Abe Matamoros discovered his purpose in life at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory, the all-male Catholic high school he attended in Houston. The school’s mission to prepare its young men to lead and mentor others stuck with the senior finance and economics major. As he explains: “I always enjoyed going on mission trips and volunteering and I wanted to find a way to inspire and motivate other people to volunteer.”
Matamoros’ experiences volunteering would eventually become the idea behind InspireVive. He envisioned an online service with a simple premise to give people the opportunity to spread love. But he needed help refining his vision and developing the technology to make it a reality. That’s where computer science major Jared King’s (BS ’14) programming skills came into play. Through a fellowship with TU’s NOVA program, the pair developed a strategy to translate Matamoros’ idea to a user-friendly platform, calling the new venture InspireVive. Regina Vatterott, a junior at the University of St. Edwards in Austin, also had a significant role in the development of the company and serves as InspireVive’s chief operating officer.
King created a website to host competitions that give members a chance to win tickets to events by volunteering at a local charity, donating blood or raising awareness about social issues through Facebook and Twitter. By earning the most points, members receive two tickets to a featured event, some of which have included Oklahoma City Thunder games and a Justin Timberlake concert.
“We needed to develop a business model to drive our strategy and we saw tremendous opportunity in social media advertising,” says King. Under the proposed business model, companies can purchase a promotional campaign from InspireVive in exchange for its members promoting the company’s brand. InspireVive’s members raise awareness about a global issue on Facebook or Twitter while talking about how that company helps to solve that issue. Members receive points for shares and RTs that raise the number of impressions for the company.
“It’s powerful for the brand because it’s peer-to-peer, word-of-mouth advertising that is more authentic than the company promoting its own message,” says Matamoros.
King found out about an opportunity to showcase InspireVive at the SXSW 2014 in Austin. “Dr. [Charlie] Wood introduced us to a group of local entrepreneurs, and we were invited to submit a pitch for InspireVive through the Buffalo Lounge,” he says. (The Buffalo Lounge is a collaborative effort to highlight Oklahoma’s music, film and interactive business presence at the annual SXSW festival. New this year was an elevator pitch competition for interactive companies.) After submitting what King described as an “incredible” pitch by Matamoros, the team was selected as one of nine finalists from over 100 applicants to compete before a panel of Oklahoma investors in Austin on March 10. InspireVive placed first runner-up, winning $2,500.
InspireVive was also one of 40 teams from 500 applicants to compete in the prestigious Rice Business Plan competition in April.
Though the team didn’t walk away with a first place trophy, Matamoros says, “Just being accepted and getting feedback that has helped us refine our pitch deck is as valuable as anything.”