Students channeling March Madness to fund-raising

Mar. 19, 2013 @ 09:30 PM

A group of Duke University student-entrepreneurs is looking to channel excitement from March Madness into a website designed to raise money for a nonprofit that funds Sudden Infant Death Syndrome research and support programs.

About 14 student-entrepreneurs partnered to build and launch Brackets4Life, a website where users can create brackets detailing their picks for the NCAA tournament winners, said Ashley Qian, a sophomore at Duke who has worked on marketing for the website.

The minimum donation for creating a bracket is $2, according to the website, Users can donate as much as they want, and can donate without creating a bracket.

Fifty percent of the winnings are targeted to go to The CJ Foundation for SIDS, Qian said. In addition, she said the five participants with the most points will each get 10 percent of the remaining proceeds donated to the charity of his or her choice.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, is the sudden death of a child less than a year old that cannot be explained even after a thorough investigation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website

Qian said the idea for the Brackets4Life website came from Michael McConville, a freshman at Duke. McConville said that when he was more than 2 years old,  his 5-month old brother died. His parents organized an annual golf outing to raise money for SIDS, and now he’s following in their footsteps.

“I’m pretty happy so far,” McConville said of the site, which he said had raised several hundred dollars Monday morning. “I know we’ve reached a lot of people and if we can reach a lot of people and (make people aware of) ways to protect their infants from SIDS, I’ll consider it a success no matter how much money we make.”

McConville said he and a friend were talking in a dorm room about starting his own business, and were talking about online contests. He said he suggested doing the first website for charity, to raise money for SIDS. He said his friend is a part of InCube, a residential program for student entrepreneurs at Duke.

The Brackets4Life website was created by programmers and other students who are part of InCube. Qian said it took about a day to build the majority of the website.

Students in the program are working to launch businesses, said Qian, who plans to major in computer science and visual arts and is the co-founder of a design services company.

She said others in the InCube program are working on a range of businesses, including a student  working to build a business around a carbonated tea product, and another working on a start-up for a protein powder project.