Tag: startups

 

Meet Mathew Pregasen. Mathew is a Columbia junior studying computer science who founded a startup with Anuke Ganegoda (CC ’18), Sahir Jaggi (SEAS ’17) and Rikhav Shah (MIT ’19). Named Parsegon Inc, the company implements a new method of transcribing English descriptions of math into mathematical script. For example, Parsegon’s technology could take a sentence “integral from 0 to 10 in region D of 2x squared + 3x cubed – the square root of x” and convert it into visual, textbook-formatted math.

How did you come up with the idea of Parsegon? What experience made you want to start your own business?

The way it started was pretty accidental. It was first a small project that we had no intention of turning into a company, but as it developed we realized it had more potential. Soon, we started to think of this project in a business context. We did Almaworks, raised some funding, hired some people for the summer, and further developed our business. In the ending, it is a technology project.

How did Almaworks facilitate your business development process?

I think the most beneficial part is that it connects you with incredibly helpful mentors. At first, you might not know too much about design, planning, or the law associated with a startup business, but as long as you get close to a mentor, you will get proper advice on business direction, project development, and especially important legal services.

What’s the current entrepreneurial environment at Columbia like? How does it compare to other schools?

I think in the last two years, there has been some significant changes, where the administration—especially entrepreneurship administration—has been putting a lot of resources into the entrepreneurship community. They raised the amount of provided grants and have organized the Columbia Entrepreneurship Competition for the last four years.  Alongside that, you have clubs like CORE (Columbia Organization of Rising Entrepreneurs) and ADI (Application Development Initiative) that push this culture. I think ultimately the culture should be self-accelerating instead of accessory, but you need to have some initial velocity at the beginning.

 

Mathew Pregasen

Image via Mathew Pregasen

So back to Parsegon. It seems to be designed for people who are not fast at mathematical typing. How do you attract people who are already proficient at mathematical expression in typing packages such as LaTeX?

We are not competing with LaTeX and we don’t expect people to write papers in Parsegon. That being said, we do have a very user-friendly environment that reduces time and difficulty in typing. Parsegon is also educational in the sense that it makes teaching more accessible to students and enables the entire classroom to engage in interactive math.

 

You have been trying to integrate Parsegon into classrooms. What is the feedback from teachers and students?

We primarily focus on high schools, and we’ve been having very strong feedback.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for Parsegon?

I think the greatest challenge for us is to make a technology that provides a number of services for very diverse classroom environments. Some people might not be familiar with computer typing and some do prefer a very traditional and structured typing style, so although we are making it more accessible to people, it is still a big challenge to build the technology that accommodates the needs of everyone and strikes a proper balance between accessibility and formality.

Are there any computer science classes at Columbia that have helped you in this process?

Namely Operating Systems (W4118) with Jason Nieh. I also took a class called Computer Theory with Alfred Aho which was useful for the theoretical angle.

What do you think is the future of Parsegon?

We want to build the best tool for educational practices in the America. We believe that there is a big gap between the technology side of users and the technology provided for educational professionals, and we believe that our implementation will not only complement the traditional learning method, but also improve it. The importance of Parsegon is that it teaches students to understand the language of math. If you can understand the language of math, you usually also understand the theory of math much more coherently. And we believe that is the best way Parsegon could improve the learning process of math on a more cognitive level.

Interested in making the next billion dollar app, but don’t have a good idea yet? To help you get started, The Lion team sat down and came up with a few ideas for start-up websites for the Columbia community that would generate a lot of hits and a lot of general happiness.

If you make one of these sites a reality, let us know by commenting below or emailing team@columbialion.com.

ColumbiaDelivers.com:

Alright, let’s be honest – how many times have you thought, “I really wish Starbucks/Koronet’s/Chipotle/Absolute could deliver food to my door?” Well, with ColumbiaDelivers, your wish would become a reality. You’d pay a ColumbiaDelivers employee to run and get your food for you. In addition, the service would only hire Columbia students – that way, you could get food ACTUALLY delivered to your door. None of that “meet me outside my dorm” crap. None of that “I literally gave you my address, the name of the residence hall, my exact GPS coordinates, and an iPhone map with turn-by-turn directions to my building and you still couldn’t find me?” nonsense. You pay from your dorm room, you get food delivered to your door, and the delivery person gets paid. Everyone’s happy!

ColumbiaFlyers.com:

Flyering is an archaic practice that is too widely practiced on this campus. Why do clubs still insist on wrecking their members’ print quotas and the printers around campus to print hundreds of flyers that ultimately no one will care about? ColumbiaFlyers brings this practice to the modern age – it allows clubs to upload their flyers to a website that ultimately no one will care about. Does the end result change? No. But is the process satisfyingly more modern? Hell yes.

ColumbiaIsHungry.com:

How many people have used and experienced issues with sites like GrubHub and Seamless? Obviously, the answer is everyone. The reason for this is that those sites aren’t optimized for the Columbia experience. ColumbiaIsHungry is a website designed to get rid of all those issues. It will have all the restaurants that deliver to Columbia listed with accurate wait times (15-30 minutes? Add “1 hour and” to the start of that and you’re getting on the right track) and will provide a smooth interface through which you can satisfy your munchies. The ColumbiaIsHungry team will also be responsible for trying their hardest to work out special student deals and promos available only through the website to Columbia students. The Lion has already had success with finding a solution to our food problems – this could be the next Sandwich Ambassador Initiative.

IAmAtColumbiaAndIWouldLikeToReportSomethingProblematic.com:

There are certainly social issues that should be dealt with on Columbia’s campus. Calling these things “problematic” and walking away, though, is certainly not going to help anything. So for all those students committed to pointing out the problematic, for incorrectly characterizing things as microagressions, and for anyone who literally does not get that empty criticism doesn’t accomplish anything – this one’s for you. Simply upload your concern to IAmAtColumbiaAndIWouldLikeToReportSomethingProblematic, and your comment will vanish into the depths of the Internet, just like it was meant to. Alternatively, you could write a post for The Lion voicing a non-empty criticism of a real campus issue!

HelpIAmInMyCoreClassAndIHaveNoClueWhatToSay.com:

You know the feeling. You’ve been sitting in Lit Hum for an hour and a half and you haven’t come up with jack shit. Your professor keeps track of participation. You need to say something profound to get your points for the day. Why not sell out? For a small fee, you can contract someone who knows more about that book you didn’t read than you do to come up with an insightful comment that will add to any class discussion! For anyone skeptical of this website’s purpose – namely, people who think, “Oh, you’re missing the point of the Core!” – you’re so wrong. This is the exact balance between literature and capitalism that our school strives to create.

Any other startup ideas? Throw them in the comments below, or email a piece about your idea to submissions@columbialion.com