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Synapse offers $3K prize in its latest innovation challenge

Margie Manning



Mac Gardner and Lauren Prager discussing the Synapse challenge

It’s never too early to teach children about financial literacy.

That’s the concept behind the new Synapse challenge. The Tampa-based nonprofit wants innovators to deliver an overview for a mobile app with a fun and entertaining way to introduce elementary school children, ages 5 to 11, to the concepts of money management.

The winning team will receive a $3,000 grand prize. The challenge is sponsored by eMoney, USF Muma College of Business Certified Financial Planners Program and Finbod.

The challenge is to develop a digital financial education platform based on the concepts and characters in The Four Money Bears, a book developed by certified financial planner and author, Mac Gardner.

“There’s only four things you can do with money — spend it, save it, invest it or give it away,” Gardner said in an interview with Lauren Prager, vice president of community engagement at Synapse. 

Gardner’s book focuses on four bears who live in the woods — Spender Bear, Saver Bear, Investor Bear, and Giver Bear — who can do different things with their money. “But when they work together they create a budget,” Gardner said.

Gardner serves on the advisory board of USF’s personal financial degree planning program, which was very interested in expanding financial literacy. Executives at eMoney also reached out to him. More recently, he connected with Synapse.

“Everything seems to be falling in place with regard to my vision of having some sort of digital platform that can be used by a parent, a school or a nonprofit organization to provide a digital platform based on The Four Money Bears book,” he said.

There are three key points innovators need to integrate into their proposed solution — an app that will teach, that will analyze and that will track the progress of the child using it.

The app should also be based on a “freemium” model. Users should be able to download the app at no charge, and the designer can choose to monetize the app by charging a subscription cost for extensive use, connecting a cost to some aspect of gamification, or some other means to allow the user to learn the use of money through the game.

The app will be marketed directly to consumers, educational institutions and financial services companies.

Submission may consist of a working demo plus supporting documents, or a detailed PowerPoint, Synapse said. A five-minute video pitch submission is due by Sept. 1. 

Rules and more details are available here.

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