Four years ago, Scarlett Ong Rui Chern moved to the United States to pursue higher education at the University of Michigan – Stephen M. Ross School of Business. As an international and first generation student, she faced many hurdles. One advantage she lacked was a peer support system to help her navigate the college experience. Talking to other students helped Scarlett realize that she wasn’t the only one needing help. International students, transfer students, and even first-year American students faced many of the the same problems.
Reflecting on those struggles and with the help of three other students, Scarlett decided to take a leap of faith. She developed an education technology that could assist students with their academic struggles and provide the peer support that she missed. That is how Peerstachio was birthed!
Peerstachio is a peer-to-peer learning social networking platform which helps students improve their grades by connecting underclassmen with trusted upperclassmen, getting them the academic help they need in a responsive way. The platform offers students academic interactions, boosts their credentials, reinforces learning, and gives access to a trusted community of peers.
Since its creation in 2017, Scarlett and her team have received support through various grants including the Zell Lurie Institute Grant which provided Peerstachio the head start it needed to get the platform off the ground. Peerstachio also received a University of Michigan Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship Grant to continue working on developing their startup.
This summer Peerstacio was selected to be a part of the 2018 Summer Cohort of the DTX Launch Accelerator Program at TechTown Detroit. The program was sponsored by General Motors and Peerstachio took home the pitch competition grand prize of $10,000. “We came in with this broad idea where we wanted to serve all international students but we learned a more structured way to do it and test our hypothesis and really refined our target market.” – says Scarlett. “I am so proud of my team for the job well done … We put in a lot of work during those 10 weeks. I pray this becomes something long term!”
With the assistance of the TechTown technical team Peerstachio will be tested officially in two courses at the University of Michigan in the coming fall semester!
Global Detroit is in the process of launching a Global Entrepreneurs-in-Residence (Global EIR) program to help international student entrepreneurs launch their companies here in Michigan without encountering visa problems. Scarlett Ong Rui Chern is one of the first sets of founder applicants in the Global EIR program. If the program selects Peerstachio, Global EIR will help Scarlett and other immigrant and international student founders launch their startups in Southeast Michigan by providing visa support and other services that enables them to fully explore their venture’s initial phases or structure their startup in ways that further the educational mission of a Michigan-based university.
By providing leading-edge programs like the Global Talent Retention Initiative and the Global EIR opportunity, Global Detroit is leveraging the contributions that talented international students represent for our region. A more inclusive regional economy can not only attract new firms like Peerstachio that are launching, but it can retain talented international students like Scarlett who will surely be an asset to job creation wherever she lands.