June 13, 2017
First Ever Winners of Southwestern’s New Mobile App Challenge Course
Davit Zargaryan, Daniel Repchian and Robert Khalatian sat next to each other as strangers in their very first class at Southwestern Law School.
Three years later, the classmates-turned-friends graduate as business partners and winners of a Mobile App Challenge contest. They will split the $1,000 in prize money for first place.
The trio, all interested in business law and entrepreneurship, took the Mobile App Challenge course, which required students to create an app for mobile devices that solved some sort of problem.
Zargaryan, Repchian and Khalatian came up with Wanna, a messaging app that makes it easier for friends to connect for spontaneous meetups and social gatherings by enabling requests to hang out to be broadcast instantly to set recipients.
With Wanna, you don't use it to browse each other’s pages," Khalatian said of how it is different from other social media platforms. "If you just want to go somewhere instead of seeing who can plan it, you use Wanna to broadcast it to see who can go right then. We want to put people together."
The team members, careful not to divulge too much about the app prior to potentially getting it off the ground, see Wanna as more than just a means to connect people for social purposes.
“You want to create a net positive improvement in people's lives," Zargaryan said. “It’s not just about the social. We’re trying to integrate the material things that people do.”
While all three had a background in business, the course pushed them to learn more about technology, something they were less familiar with, he added.
The Mobile App Challenge course, sponsored by companies such as Amazon, Sports 1 Marketing, VIRL, and Make in LA, was the first of its kind at Southwestern. In the three-credit course, students learned about the legal and technical issues related to entrepreneurship, forming a startup and creating an app for mobile devices. They also learned creative and hands-on problem solving, teamwork and communication skills in the course, which began the first week of January.
Once the teams were formed and the idea for the app in place, students began developing short pitches, a minute or less, that they practiced in class. Zargaryan, Repchian and Khalatian switched off for those pitches.
The final day of class, each team had 15 minutes to pitch their idea. The teams streamed into the law school’s Julian Dixon courtroom. They presented their ideas, which included information about their apps, financial projections, marketing plans and PowerPoint presentations to a panel of judges: Scott Carter, Executive Vice President at Sports 1 Marketing; James Segil, Serial Entrepreneur, and Co-Founder and President of EdgeCast Networks; Carmen Palafox, Partner at Make in LA; Jack Fritz ’11, Founder and Managing Partner of Fritz Law Group.
Only one team member could make the presentation. The Wanna team picked Khalatian.
The morning he delivered the winning pitch, his nerves served as an alarm clock, waking him up at 5 or 6 a.m., he recalled. Unable to sleep, Khalatian said he went to school and practiced his presentation repeatedly.
Repchian said it wasn’t much easier watching from the sidelines.
"We were watching him but my heart was pounding,” he said. “It felt like it could be seen on the outside."
After the judges weighed in, the Wanna team was announced as the winner. Besides the prize money, they will also receive legal assistance from one of the competition judges who is an attorney knowledgeable about patent law.
Finishing in second place with a $500 prize were Juliana Famili, Gianna Liddy, Evelyn Almeida Ponce and Yelena Oganesyan. Winners of the third-place prize of $250 was the team consisting of Ricci Sergienko, Stephen Bubenheim and Robert Ford. Honorable Mention and a prize of $200 went to Legal Power, a non-profit company run by Sohini Ray. Says Ray, "I am very honored to have received the honorable mention. My app is a step-by-step legal guide to filing domestic violence and civil harassment restraining orders by the self-presenting litigant. I came up with this app after working in public interest law for all these years and observing the struggles of people who are facing a crisis in their lives and cannot afford to hire an attorney."
To see photos from the competition, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/swlaw/albums/72157682952797586.