He was a starting offensive tackle with a high school state championship ring that still sits oversized on his right hand. He had good grades and a girlfriend to put his arm around. On the surface, you may see SMU sophomore Jett Monroe as a kid that had a picture-perfect high school experience.
Instead, he said his life at Argyle High School collapsed around him. Monroe, who is planning to major in business, said that during his freshman year of high school he stood up to a bully and in turn lost every friend he had. But with one pat on the back from a new student, he was led to an idea that has the potential to save lives.
“It was an extremely hard time in my life,” Monroe said. “If it weren’t for having such a close knit family, I don’t know if I would’ve made it through.”
Now Monroe has plans for a social media app that will work as a support line to help aid victims of cyber bullying.
On Sept. 23, Monroe and 15 other contestants pitched their ideas to a panel of eight judges at the Big iDeas Pitch Contest. Of the 15, eight, including Monroe’s, received $1,000 to use towards their projects.
Other ideas included a gun shot suppression that would help police and military personnel differentiate friendly fire from enemy fire. Another winner pitched her idea of dance apparel for average body types.
“Big iDeas is a small gesture from the university that could lead to big results,” Keith Robinson, assistant professor of law and a judge at the pitch contest, said.
The judges were given guidelines to help them through the selection process, but in the end, Robinson said they were looking for two stand-out features: what kind of impact the project could have on the society, and if the idea would be doable in a reasonable amount of time.
The eight students that received the $1,000 have until Feb. 3 to create a prototype and business plan to present at the Big iDeas Business Plan Competition. Winners there have a shot at $5,000 in prize money. But they won’t necessarily be competing against just the other winners – the competition is open to all undergraduates.
“To be at a university that encourages student entrepreneurship is a very unusual thing that I urge all students aspiring to take advantage of,” Simon Mak, a professor of practice in entrepreneurship in Cox and a judge at the pitch contest, said.
While in high school, Monroe laid low and pushed his way through to his sophomore year without a single friend by his side. That was until a new kid walked up, patted his back and said he wanted to be friends.
Monroe said he didn’t know it at the time, but that moment was the inspiration for the anti-bullying social media app he calls “Pat On Back” in honor of the friend.
Monroe said the target market for his app is the millions of college and high school students that get bullied each year. He got his numbers from 2015 estimates that of the nearly 17 million U.S. high school students and 20 million university students, 22 percent had been bullied at some point. Cyber bullying and suicide statistics show that 20 percent of kids that are cyber bullied consider suicide.
“If I can convince any one individual not to take the ultimate price just because of a bully, the the whole process will be worth it,” Monroe said.
Professor Mak said Big iDeas is a safe place for students to take some risk. The whole spirit of student entrepreneur programs is for students to practice and pitch in front of judges. Many of the judges compare it to the TV show, Shark Tank.
“We are Mustang Tank,” Mak said. “We just give them money and don’t need anything back.”