Alumnus wins prize for charity button

By Eojin Choi

An alumnus and his team won $10,000 in the University of Chicago’s Social Innovation competition for creating CrowdCoin, a system that allows consumers to make digital charity donations in store checkout lines.

Matthew Krisiloff ’10, a sophomore at the University of Chicago and the CEO of CrowdCoin, developed the business plan with other students on the team after working on it for about six months.

Their idea was inspired by the desire to eliminate spare change while helping the community through donations.

The system works by integrating the CrowdCoin hardware with computer-based cash registers, which allows the customer to choose if they want to donate some of their change.

Pressing the central button once rounds up their transaction to the nearest quarter, and pressing it twice rounds it up to the nearest dollar.

This donation data is then sent to the CrowdCoin company, which transfers the money to partner charities.

After testing the button at charity bake sales and student-run cafés, CrowdCoin has begun using the system and has raised about $12,000 so far.

Krisiloff and his team also placed second at Northwestern’s Entrepreneur Competition, and the team is expecting to be able to raise millions for charities.

This summer, they are planning to participate in the University of Chicago Booth School of Business’ Accelerated Development Program, which will provide them with office spaces, mentoring and other resources to help further develop their business. Though the program was originally designed for MBA students, Krisiloff’s team will participate as undergraduates.

“To me, everything I’m doing goes far beyond a business plan competition,” Krisiloff said. “We’re already testing some assumptions in local coffee shops, and we plan to launch the full version in stores by the end of this summer.”

Krisiloff first became interested in joining the competition after winning the University of Chicago’s competition with Entom Foods last year.

The previous business plan he worked on was about incorporating insects into the American diet as an acceptable food source, since insects are nutritious and resource-efficient compared to more traditional meat sources.

However, because many westerners are repulsed by insects, the Entom Foods team has been exploring ways to extract insect meat to help make Americans feel more comfortable about eating bugs.

Krisiloff said that his experience at Harvard-Westlake served as an important foundation for the work he is currently doing while majoring in Law, Letters, and Society.

“Harvard-Westlake was a great start for all my work, as I acquired a strong work ethic there,” Krisiloff said. “[I] was exposed to many bright people who regularly challenged me and encouraged me to think critically.”