First Friday’s Group (1FG) Founder and CEO Kristofer Madu strives to provide a platform for local creatives to display their work in Baltimore. But next month, Madu will be the one to showcase his talents to a global audience.
1FG, which was one of the student startups developed during Johns Hopkins University’s recently-completed FFUel accelerator program, connects college communities by assisting creative-minded students in developing a piece of performance art such as rapping, singing and DJing. 1FG also provides a stage for students to display their talent by organizing social events.
Madu, along with Vice President of Operations Sindhu Banerjee, will represent the United States in Red Bull Basement University’s 2019 Global Workshop, a four-day event comprised of lectures, workshops and mentorship sessions, all leading up to a final pitch competition.
But Madu didn’t think 1FG was even ready to qualify for this stage at first.
“We weren’t even going to apply,” Madu said. “We didn’t think we had a chance at winning, and we didn’t even think that we were a good fit.”
Red Bull Basement University is a global collaborative initiative for student innovators to develop tech projects that improve student life on campus. The pilot global meeting was launched in 2018, with over 300 universities participating.
Madu first heard of the workshop during a meeting with a representative from Red Bull. The meeting was arranged to discuss a collaboration opportunity, but the representative liked 1FG’s concept so much that he encouraged Madu to apply for the program.
The application process required participants to submit a video of up to 60 seconds detailing their project idea to Red Bull Basement University’s website. Voting was available to the public, and just one group from each participating country would be selected for the workshop.
As the deadline for the application loomed, Madu finally realized the potential of the platform.
“Every single time that we said ‘yeah, right’ externally, internally the seeds of ‘what if’ kept growing,” Madu said. “We realized that tech is the answer to the scalability and global accessibility of our platform.”
Now, 1FG is in the six-week development phase of the program.
Over this time, teams will continue to build their projects as they prepare for the workshop. Red Bull provides basic funds, networking opportunities and workspace.
Teams also have access to international experts with different backgrounds, including hardware, design, creativity, planning and engineering. Each team will work with two experts via 30-minute web conference mentorship meetings to get guidance on their project.
1FG is working with an expert in urban planning, along with an expert who has previous experience with a similar events platform.
“We’re really excited for the opportunity to learn from people in the tech space because that’s our next frontier,” Madu said. “When you have people who have already walked the walk, and they’re telling you that you can, too, that’s the biggest validation and thing that’s continuing to add fuel to our fire. Now we know that not only does the world need what we’re bringing to it, but we know that we’re the people to bring it.”
Madu said his team is working to determine how 1FG’s platform can apply to tech. He hinted at becoming more of a digital platform that focuses on skill acquisition and securing performance opportunities.
The Red Bull Basement University Global Workshop will kick off on Dec. 12 in Toronto, Canada. The last day of the program will be open to the public and the media.
“It’s a privilege, but we don’t forget that it’s a responsibility,” Madu said. “We know that when we step out on that stage, we’re representing ourselves, our families, Johns Hopkins, Baltimore and the United States.”
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