Charitable Startup Wins Blob of Cash

Dominick's balcony brims over for reception

Dominick’s second-story balcony was originally reserved at 6:30 p.m. Thursday for Michael Moore, whose reception for the world premiere of his movie “Slacker Uprising” was to take place there. That was the “hard stop” Jessica Rauch and Eli Savit faced for their own mid-afternoon celebration – until Moore’s party changed their plans. That gave the boyfriend-and-girlfriend team at little extra time to bask in the glow of Jessica’s $10,000 cash prize that her charitable startup company, The Generation Project, had won.

Jessica Rauch and Eli Savit receiving $10,000 check from IdeaBlob for the charitiable startup, The Generation Project.

Jessica Rauch and Eli Savit receiving $10,000 check from IdeaBlob for the charitiable startup, The Generation Project.

The concept for The Generation Project is this: If you’ve got a passion in life, The Generation Project wants to make it easier for you to give a gift of that passion to somebody else. Say you grew up in Ann Arbor, like Eli did, and attended Tappan Middle School, like Eli did, and worked on the school newspaper (the Tappan Tabloid) with faculty sponsor Marlene Erannon … like Eli did. You might have a passion for journalism and an interest in seeing middle school students in less privileged communities than Ann Arbor have the experience of putting together their own middle school newspaper.

The Generation Project doesn’t think you should have to toss your donation into a giant pot, hoping that some of it winds up supporting a middle school newspaper somewhere. The Generation Project aims to provide a way for people to give that specific gift of a school newspaper.

The concept of giving back at the core of The Generation Project is entirely consistent with Rauch’s work in the Bronx, New York, teaching for two years with Teach for America, then joining its staff to work on recruitment. She has just left Teach for America this year to launch The Generation Project.

The prize money awarded to Rauch and her charitable startup was won in an online voting contest sponsored by IdeaBlob. Handing over the prize on behalf of IdeaBlob was Will Robinson (yes, people do sometimes make that joke), who had flown in from Philadelphia to make the presentation of a giant $10,000 check. The check was presumably symbolic – Jessica told The Chronicle they were planning to hang the foam-core backed piece on their living room wall.

Kristen Winter, past finalist on IdeaBlob, now working on

Kristen Winter, past finalist on IdeaBlob, now working on

IdeaBlob gives away $10,000 each month to the top vote-getter among finalists which are determined through a series of “heats.” Robinson said that in August The Generation Project had received 50 percent more votes than any of the other candidates, and he attributed it to the support it had received from the University of Michigan community. Of the 2,200 votes that were tallied for The Generation Project, 800-900 came from the domain name. The connection? Savit is a second-year student at the UM law school.

A fair number of those nearly 1,000 voters turned up on the Dominick’s balcony to celebrate the check presentation. The Chronicle speculated with Robinson that there had to be more than a hundred people crammed into the space. We wondered if we were near capacity – whatever it might be.

Then a Dominick’s server approached: “You’re over your thousand,” he said to Robinson. No way. There were a lot of people but not a thousand. Plus, if there were a thousand people on the balcony, the server surely would have exclaimed … “Danger, Will Robinson!” Robinson explained that the dollar amount he had set for the open bar and free food was $1,000. The law can be dry sometimes, and people who study it can get thirsty.

But not everyone there was affiliated with the UM law school. The Chronicle bumped into Kristen Winter, whose RockDTown was a past finalist on IdeaBlob, and who’s paused that idea and moved to Ann Arbor from Flint, to work on a different startup:

Why the move? Because, Winter said, Ann Arbor has a great environment for tech start-ups. Pressed for a specific example of something Ann Arbor’s got that Flint doesn’t have, Winter didn’t hesitate: SPARK. She said she found the events hosted by SPARK useful as the marketer for RateMyStudentRental, because it was easy to get to know who’s who.

Premier of "Slacker Uprising" at the Michigan Theater on Liberty Street in downtown Ann Arbor.

Premier of "Slacker Uprising" at the Michigan Theater in downtown Ann Arbor.

Heading back to The Chronicle offices, we passed another example of something Ann Arbor’s got that Flint used to have but doesn’t anymore – for one day anyway: Michael Moore. People were still standing in front of the Michigan Theater on Liberty Street, waiting to get into “Slacker Uprising.”


  1. September 19, 2008 at 6:09 am | permalink

    Thanks Dave for the plug, it was great to chat with you! Ann Arbor is a great town, but just want to mention that there are a handful of ambitious individuals and organizations in Flint working hard to bring the city back, and they are starting to make some progress! Again, had a great time supporting the Generation Project and I hope this is just another example of why you should pursue dreams and go out to make a difference!

  2. September 19, 2008 at 9:51 am | permalink

    Thanks so much for attending our event last night, Dave! It was great to have you there and we appreciate you spreading the word about The Generation Project. If anyone wants to learn more, they can definitely check out our website as you mention above,, or they can contact me at