Zillow’s® HBCU Hackathon returned this year, encouraging students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to develop and pitch a tech solution that supports Zillow’s mission to make finding a home easier and more accessible for everyone. The weeklong event, produced in partnership with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and Amplify 4 Good, involved 219 students this year, representing 20 HBCUs.
Six teams advanced to the final round, during which each team had five minutes to present their ideas virtually to a panel of judges made up of Zillow and tech industry leaders. Three of those teams were awarded top prizes for their work. First place included a cash prize of $20,000 shared amongst team members and a donation of $25,000 to their university. Second- and third-place teams received a cash prize of $12,000 and $6,000 respectively. In addition, the students received a $500 textbook gift card, a new laptop and a new wireless mouse.
First place was awarded to Team ZillowBears for its “Z-Save” project. The team was led by Morgan State University students Godsheritage Adeoye, Nanfwang Dawurang, Oluwadara Dina and Saad Nadeem. The team’s entry, Z-Save, is aimed at helping Black home seekers budget for ownership. The integrated feature proposes a “Z-Score,” which indicates how financially prepared a potential buyer is, ensuring that buyer is set up for success. It also includes information and access to grants that can aid buyers in their journey towards homeownership. All this information would be encompassed in a personalized dashboard that recommends homes the user may be a good candidate for.
“My biggest takeaway from participating and winning this hackathon is never to underestimate the power of numbers. Seeing how different people look at the same issue in completely different ways, seeing the various innovative and exciting ideas presented in tackling housing issues, showed me that progress can always be made when people come together and are intentional about solving a problem.”
– Nanfwang “Nan” Dawurang, Morgan State University, computer science major, Class of 2023
Second place went to Team Straw Hat Crew of Fisk University, which included Collins Ikpeyi, Sopuruchi Ndubuisi and Elijah Okoroh for their proposal, “Hey Roomie.” Their project bridges the gap between finding roommates, locating suitable housing and submitting a joint rental application. The app will prompt the user for information on their location, lifestyle and desired living situation. It will then use machine learning to provide compatible roommate matches.
“The key to creating helpful solutions to everyday problems is understanding the people and communities facing them. Without this understanding, we risk making products that are not usable or, even worse, creating more problems. My team taking a step back to properly understand young people’s issues while renting helped us identify the problem and define it enough to proffer a helpful solution.”
– Sopuruchi Ndubuisi, Fisk University, art major, Class of 2024
Coming in third was Team First Move from Howard University. The all freshman team, which included Bryce Gordon-Pinkston, Ife Martin, Ayotunde Ogunroku and Joshua Veasy, addressed the different ways young buyers are thinking about housing. They developed an app called “VibeZ” to help Gen Z home buyers find the community that best suits them. The app prompts the user to select preferred community features and then present options that may fit the individual’s desired criteria. VibeZ also features reviews from local homeowners that help the buyer make a more informed decision.
“As a freshman, I wanted to jump right in and get hands-on experience with what a computer science degree might look like. Zillow’s hackathon was perfect for me because it emphasized the importance of invitation and growth.”
– Ife Martin, Howard University, computer science major, Class of 2026
This year’s hackathon was judged by Zillow and tech industry leaders, including:
- Eric Bailey, vice president of Experience Design, Zillow
- Richard Clay, investment partner, Dorm Room Fund
- Aldona Clottey, vice president of Corporate Social Responsibility, Zillow
- Lakshmi Dixit, vice president of Tech Engineering and Operations, Zillow
- April Daley, software engineer, Etsy
- Damien Peters, founder of Wealth Noir
- Jonathan Rabb, founder and CEO of Watch The Yard
- Kevin Regensberg, senior product manager, Zillow
- Chad Womack, Ph.D., vice president of National STEM Programs and Tech Initiatives at UNCF
Congratulations to the 2022 hackathon winners, and thanks to all the participants for their dedication to helping make the housing journey easier and more equitable for all.