Mission In light of school closures and remote classes, we have invented incredible ways to waste our time drawing fruit on Instagram. Although we often tell ourselves that we "are too busy" to, for example, explore new hobbies, it is now glaringly obvious that behavioral change is hard, even with all the time in the world.
However, it is extraordinarily easy to get on the web and commit our free time to something that is both rewarding and impactful. For this reason, some friends and I have developed "COVID Superhero", a highly shareable web-based platform that enables individuals to remotely aid those impacted by the socioeconomic fallout caused by the COVID pandemic.
Ultimately, the current pandemic has the potential to unify those who engage with our digital world, catalyze the growth of online communities, and facilitate a paradigm shift in how we think about how we allocate our leisure time.
Motivations Shortly after joining hackcovid19.slack.com, I realized that this wasn’t an ordinary hackathon. The slack channel alone provided an amazing network of 1500+ proactive mentors and developers, some working multiple projects, all just a slack message away from a beautiful collaboration. However, such a community wasn’t readily accessible to students, many of whom I had to beg to come on board due to the stigma typically introduced by “hackathon”: high-stress, grueling hours for a product that rarely serves any utility. Perhaps what was different about this was the sense of purpose that unified all hackers into the community that I’ve gotten to love over the past days.
In a sense, I hoped to resolve this lack of transparency between potential volunteer “hackers” and this treasure trove of opportunities, obscured by offputting branding. My team subsequently noticed that there is an even broader opportunity for volunteers to serve as tutors for those displaced by the virus, many of whom being my close friends, now jobless or lacking a summer internship to secure their future. Bearing these two thoughts in mind, my friends and I decided to build COVID Superhero.
Solution + Value proposition COVID Superhero is a web-based platform that matches volunteers to remote service opportunities. Examples of volunteer-beneficiary relationships are peer-peer, which include tutoring services, peer-project, such as startups recruiting volunteer SWEs, and peer-public, such as influencers live streaming videos to potential, exploratory communities.
A key competitor in peer-public volunteerism are existing streaming platforms. How COVID Superhero differentiates itself is that it unifies various platforms, varying from Zoom lectures to Instagram Live, which will enhance the user experience in terms of convenience. Furthermore, we hope to enable users to explore hot live streams in broad domains like "life coaching" or "indoor fitness". This would take advantage of our tendencies to surf the web; we would take advantage of such behavior to increase user exposure to more productive videos. In short, rather than a beneficiary searching for a platform and actively engaging with a niche search term within that platform, we will enable users to connect to all relevant livestreams, simultaneously
Product placement + justification This product targets people who are quarantined at home and need something to do with their time. Over 3 million people filed for unemployment last week are scrambling for things to do. For example, several new college graduates and incoming seniors/juniors lost their jobs/internships. This platform is a way for them to take advantage of their freed up schedules to learn new skills and serve the community, all of which will better prepare users for their careers.
Furthermore, interest for online learning has rapidly increased, so this product will see strong support. In 2018, about 101 million students accessed massive online open courses and the most popular platform Coursera has seen a rapid increase of Google search entries in the last month.
Promotional strategy We will virally market this platform on social media and incentivize individuals to share the posts by making "memes". These memes self organize into communities that may promote certain volunteers in our peer-public structure. For example, if a rising star who volunteers to teach a life-style class goes viral, those who shared this platform and the related event will be crowned "ambassadors" and get potential peer-peer access to this rising star instead.
Challenges, Lessons + Accomplishments We overcame the hurdle of a streamline and scalable data pipeline. Our current solution allows for user inputted responses (livestreams, projects, classes) to be appended to a CSV that can be reviewed for scam / spam and then can be easily bulk imported to the website. While our current method of review is manual, a script can be written to handle the review process when the number of daily inputs gets out of hand.
Future steps Future steps to develop our product focus around scaling the platform with increased web users. We will require accounts to create a post, automatically remove postings after one month, and allow users to filter by keywords. We also intend to link relevant courseras underneath opportunities to increase the knowledge of our users. We see an opportunity to market to and partner with university alumni associations due to our heavy emphasis on students.
Finally, we firmly believe that to scale properly in the long term, we will need user a "proper" tech stack. Webflow is just the beginning — it enabled our team of novice web developers and hackers to build some functional UI and outline our vision. For these reasons, we are actively recruiting web developers and project managers with SWE experience.
Ultimately, we firmly believe that the true value of our technology is in the vision: the marketing potential of our team, as well as the passion we have to resolve the plight of student and other communities second-handedly affected by this pandemic.