Student Innovator of the Year "Best Innovation" lets people donate cash with a click
Ever liked something online so much that you thought, “I should have paid for this”? Maybe an epic cat GIF, a helpful how-to video or perhaps an insightful blog post?
BYU student entrepreneur David Hepworth has experienced this many times over and it has driven him to develop a way for online users to pledge money to creators of excellent online content. His idea, Penny Pledge, plans to put a penny behind every “Like” on the Internet.
“A little bit of money from a lot of people can make a powerful change,” said Hepworth, a neuroscience major who will graduate in April. “We believe this approach can help reduce the amount of online ads that clutter the content we enjoy.”
Think of Penny Pledge kind of like Kickstarter, but with the money being raised or pledged after the goods are made.
How it works: Sign up for an account with Penny Pledge and then dump a few bucks into your “wallet.” After installing the Penny Pledge Chrome extension, users can pledge pennies to any website straight from their browser menu bar. People can pledge as little as one penny, or they can pledge hundreds of pennies (also known as dollars) just by clicking on the Penny Pledge icon while on a web page.
The money makes it into that content creator’s pocket through their own account. If they don’t have one, the folks at Penny Pledge will let them know if there’s a donation waiting for them.
Hepworth said there are websites today that prove paying for quality online content is already doable. Examples include Twitch, where people pay to watch video games live, or Patreon, where fans chip in cash every time their favorite content creator makes something new.
“Requiring someone to pay for online content hasn’t worked for most people,” Hepworth said. “But having a system where it is optional—where people choose to pay online—that is where we see potential.”
Judges at this year’s Student Innovator of the Year Competition (SIOY) also saw the potential of Penny Pledge and named it the Best Innovation in the competition. The SIOY Competition is an annual event aimed at helping students turn their ideas into products ready for market, co-sponsored by the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and the Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology.
Hepworth and recent BYU engineering grad Chase Roberts have launched a site for Penny Pledge and are now fine tuning the details to start allowing pledges. Hepworth and Roberts, a computer engineer at BYU, have teamed up before when they created the popular LunchBox app. But now the majority of their efforts have been pledged to Penny Pledge.
Hepworth has been pushing hard to get Penny Pledge rolling for the past six months, but he first thought of the concept of creating a way for people to donate about a year ago while lying in bed one night.
“I thought, ‘What if every person in the world gave me one penny?” Hepworth recalled. “It wouldn’t hurt them, but it would give me enough to live forever. We think it can be a really good opportunity.”
Penny Pledge has also won awards at the Ballard Center’s Best Idea Competition and the Social Venture Academy’s Best Product Competition.