Sidney Hough, now a senior at Saratoga High School was one of last year’s winners in the Blue Ocean Student Entrepreneur Pitch Competition. Sidney decided to take her idea of creating personal stories and turn it into an app (Dumpling App: now available on the IOS app store). Sidney exemplifies what we strive for at the Blue Ocean Competition. Watch her original pitch from last year’s competition on YouTube: Dumplings
Be like Sidney! Join the Blue Ocean Student Entrepreneur Pitch Competition TODAY, and you can be one of this year’s winners. Register here.
Below is an interview with this remarkable young woman.
Tell us about Dumplings.
“Dumplings is an iOS app for personal storytelling. It seeks to empower individuals to share their voice with the world, and enable readers to learn from the experiences of others. Its power lies in its simplicity and convenience; Dumplings allows for writing and reading on the go.”
What problem are you solving or what is the purpose?
“We’re often hesitant to share their ideas with the world because we think we’ll be judged. But the truth is that people benefit so much by listening to stories; they realize that they are not alone in their struggles, or they start thinking deeply about their own beliefs, or maybe they just get a laugh that brightens their day. Whatever quality a story takes on, chances are someone will gain from hearing it. So, by offering a safe and anonymous platform for quick storytelling, Dumplings has a goal of bringing together these two parties and democratizing real, valuable personal stories.”
Why is this different?
“Unlike Facebook, Quora, or Reddit, Dumplings is focused solely on the exchange of real personal stories. On social media or forums, users often have to dig deep to find meaningful content, and there also isn’t the safeness of anonymity, so people are often discouraged from sharing deep thoughts on such platforms. Dumplings’ features were built around a specific goal. “
Why did you build it?
“I’m hoping that someone out there can find a sort of refuge in the app, whether it’s a kid struggling with depression or a mom looking for travel advice. I’d like to help people get things off their chest and open up to the community.”
Where did the idea come from?
“The idea struck me in the middle of junior year, infamous for being one of the most stressful periods of a student’s career. I saw my peers falling to bitterness and desperation left and right due to their stress, and I wanted to alleviate some of that pain if possible. Finishing a project or studying for a test at 3 AM when the rest of the world is asleep and even the crickets have gone silent is a lonely experience – except I realized the irony was that we are not alone at all. Everyone goes through it. So why not bring us together through our stories to take away some of that isolation?”
Did you always have a plan to make this a product or did this flow out of the competition?
“I had the idea, but I didn’t plan on executing until I learned about the competition. It seemed to be the perfect means to get my ideas together, as well as obtain professional feedback before launching.”
Are you doing this alone or do you have others helping (or even a co-founder)?
“I’ve been working alone. I’m the founder of a small software company (stackcat.io) that creates minimalistic mobile apps such as Dumplings.”
How did the competition help you take this idea to the next level?
“Putting together the pitch really helped me solidify the concept of the app. I developed a prototype of the app for the sake of the demonstration in the pitch, and this exercise was useful in determining which features would have the most value-add. By the end of the competition, I had a concrete plan for how I would I get the app out there, when I only had vague thoughts floating around in my mind prior.”
Did you use the winnings to help build the app?
“I am using the winnings to cover the costs of the services the app utilizes, such as Algolia’s search API. I’m also putting the money towards marketing.”
What aspects of Blue Ocean concepts will you or have you used to help with the app or its promotion?
“The idea of value innovation played a large role in conceptualizing the app. There aren’t any other apps for personal storytelling – it’s simply a need I observed, and I hope that by creating Dumplings I can spur new demand. It would be amazing to make personal stories the new trend.”
How will you promote Dumplings?
“When I released the app, I shared it on Product Hunt and Dribble. I plan on posting the app in relevant Facebook groups and subreddits and utilizing some of my connections to spread the word. I am also investing in advertisements on Facebook and Instagram. “
How do you price the app? How do you plan to monitor this?
“Dumplings is free, and I am going to keep it this way. I want it to be accessible to as wide of an audience as possible. To monetize the service, I am serving the occasional ad.”
What has the reaction been to the app so far?
“I’ve received a really positive reception, and I’m happy about it. The concept has been taken up especially well in the mental health community. When I shared the app with the Stanford Mental Innovation Network, people in the group seemed excited about its potential and were eager to share it with others. And I’m already seeing some really awesome stories exchanged within the app.”
Are you targeting a specific demographic or is this for everyone?
“It is for anyone who has a story to tell or a desire to learn. However, I sense that the majority of the app’s users will be teenagers and young adults, given that this audience is often struggling through major life changes and can be unsure about how to deal with them. In addition, these user groups access their mobile devices relatively frequently. Considering this, I’ve tried to build Dumplings to suit their needs as best as possible. “
Have you used the pitch video from the competition (or portions of it) for advertising or promotional purposes?
“I have not, given that the interface of the app has changed to some degree. On the other hand, I have sent the pitch to certain tech bloggers and journalists to help demonstrate the app’s purpose and value.”
What can other students learn from your adventure in general (and specifically by participating in the competition)?
“At some point when you have an idea, you need to simply stop contemplating and worrying and just go for it. Yes, it’s probably going to be a risky endeavor. But sometimes it’s impossible to calculate the outcomes perfectly, so I’ve learned that you should just jump in and try it. That “fail fast” approach can work well. Participating in the Blue Ocean Competition was a decision I was hesitant to make at first – taking the plunge is always a little nerve-racking – but I have few regrets afterward; it accelerated my plans, and I think it has the power to spur other students into action as well.”
What are your plans after high school?
“I’m currently working on my college applications! I plan to study computer science and entrepreneurship in university, and I cannot wait to take advantage of new resources, as well as meet potential business friends and business partners.”
Are you going to pursue entrepreneurship?
“Absolutely. My ultimate dream is to build a successful and large tech startup – perhaps in college or maybe later, but that is what I am working towards. I love the idea of impacting others with my work.”
Do you have other business ideas?
“Yes. I’d prefer to keep quiet on some of them, but one idea I am tossing around is an IoT solution to control consumer and economic loss from vampire power.”
Where can we find the app?
Our best to you, Sidney