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Gonzaga students win first place at Sparks Weekend

Entrepreneur Lisa Shaffer poses with Gonzaga University students Kate Sprague, Siena Merrin and Hayley Mosby. The three students recently won first place at Sparks Weekend.  (Courtesy photo)
Entrepreneur Lisa Shaffer poses with Gonzaga University students Kate Sprague, Siena Merrin and Hayley Mosby. The three students recently won first place at Sparks Weekend. (Courtesy photo)

Zaps, a fund sharing app for college-campus-meal plan accounts, took home first place at Sparks Weekend, an event held earlier this month that pairs entrepreneurs with mentors to create new startups in Spokane.

The Zaps team, consisting of Gonzaga University students Hayley Mosby, Kate Sprague and Siena Merrin, will receive $50,000 in seed funding for their business concept.

The Zaps app allows students to transfer college-dining dollars to each other.

“I think it really solves a problem that students deal with every day,” Mosby said.

“We have Venmo and PayPal to pay each other back, but if I buy Kate and Siena pizza and we want to split the bill, I use my dining dollars and they can’t pay me back with the same currency.”

The market is vast for an app such as Zaps with potential to license its software to more than 4,800 universities nationwide, according to the team’s presentation.

“Our plan is to essentially develop a software that can be easily implemented into pre-existing meal plans and programs within different schools so that we’re able to license the software over to universities and get a fixed implementation fee from them,” Sprague said.

“Then, our revenue streams will come from maintenance and a transfer fee.”

There’s also potential to integrate Zaps’ software into the debit transfer industry, Mosby added.

The three entrepreneurs are planning to use $50,000 in seed funding from Mind2Market and angel investor Tom Simpson toward further developing the Zaps business, software and app, Mosby said.

The $50,000 in funding is subject to agreement on investment terms and due diligence, the process in which an investor reviews and investigates a company’s records before moving forward with a deal.

They plan to launch beta testing for the Zaps app at Gonzaga University in December.

“This is something we’ve been really putting all of our hearts into and we have sacrificed a lot for it,” Mosby said. “This is something that we really want students to be able to use.”

Sparks Weekend, a three-day event produced by Ignite Northwest and Limelyte Technology Group, paired entrepreneurs, developers, engineers, designers and marketers with mentors to build the foundation of startup companies from April 29 to May 1.

The Zaps team was among 38 presenters who gave 60-second rapid fire elevator pitches for their business concepts at the event.

Participants voted on business concepts and the top 10 ideas moved on to develop a minimum viable product and present a refined business plan to judges.

Gamelon won second place at Sparks Weekend for its all-in-one game board that features cornhole, beer pong, and more. Fan-favorite GigScore won third place for creating an app that allows gig workers to obtain loans and credit ratings.

Other business ideas included a wireless guitar app, body-cam redaction service and a silent generator, said Simpson, who is CEO of Ignite Northwest, president of the Spokane Angel Alliance and managing member of Kick-Start angel investment funds.

“I thought it just worked out marvelously,” he said of the event. “I’m very confident we will have three to four new companies started as a result of this.”

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