Student Peer Support Website Wins Global Social Venture Competition

A team from the University of Wisconsin that has developed an online nationwide student support community won the Global Social Venture Competition (GSVC) Friday at the Haas School.

The first-place winner, called Spill, has created a website called that allows students to vent (or spill) anonymously about their problems and then receive anonymous peer support within 48 hours. Mental health professionals screen all "spills" within five minutes of receipt, and "spillers' receive up to five messages of support that include feedback, empathy, and relevant resources.

Spill has intervened in 19 potential suicides since its inception. The team, which won $25,000 in the competition, plans to expand to other markets such as the military and high schools.

Spill was chosen from an initial pool of more than 600 entries to GSVC in a record 50 countries. GSVC was started by Berkeley MBA students in 1999 and has expanded to new parts of the globe every year since then.

Of the Haas entries, Watsi, a team that includes Katie Dewitt, MBA 13, won the $1,000 People's Choice Quick Pitch Award. Watsi calls itself the first global peer-to-peer crowdsourcing platform that enables donors to fund low-cost medical treatments for individuals in developing countries.

In addition, the other winners were:

·       Second place, $10,000: Greennovation Technologies, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh, is introducing an affordable and sustainable housing material made from jute and resin in order to address the acute housing crisis for people at the bottom of the pyramid in Bangladesh.

·       Third place, $5,000: Exygen, Strathmore University, Kenya, is harnessing renewable biogas energy to deliver low and middle-income urban households in Kenya an alternative to charcoal fuel, which has adverse effects on the country's forests and the health of its users, and kerosene and liquefied petroleum gas, which are plagued by shortages and high pricing.

·       Social Impact Assessment Award, $10,000: FasoProt, Burkina Faso, aims to fight malnutrition in the region with an agribusiness model that involves the local collection and distribution of high-protein caterpillars—a staple of the local diet.