The Co.Labs and Target Retail Accelerator challenged entrants to design and build an app that would extend the Target customer experience into new areas, leveraging mobile software—native or web-based—to produce new and pro-social effects in their community, family, school, or social network. Our celebrity judges have selected their finalists, who each received $10,000 seed money and a Target mentor for the next stage—competing for a $75,000 buyout grand prize. Here we're breaking down each of the finalists: The goal of their apps, the use cases, the clever twists, the potential roadblocks, and (of course) the reasons they advanced to the next round. Keep your fingers crossed for the entrants, who get judged this week; we'll announce the grand prize winner on June 27th.
This project starts with a little-known data-point: Students who study art are four times as likely to be recognized for academic achievement, according to the Education Fund. Yet when schools cut budgets, art and music programs are always the first to see the chopping block. With little recourse beyond petitioning local government, there is little an individual family can do to help sustain art education in their community—a solvable problem, considering that the major source of overhead for art programs is supplies, which could conceivably be sourced via donations if channels existed. Team Matisse is comprised of Jed Wood, Antonio Garcia, and Maris Grossman.
The goal of Matisse is to make it easy for shoppers to support a local art program by connecting school art projects with the Target database to come up with a list of needed materials, which the community can then buy for the teacher running the program.
The main task in Matisse begins with a single teacher. The teacher registers for the app and adds a list of upcoming art projects for which materials are needed. Then he or she itemizes the supplies required by the project—construction paper, glitter, glue, paint, and other things commonly found at Target stores; actual Target inventory is accessible in the app, meaning the teacher can't request something that isn't in stock. Then the teacher receives a shareable link to their project, which they can promote via social networks or other community distribution channels to find supporters. Individual shoppers can browse and purchase supplies from the project registry, and when they buy something for an art program, they receive a note of thanks which is shareable on social networks. The local Target distribution centers ship the project supplies when a project is funded, and after the students finish their projects, the teacher can use the app to capture the student projects and share them online, where other teachers can view them and duplicate their materials list.
The best apps make use of network effects, and this one does so with a particularly clever idea: By allowing teachers to add their projects to the "success stories" collection, they're making it turn-key easy for other teachers to join up and try their first program. Since the other teachers can download the entire project spec, not just the materials list, this app is also a vector for sharing what are essentially lesson plans. Look for more general-interest lesson planning apps like this to pop up in the future; our judges found Matisse to be ahead of the curve when it came to in-school app integration, because it saves the teachers work, and because it makes for a better student experience when the teacher already has a wealth of ideas to riff off of when building their curriculum.
Our judges found Matisse to be complete and beautiful, while simple enough to allow for a near-zero learning curve. Another favorable upshot of this app is the data-sharing between teachers and parents; with this app, parents get some visibility into the curriculum before their students' projects even start. We know Target has tried this sort of program in an analog way in certain locales, but app-ifying the process makes it seamless and scalable.
The education market is one of the toughest to break into. Heavily bound by past years' curricula and notoriously technology-averse, the schools who might need this program the most—that is, schools suffering budget cuts and staffing problems—are likely to be the hardest to convince to try this technology, particularly in low-income areas where smartphone use may not be prevalent. But as dumbphones die off and smart ones democratize in price, we can see this app becoming invaluable to school communities of all socioeconomic standings.
[Image: Flickr user Mr. T in DC]