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New leads for Google, courtesy of two freshmen

Alumni , Areas of Study , Entrepreneurship Stories | Aug 28, 2012 |

The Gabelli School’s “Google girls”: Google staff members Lauren Jantsch (GSB ’11), left, and Jillian Switzer (GSB ’11), right, with Google essay contest winners Caroline LeBranti (GSB ’16) and Alisha Mehndiratta (GSB ’16).

Alisha Mehndiratta (GSB ’16) and Caroline LeBranti (GSB ’16) have some valuable advice for Internet powerhouse Google. Their responses to the freshman summer-reading challenge — to pitch an innovative new idea to expand Google’s business — shared the prize for the best submission, as judged by Gabelli School of Business deans.

As a reward for their entrepreneurial thinking, Alisha and Caroline received in-person congratulations and a prize pack at orientation yesterday from Google staff members Jillian Switzer (GSB ’11) and Lauren Jantsch (GSB ’11), who returned to campus as the day’s special guest speakers.

It’s not easy these days to think about new business avenues for Google, which has grown far beyond its roots in Internet search and already has threaded its trademark red-yellow-and-blue filaments into products including Google Maps, Google News, Google Wallet, Google Calendar, Google Offers, Google Chrome, Google Earth, Google+ … we could go on. As a result, the incoming freshmen — who read a book about Google’s corporate development as their summer reading assignment — had to dig deep and put their creativity to the test.

Caroline’s idea, dubbed Google Gift, would allow people to enter pertinent details about a present they hope to purchase — recipient’s age, gender and interests; desired price point; occasion; and so forth — and receive a tailored suggestion list with active links to possible gifts.

“For example, if someone wanted to purchase, for an 18-year-old male friend who enjoys autumn, superheroes, relaxing, coffee, reading, and Indian culture, a birthday gift for $30 or under, they could enter that information into Google Gift,” Caroline explained in her essay. “The results would display products such as a spinoff ‘Keep Calm and Call Batman’ poster from allposters.com, the novel A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry from barnesandnoble.com, and a canister of pumpkin spice coffee beans from worldmarket.com.” Caroline pointed out that Google could increase its corporate profits by charging gift-providing companies a premium to be ranked more highly in search results.

Alisha’s idea, christened Google Connect, would use Google technology to bridge the gap between charitably focused human beings and the nonprofit organizations who can translate their generosity into tangible outcomes for people in need. Inspired by her own volunteer work, Alisha envisioned a comprehensive online community focused on social benefit.

“With the technology of Google Plus and PayPal, Google can create a safe way to transfer goods and services, and facilitate direct conversations between the public and the organizations so that they can receive the help they really need,” Alisha explained. “Using YouTube and Google Earth, the nonprofits can provide visuals of the people they are serving, closing the gap between those being helped and those who are helping. Studies show that people are more likely to provide aid if they feel connected to the beneficiary; thus, Google will promote an increase in donations and volunteerism globally while helping reduce the amount of wasted donations.”

You never know where ideas like Alisha and Caroline’s may end up: Perhaps Google will take notice! For now, though, the Gabelli School of Business has taken notice — and congratulates these two open-minded freshmen on their contest victory.

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