NEW YORK and SAN JOSE, Calif. - Oct. 29, 2007 - mtvU and Cisco®, which this year awarded college students $250,000 in grants and a national platform to shine as part of their joint Digital Incubator program, today announced this year's capstone grant recipient: RapHappy.com. Developed by Matt Fargo and Ben Leduc-Mills, both second-year graduate students at New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program, RapHappy (www.RapHappy.com) is an online and mobile-phone-based hip-hop community site that enables members to easily record, collaborate on, search and listen to freestyle or written raps, without any need for software or file uploading.
RapHappy.com was greenlighted for the 2007 Digital Incubator program in May and has already been funded with upward of $30,000; the founders will now get an additional $100,000 to execute the aggressive business plan they developed, which was selected as the best of the five submitted by this year's Digital Incubator grantees. Fargo and Leduc-Mills survived a highly competitive four-and-a-half month pitch process that concluded earlier this month, when their business plan met the enthusiastic approval of senior executives from MTV Networks, Cisco and Comventures, a leading Silicon Valley venture capital firm with a focus on early-stage communications companies.
"We were immediately impressed by the ingenuity and elegant simplicity of RapHappy.com, and the team's well-thought-out growth strategy really drove home the amazing potential of this developing community," said Stephen Friedman, general manager, mtvU. "We're thrilled to offer the student developers of RapHappy this unprecedented opportunity and know their creativity and hard work will inspire the Digital Incubator applicants of tomorrow."
RapHappy.com is the only online hip-hop site that enables members to dynamically collaborate with other artists, rate and comment on submissions, and participate in battles for a chance to collect cash and other prizes. The site can also be used as a self-promotion tool for aspiring musicians, a communication tool for recording private audio messages for friends, or simply as an artistic medium.
"We were very impressed with RapHappy's great team, how fun and addictive their audio application is, and their simple advertising-based business model that can be implemented easily," said Claudia Ceniceros, senior director, Cisco Media Solutions Group. "Throughout this two-year alliance with mtvU, we have met so many talented and highly motivated students who are building viral applications that will be seen in products and services across mobile, PC and TV platforms. Cisco is very proud to be part of RapHappy's success and we wish all the grantees tremendous success as they take their ideas to the market."
RapHappy is one of five innovative student-developed digital projects launched with the help of mtvU and Cisco this year. Other 2007 Digital Incubator programs include Selectricity (M.I.T.), an online communal ranking technology focused on preferential decision-making; Osiris (Brown University), a first-of-its-kind MP3 visualizer that uses song lyrics to dynamically generate music videos; Casablanca (NYU), a free online and mobile-phone-based ice-breaker party game that combines elements of social networking, espionage and alternative-reality gaming; and How Do I Say This? (UCLA), an interactive Web-based advice wiki, where users help script and create video messages for people with problems that have left them at a loss for words. How Do I Say This? is the first two-time Digital Incubator grant recipient, and the project was such a success online last year that it's been greenlighted as an mtvU series for this fall. Short-form content from the first season, "How Do I Say This? I'm Gay," will premiere on mtvU and mtvU.com Oct. 22 and roll out for the remainder of the school year. All of the 2007 Digital Incubator projects, as well as those from the program's pilot year, can be accessed at www.DigitalIncubator.net.
Earlier this year, MTV Networks announced the licensing of "Hit! or Sh!t," a past Digital Incubator grantee and Web-based social networking media player designed to build affinity groups around similar tastes in digital content. The application was developed by David Jimison and Jeff Crouse, students at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and was one of the greenlighted projects from the 2006 Digital Incubator season. With "Hit! or Sh!t," users create a profile, log their friends' contact info, and are fed a series of short media clips. A clip ranked a "Hit" is passed on to friends; other media is dropped from the rotation. The project will launch as part of a forthcoming online music community backed by MTV Networks Music Group.
The Digital Incubator initiative was developed jointly by mtvU and the Cisco Media Solutions Group, an internal Cisco start-up launched in 2006 to focus on developing network-based software for the media & entertainment industry. The greenlighted programs represent the most innovative ideas received in response to a call issued last year for new media games, applications, programming or any other original content that would thrive in the digital world.
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