Bean Hub Wins DCU/Manning School of Business Innovation Contest

Five students in suits celebrate in a crowd Image by Ed Brennen
Bean Hub team members, including computer science major Shafaat Osmani, center, jump for joy after winning the DifferenceMaker DCU/Manning School of Business Innovation Contest at Saab ETIC.

By Ed Brennen

Even before ChatGPT introduced artificial intelligence to the masses last year, computer science major Saim Siddique was well-versed in the technology. 

As a first-year student, Siddique landed a research internship with Asst. Prof. Mohammad Arif Ul Alam, working on a project to root out biases in the algorithms that are the lifeblood of AI.

When the North Andover, Massachusetts, native and several of his friends from the Kennedy College of Sciences saw that they could apply their passion for AI to address a real-world challenge through the Rist DifferenceMaker Institute, they signed up for the 11th annual Innovation Contest, sponsored by Digital Federal Credit Union (DCU) and the Manning School of Business

The students developed a service, called Bean Hub, that uses AI to improve the customer experience with the chatbot on DCU’s mobile banking app. Their pitch won the Innovation Contest’s $3,000 top prize and a spot in the preliminary round of next spring’s DifferenceMaker $50K Idea Challenge.
A woman with dark hair speaks at a lecturn Image by Ed Brennen
Senior business major Valerie Heath pitches Consumer-i, a shopping platform that helps people support ethical businesses, during the Innovation Contest.

“Whenever we used a banking app like this, it was frustrating to see that the bots weren't able to understand what we were saying,” says Siddique, who notes that most chatbots don’t remember conversation histories — something that Bean Hub will do. “Now that everyone’s using AI technology like ChatGPT, we thought, ‘What if we use the technology to create a solution?’”

Siddique was joined by fellow computer science students Shafaat Osmani, Ibrahim Haroon and Aiman Baig, junior bioinformatics major Emir Kaplan and junior electrical engineering major Mohammad Khan.

Eight teams applied for this fall’s entrepreneurship event, with four advancing to the Innovation Contest at the Saab ETIC Center. Every team member that presented to the panel of judges received $100 from DCU.

Sophomore mechanical engineering major Tanish Araveti and first-year computer science major Arnav FNU pitched FinVenture, a personal finance management app that uses a machine learning algorithm to analyze a user’s spending habits.
A group of students in suits accept a giant check from a man who is smiling Image by Ed Brennen
Bean Hub team members accept their first-place check from Thomaz DeMoura, innovations manager at DCU.

“We wanted to bring this idea we had to the next level, and DifferenceMaker helped us bring it to light and learn how to present it to people who might actually invest in it,” says FNU, who is from Westford, Massachusetts.

Senior business majors Dulce Galan, Matthew Hayes, Scott Redgate and Colin McKallagat pitched Card Tracker, an app that helps lock or recover a lost or stolen debit card.

Senior business majors Andre Bachman, Valerie Heath, Michael Nasr and Liam Buckley pitched Consumer-i, a shopping platform that helps people support ethical businesses.

Teams made five-minute pitches to a panel of judges, which included alumni Jonathan Geanakos ’84; Greg Sydney ’81, senior managing director of Tri Capital and Companies; and Tim Dowd ’08, campaign management specialist at DCU, as well as Michelle LaPointe, digital banking product manager at DCU.
Three young men and a young woman look at papers on a table in front of a monitor Image by Ed Brennen
Card Tracker team members go over their pitch before the Innovation Contest at Saab ETIC.

“Every time I come back to the school, I’m ever more impressed with our young people,” says Geanakos, a member of the Manning School advisory board. “The school is an engine for the future of business and creativity.”

It was the first Innovation Contest for new Manning School Dean Bertie Greer, who was impressed by the ingenuity and scope of the students’ ideas.

“It takes a lot of courage to put your idea in front of someone to judge it,” she says.

When Greer announced Bean Hub as the winner, the team members jumped to their feet in celebration, led by a leaping Osmani, who is minoring in business.

“I follow a lot of people in the startup space, so I have a lot of personal interest in this project,” says Osmani, who is from Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.

“I was surprised,” adds Haroon, a North Andover native who applied machine learning and AI in a software engineering internship with the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center last summer. 

He says Bean Hub will work on lowering its pricing model heading into the $50K Idea Challenge.

“(DifferenceMaker) is the perfect opportunity to do something in the real world with this new technology,” he says. “We learn theory in class, and here we get to apply it and learn how it connects to business.”