head to the national competition.
 
Aided by a $10,500 grant from Rhodes College’s local business plan competition, Parinella is nearing the launch of an online marketplace and increased production for Kangaroozie.
 
A prototype of the Kangaroozie“My target audience was the college aged group like people who are on spring break,” he said. “Once I realized that this (Kangaroozie) could be bigger, I've been able to reach out to all types of different types of audiences.”
 
Next for the product is sports licensing agreements. Parinella plans to create stickers for the waterproof pockets with logos of popular sports teams and eventually a line of “unique outdoor products.”
 
Three Memphis-area high school students are creating an online platform to help students better navigate academic choices to lead them to their ideal career.
 
“Right now high school students are looking for colleges and then deciding on a major and then looking for a job, which is not how they should be doing things,” said Divya Pinnaka, a 16-year-old student at Germantown High School.
 
Her education tech company, Milestone, leads students through discovering which fields are hiring, which college programs help them enter those fields and which schools are a good fit for those goals.
 
Cortavious Johnson, Divya Pinnaka and Rahni Stewart, founders of education tech company Milestone.














“As high school students, we get frustrated over college applications and this whole life path that has been created for us. Students are stressed about things that they should be excited about because it's their future career path,” she added.
 
Pinnaka, with partners Cortavious Johnson and Rahni Stewart, developed the platform while participating in a student entrepreneur program sponsored by MIT.
 
The local chapter of MIT Launch is a nine-month program that connects students across five area high schools with resources and mentorship needed to launch companies. Other startups under development include Lifestyle, a online program that educates students in life skills such as budgeting and cooking.  
 
While convening in a conference room with the other 12 students at the Germantown Economic Development Council has been “a great opportunity” for Pinnaka, she has a vision for scaling her company internationally.
 
Milestone was accepted to attend MIT Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp held this March in Brisbane, Australia. It is the only high school team that has been accepted.

A screenshot of MIlestone's website, which is still under development.
 
“We reached out to the director and asked if it is okay to apply if we were high school students. They said they’d make an exception if our product was good,” she said.
 
To make the trip, Pinnaka has launched a crowdfunding campaign. She said the two biggest challenges to scaling her business are a lack of resources and getting people to take her company seriously.
 
“We're using everything given to us for free, but other than that we don't have enough resources to actually build the framework for our company, so going to Australia would help us to broaden our horizons and make new contacts,” she said adding that she’s grateful for the support given by the Memphis business community.
 
“I thought I needed to be in California to be such a thing but the amount of support I've received here has just been incredible.”

Read more articles by Madeline Faber.

Madeline Faber is an editor and award-winning reporter. Prior to joining High Ground News as managing editor, she worked as a staff reporter for The Daily News. She has also written for Memphis Business Journal, The Memphis Flyer and Inside Memphis Business. Her experience as a development reporter complements High Ground's mission to write about what's next for Memphis.
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