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Computer science grad student wins LaunchPad Fellowship for startup

Fatemeh Mirzaei
Fatemeh Mirzaei
Thursday, November 5, 2020
stephens@ucsc.edu (Tim Stephens)

Fatemeh Mirzaei, a graduate student in computer science and engineering in the Baskin School of Engineering, is one of 40 student entrepreneurs selected for the Fall 2020 LaunchPad Fellowship program. The fellowship, offered by the Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars network, supports Mirzaei’s startup Wiseper, a decentralized fact-checking and exploration platform.

The LaunchPad Fellowship includes a $5,000 grant and 8 weeks of entrepreneurial resources, mentoring, and support. The fall 2020 cohort is focused on “social impact” student startups that seek a positive societal outcome.

Wiseper, which Mirzaei cofounded in 2019, aims to address the lack of reliable information regarding topics such as climate change, vaccines, health, and finance on social media, where 40 percent of people get their news. It is a social platform with an artificial intelligence component that enables users to collaboratively build context and resources around a topic.

“Wiseper is a fact-first social network which is designed and optimized with emphasis on factual information, in contrast to existing social networks that have been optimized for engagement only and that are highly susceptible to misinformation,” Mirzaei said. “We want to provide greater context around online content for consumers, and reduce the amount of time people have to devote to sorting through information.”

The LaunchPad Fellowship program is structured around coaching sessions, weekly entrepreneurial workshops, and mentoring from Blackstone Campus Ambassadors and Techstars entrepreneurs and advisors. Students will also participate in a Techstars Mentor Week and attend the virtual LaunchPad Speaker Series.

Mirzaei said she and her co-founder, Amin Almassian, are excited about joining this program.

“This is a great opportunity to connect to like-minded successful companies and entrepreneurs and learn from their success and failures,” she said. “Our hope is that this fellowship opens up more opportunities for Wiseper to grow its community and reach its capacity to serve millions of people to combat misinformation.”

In addition to the startup, Mirzaei is working toward her Ph.D. in the UCSC Computer Vision Lab led by Roberto Manduchi, professor of computer science and engineering. She is working with Manduchi on a project to develop a system that will make public transportation more accessible for people with visual impairments.