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Morgan State University students win Zillow’s HBCU Hackathon with app that measures financial credibility outside of credit scoring

Second-annual competition challenged participants to develop new technologies

to help consumers during their journey to find a home.

SEATTLE – Zillow’s second HBCU Housing Hackathon, which drew more than 200 students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), awarded top prizes to teams that developed innovations to help renters and first-time buyers find their dream homes.

The top three finishers in the hackathon, in collaboration with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and Amplify 4 Good, won over the judges with projects that offer impactful tech solutions that align with Zillow’s mission to help consumers overcome obstacles in their journey to find a home

ZillowBears, a team of four Morgan State University students, won first place and $20,000 for its “Z-Save” application, which estimates monthly mortgage costs and lets users deposit that amount into a virtual wallet that tracks their payment trends. The app also shows lenders data points to help determine whether potential homeowners qualify for a mortgage and offer them a way to prove creditworthiness outside the traditional credit scoring system. Zillow® also will donate $25,000 to Morgan State’s computer science program as part of the first-place prize.

“I wanted to participate in the hackathon to learn more about the real estate industry and explore on a deeper level how technology can help solve the most prominent issues people face every day when trying to secure a home,” said Nanfwang Dawurang, a member of ZillowBears and a senior computer science student at Morgan State University. “Seeing how different people look at the same issue in completely different ways and the various innovative and exciting ideas presented in tackling housing issues showed me that progress can always be made when people come together and are intentional about solving a problem.”

The HBCU Hackathon brought together 65 teams. Six teams advanced to the final round and had five minutes to present their ideas virtually, using live demonstrations and presentation decks, to a panel of judges made up of Zillow and tech industry leaders.

“We are very impressed with the caliber of the work, the quality of the presentations, and the outstanding, innovative ideas the students displayed at Zillow’s second HBCU Housing Hackathon,” said Aldona Clottey, Zillow vice president of Corporate Social Responsibility and one of the judges. “With 20 schools represented, this hackathon not only helps Zillow continue to foster engagement among HBCUs, but it allows us to tap our next generation of technology leaders to help ensure we are continuously evolving as a company and positively impacting the technology industry as a whole.”

Joining Dawurang on the first-place team were Oluwadara Dina, Saad Nadeem and Godsheritage Adeoye. Their winning “Z-Save” application was designed to address disproportionate mortgage denial rates for Black and Latinx borrowers due to low credit scores by providing an alternative way for lenders to assess financial credibility. Users can build a positive payment history and receive a “Z-score,” which can be used as an indicator of creditworthiness.

Zillow HBCU Hackathon Runners-Up

The other hackathon prize winners were teams Straw Hat Crew of Fisk University and First Move of Howard University.

Team Straw Hat Crew won second place and $12,000 for its “Hey Roomie” concept, a Zillow rental hub integration that uses machine learning to pair renters with potential compatible roommates or cosigners based on housing and lifestyle preferences.

Team Straw Hat Crew from Fisk University won second place at Zillow’s HBCU Housing Hackathon: (L-R) Collins Ikpeyi, Sopuruchi Ndubuisi and Elijah Okoroh.

Straw Hat Crew included Collins Ikpeyi, Sopuruchi Ndubuisi and Elijah Okoroh.

Team First Move won third place and a $6,000 prize for “VibeZ”, an application geared toward millennial and Gen Z home shoppers that lets users search for homes based on community preferences, such as access to nightlife, greenspaces, the presence of an art scene and more.

Team First Move from Howard University won third place at Zillow’s HBCU Housing Hackathon: (L-R) Bryce Gordon-Pinkston, Ife Martin, Ayotunde Ogunroku and Joshua Veasy.

First Move team members included Bryce Gordon-Pinkston, Ife Martin, Ayotunde Ogunroku and Joshua Veasy.

The semifinalist teams were:  

Team Atom of Alabama State University, with team members Arnold Bhebhe, Best Olunusi, Robert Mukuchura and Lucky Chitundu

Broker Bears of Morgan State University, with Efosa Isujeh, Subomi Popoola, Martin Adu-Boahene and Dimitri Watat

Rocket of Howard University, with Jeremy White Jr., Karis Lewis, Morayo Adeyemi and Tyler Williams

Judges of the semifinal round included Lakshmi Dixit, Zillow vice president of Tech Engineering and Operations; Kevin Regensberg, Zillow senior technical product manager; Damien Peters, founder, Wealth Noir; Richard Clay, investment partner, Door Room Fund; and Chad Womack, Ph.D., vice president of National STEM Programs and Tech Initiatives at UNCF.

All students from the top three teams also will receive new laptops and textbook gift cards, and all eligible hackathon participants interested in a role at Zillow will have an opportunity to interview for an internship.

The hackathon’s final pitch round was judged by Zillow and tech industry leaders that included Eric Bailey, vice president of Experience Design at Zillow; Aldona Clottey, vice president of Corporate Social Responsibility at Zillow; April Daley, software engineer at Etsy; Jonathan Rabb, founder and CEO of Watch The Yard; and Chad Womack, Ph.D., vice president of National STEM Programs and Tech Initiatives at UNCF.

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