Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
May 26, 2024

FastForward U supports early stage student ventures

By AASHNA SUNDESHA | November 7, 2019

COURTESY OF PAVA LAPERE The FastForward U Spark program is for early-stage student ventures.

In September, FastForward U (FFU) selected 10 student groups for the Spark track of its accelerator program. In addition to funding, the program provides mentorship and programming for student entrepreneurs through weekly workshops held by local entrepreneurs. The Spark track is for groups which are in the early stages of their venture. 

In mid-November the teams will take part in a Demo Day and pitch competition. The winner of the competition will receive an additional $1,000 and will automatically be accepted into the Fuel track of the accelerator.  

Last week, The News-Letter published an article about the Fuel teams. This article features the Spark teams. 


Co-led by sophomores Julia Colen and Steven Solar, Feed is a software tool designed to help make food rescue efforts more efficient.

“We’re hoping to create a mobile application or website or database that helps connect people who can donate food to people who need food donations, like soup kitchens,” Colen said.

Colen explained that many food-rescue efforts currently in operation are fairly inefficient and that food that groups try to rescue often ends up being wasted regardless. She expressed hope that Feed will help address this problem.

Colen also stated that she believed this venture would prove an effective way to get involved in the Baltimore community and that she has been exploring how to best cooperate with local businesses and soup kitchens. 

As part of the Spark cohort in FFU, Colen said that they were currently preparing for Demo Day to pitch their idea to potential investors. Reflecting on her experience so far, Colen was appreciative of Spark’s learning opportunities.

“This program that we’re doing at Fast Forward has helped us to learn about startups and what working on a startup means and how to take an idea and turn it into something that you can use,” Colen said. 


Led by Carey School of Business student Derek Battle and two other local co-founders, Flave is a mobile application that uses social media to help local restaurants connect to potential customers by rewarding users for eating at these restaurants.

“Our app rewards you with Flave Cash for taking a picture of your food when you dine-in. Every local restaurant is worth Flave Cash which can be redeemed for exclusive deals,” Battle wrote in an email to The News-Letter.

Battle explained that all of their development costs have been kept in-house, which has allowed them to move at a quick pace.

Battle stated that with their tagline “Taste the Town,” the three co-founders plan to showcase the blue-collar work ethic that they believe Baltimore embodies.

Battle also explained how Flave was hoping to alter a negative narrative that is typically associated with Baltimore to a positive one.

“Flave will use Baltimore to grow organically. Then Flave will reinvest resources back into the community,” Battle wrote. “These resources will improve the city.”


Undergraduate seniors Devanshu Singh and Robert Cortes founded Forum, which they co-lead, as a system to help news publishers generate more subscription revenue and provide a cleaner learning experience for news readers. They hope to decrease disinformation and limit polarization in popular media.

Singh explained that one of the goals of Forum was to speed up the process of learning about a topic without having to read through irrelevant information and click-bait. Cortes explained his view of the platform to The News-Letter.

“You can visualize it as a concept map where things are connected through this algorithm, so the recommendation makes the process of going from one article to the next much easier and much more logical,” he said.

Cortes explained that the plan for Forum is to concentrate on planning, ideation and getting funding this year. He also expressed their hopes for building their artificial intelligence next year.

“Hopefully by next year we have this newsletter service, and this journalistic endeavor happening so that we can continue to further validate the concept map idea,” he said.

McCoy’s Kombucha

Founded by Alina Pannone, McCoy’s Kombucha is a startup that creates customizable kombucha that anyone can order via an online form. In addition to Pannone, team members include sophomores Christopher Crespo, who is in charge of marketing, Daniel Kang and Samantha Lam.

Developing her interests in both arts and crafts and food, Pannone told The News-Letter that she was always looking for ways she could make things herself instead of buying them, which led to her venture in making her own kombucha. 

Crespo stated that, like Pannone, he was interested in experimentation through cooking as well as entrepreneurship. 

Pannone said that McCoy’s Kombucha is also about the residents and community of McCoy in addition to the product.

Pannone expressed her goal to increase their outreach and have a larger impact on campus by being more active on social media and collaborating with clubs on campus, such as community lab Agara Bio. Crespo said they hope to create a consistent product line.

“As we continue to expand, something that we want to do is create more stability as far as having more of a set line of products, that shares the diversity of the customization ability,” Crespo said. 

Crespo added he was grateful for the grant.

“Without their support I don’t know if we’d be able to come as far as we have,” Crespo said. 

The rest of the groups are featured on B7. 

ImagineX could not be reached for comment, and Good Friend Media declined to comment.

Rudy Malcom contributed reporting for this article.

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