Industrial Design Student App Impresses Local Start-Up Community

Thorpe's team's “Should I?” app enables users to compose a yes-or-no question to instantly generate a poll and gather responses from other users.

Thorpe’s team’s “Should I?” app enables users to compose a yes-or-no question to instantly generate a poll and gather responses from other users.

You may have seen industrial design junior Kyle Thorpe careening around campus on his red Rocketskates. He found the battery pack-powered skates on crowdfunding website Kickstarter and decided to give them a try.

Testing new products and supporting fellow entrepreneurs with design feedback is something Thorpe sees as essential to achieving success in today’s start-up world. It’s what makes him an early adopter of the latest technology gadgets such as Google Glass. “In order to be on the edge, you have to stay on the edge,” he said.

Thorpe captured the attention of the local start-up community when he and his team took first place for their design of polling app “Should I?” at this fall’s Philadelphia Startup Weekend.

The business pitch competition challenged local entrepreneurs to form teams, develop business models and deliver final strategies and prototypes—in just 54 hours. About 100 people in more than a dozen teams participated in the Nov. 14 to 16 competition.

The winning “Should I?” app enables users to compose a yes-or-no question to instantly generate a poll and gather responses from other users. For example, “Does Pat’s have the best cheesesteak?” To narrow their poll results, users can sort respondents by gender and location.

Thorpe said his team would like to see “Should I?” head to the App Store.

Industrial design junior Kyle Thorpe believes in testing new products in the start-up world, such as Rocketskates.

Industrial design junior Kyle Thorpe believes in testing new products in the start-up world, such as Rocketskates.

“We’ve been given a great opportunity to do this head on,” said Thorpe, who was responsible for prototype creation. “I think this would be a great learning experience, if nothing else. If we get enough users, we will start looking into venture capital funding.”

Thorpe said he felt well-prepared for the collaboration required at Startup Weekend after participating in several sprint projects with industry partners at PhilaU. “They gave me a head start,” he said.

Thorpe is something of a serial entrepreneur. In his spare time, he has been working on such projects as an origami-inspired collapsible water bottle, an ergonomic standing chair and an app designed to find the safest bike paths by mapping frequently traveled routes. “You can’t change the world if you are doing what everyone else is doing,” he said.

For their Startup Weekend win, Thorpe’s team was rewarded with a membership to ic@3401, a local collaborative workspace, a free design and development evaluation from Webjunto, a Philadelphia-based web, mobile and social design company, as well as coding assistance and other valuable start-up resources.

The group also will receive coaching from Chris Baglieri, engineer for Philadelphia-based mobile app management company Artisan Mobile Inc., as it pursues further product development.

“‘Should I?’ has the raw materials to hit the ground running with the potential for traction,” Baglieri said. “It’s super simple conceptually, and, if built right, to use. It plays with concepts we see leveraged in already successful apps.”

Thorpe, a resident of Spring City, Pa., has long had a passion for creativity. “Ever since I was five I wanted to be an inventor,” he said. Now, he said he’s following his dream by pursuing industrial design at PhilaU, learning such skills as rapid prototyping, design thinking, 3-D modeling and material selection.

“My end goal,” Thorpe said, “is to start my own company and invent things for the greater good.”

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