Changing the Narrative: Tiltas

Tiltas has a stance. Tiltas has a mission. Tiltas is ready to change the narrative.

The mission is simple – a platform to connect previously incarcerated individuals with employment opportunities in skilled labor. Formerly known as OrangePrint, and co-founded by Tiffany Smith (Kellogg), Tiltas sets out to make the world a place with something to offer those formerly incarcerated, which isn’t a small feat. Just how big is this problem in America today?

According to CNN, former inmates face “enormous challenges finding work after they’ve been released.” Many have been out of the workforce for years, and their criminal records often prevent them from even getting their foot in the door. A recent survey conducted by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights discovered 76% of former inmates voiced finding work after being released was nearly impossible. Two thirds of the respondents to the survey were either unemployed or underemployed five years after being released. “Ban the box” campaigns in various states are calling for employment applications to do away with the question regarding previous criminal history, forcing employers to first determine if a potential employee meets the requirements for the job. However, with employment playing a major role in an individual’s reintegration into society, and the still huge barriers having a record causes, Tiffany Smith was determined to find a better way.

Tiffany has a personal connection to Tiltas’ mission and values. She has friends who were previously incarcerated and were unable to find employment, but also knowing some previously incarcerated individuals who had found work (in construction, specifically), she recognized a need and a possibility for a solution.

Tiffany and her team have been working to connect construction companies with recently released or previously incarcerated individuals using a web-based platform to streamline the job-finding as well as the recruitment process. Previously called OrangePrint, the company shifted to the name Tiltas, the Lithuanian word for “bridge.” The name is tied more closely with the purpose of the company. Tiffany’s team is working hard to expand their network, and plan to continue exploring their options with hopes to grow their company and fully launch their web-based system.

Tiltas has also caught the attention of the tech world in recent months. The team just won $50,000 in the 2016 Kapor Capital PeopleOPS Tech competition. The Garage is looking forward to tracking the sure to come future successes of Tiltas.

If you’re interested in helping change the narrative in the world of employment, or you are an employee willing to hire the formerly incarcerated or you are someone who was formerly incarcerated and ready to take the right first step, join Tiltas here.

The Garage 2016 Gift Guide

The holidays are just around the corner. Haven’t stocked up on gifts for your friends + family yet? The Garage has you covered. Check out our top ten picks for gifting in 2016 – featuring some of The Garage’s student-founded startups and our a few of our favorite things brought to you by alumni of Northwestern.

1. Eat Pak’d

Wholesome, ready-to-pack lunches delivered to your door.

(The Garage)

2. Ink Tank

Fast custom apparel @ Northwestern.

(The Garage)

3. Maven

Creating a better bra fitting & shopping experience for women.

(The Garage)

4. Trashy

Sustainability Startup – promoting recycling through innovative design.

(The Garage)

5. Viet Nom Nom

Fresh, fast, delicious food built on the philosophy fast food can be good food.

(Founded by Noah Bleicher, Kellogg School of Management)

6. Ullo

Wine made pure.

(Founded by James Kornacki, Northwestern)

7. Baubax

The jacket you always needed, but never existed.

(Founded by Hiral Sanghavi, Kellogg School of Management)

8. Bigelow Tea

Warm up your holidays.

(Cindi Bigelow, CEO, Kellogg School of Management)

9. Bucketfeet

Discover unique designs perfect for gifting.

(Founded by Raaja Nemani, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Northwestern)


Strives to attract, cultivate, and feature the industry’s top sitters and nannies.

(Founded byGenevieve Thiers, Bienen School of Music)



Startup Spotlight: Prioritizing Learning Accelerates eRetirements

Entrepreneurs often begin their adventure after recognizing a problem exists–and one that is not being sufficiently addressed by the market or should be explored further.

As Jared Scharen, Founder & CEO of eRetirements describes,I was volunteering in rural Peru around March of 2015 when my parents started calling me to complain about everything wrong with their “dream” retirement location. While sharing this story with several friends, they all asked me what resources my parents used to pick their retirement location. I laughed. They didn’t use any, but they certainly should have.”

That kicked off several discussions with other seniors at different stages of their retirement journey, and not one of them could identify a helpful resource to aid the process.

It is projected that four million people retire each year, and that trend should continue for the next 20 years. More than 40% or 1.6 million of those retirees will relocate and represent nearly $30 trillion in wealth.

By the time I met with the team, they had developed a website with some content, a commendably healthy email list, and some thoughts on the problems baby boomers are having. My job was to act as a growth mentor for Wildfire, the 10 week pre-accelerator program at Northwestern designed to help the team prioritize fast learning in order to achieve even faster growth. I took some time to sit down with the Jared, Founder of eRetirements, to learn about how he discovered and identified a problem in a specific community, the processes they implemented to solve it, and how shifting their focus to prioritized learning improved results.

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What problem are you solving?

“We feel that eRetirements is solving the problem “Where should I retire?” Sure, some of the senior population know where they want to retire based on where they’ve vacationed before, but for a lot of folks it is a blank canvas and they have no idea where to begin.”

“Trying to narrow down a list of options, given all the different preferences people have, is very daunting–especially since this is such a major life event. People are essentially transitioning their entire lives, and have saved money over decades or more for this decision.”

How invested are you in the problem?

“I was stuck in Dulles airport for 36 hours when I finally realized how serious this problem was for people. I received a call from an unknown number–it was a woman who had been referred to me from a friend of hers who loved the eRetirements website. She said that while she enjoyed our site, she felt that she had very specific criteria that our algorithm wasn’t capturing. So, I dropped everything I was doing, started researching places that might meet her needs and talking with realtors in our network to narrow down the list. After those efforts, I followed up with her and provided two locations that fit her criteria. She looked into these locations, and agreed they were both a great fit. She is visiting both areas soon to decide which area she will purchase a home in.”

“She was so grateful that she and her husband were finally able to tackle this huge decision. There have been a handful of situations like this one that have made me realize how big of an issue we are solving (and that we need to change our algorithm/user experience to make it more customized-in process as I write this).”

How has prioritizing learning worked in practice?

“When we started Wildfire, Northwestern’s full-time pre-accelerator program, in the summer of 2016, our revenue model was very unclear. We had a range of ideas about the business model and the market, but had no idea who to talk to and how to test them.”

“We quickly learned to embrace an approach of rapidly testing our hypothesis; both those that we had as well as those introduced by others. Any changes and developments we made on the website were viewed through a lens of what we can learn. We started by creating A/B tests with a specific metric in mind to help us determine what our users want, and then analyzed the results to discover our tests revealed.”

“One example of this was a dummy feature we created in which users would pay to talk with local experts on the phone and ask specific questions about a location they wished to learn more about. We then measured how many people requested this service, and contacted those who did to see what features they actually wanted.”

“No one requested this service. We started to reach out to our most loyal users to ask them what they thought about the service, and found two conclusions. First, the service offering itself was not clear, and second, people simply need time. People were very interested in the service and thought it was a great idea, but most stated they would be more interested in approximately six months when they were preparing to visit some of the locations they were most interested in moving to.”

What results did a focus on learning help you achieve?

“Most importantly, the team now has a clearer understanding going forward how we will generate revenue, which is a combination of realtor referrals and retirement community advertisements. From the start of the program to the end, eRetirements saw three times growth in returning users and user engagement on the website is up 40%.”

“Wildfire and a new focused on prioritized learning offered Jared and the team behind eRetirements the tools and skills to identify processes, shift focus when needed, and winnow ideas down to offer a streamlined, user-friendly service with a plan. But like many entrepreneurial ventures, progress is just the beginning and the team is pressing forward to gain even more insight.”

Help eRetirements learn faster by asking loved ones to submit a unique and compelling retirement location to help optimize their service here.

Curious what your dream retirement destination might be? Take the eRetirements free personal assessment here.


Mitchell Posada heads up product at building the future of Marketing Automation. Mitch has spent most of his career launching digital products and helping businesses leverage technology and process innovation to transform brands and increase ROI. Mitch is known for his Product and Growth strategy and execution consulting to dozens of start-ups covering mobile, IoT, digital marketplaces, and SaaS.

Residents Party @ The Garage

Nearing the end of the busy Fall 2016 quarter, The Garage Resident Teams took a well-deserved break from normal Family Dinner programming to enjoy some social time. At this week’s Family Dinner, Residents were invited to bring a friend to The Garage to learn about its offerings, check out the space, and ask questions – and enjoy some Chipotle chips + guac and burritos. Residents showed off their prototypes and working spaces to their friends and even participated in some VR/AR demos in The Garage’s state-of-the-art Makerspace, exclusively available to Resident Teams.

The Garage Resident Teams have accomplished a lot during the Fall quarter at Northwestern, from being featured in the press and participating in pitch competitions to prototyping innovative ideas and bringing their products to market. Here’s a round up of just a few of this quarter’s achievements:

Interested in getting a startup idea off the ground at Northwestern or stopping by The Garage? Learn more about how to get involved here, and be sure to sign up for The Garage Newsletter for updates on our space, our Teams, and our favorite things.


Wildfire: Winter 2017 Teams

The Garage is excited to announce the teams accepted into the first batch of Radical Entrepreneurship with Wildfire.
  • There were 15 applications for up to six spots
  • The teams will be accelerated using the Scrum process
  • Teams will be assigned their own Growth Coach during the quarter
  • Teams will also be supported by students from the Segal Design Institute EDI program who will help the teams with customer discovery and prototyping
  • Demo Day will be held on April 13, where teams will be competing for $8k in prize money, sponsored by Exelon!
ENTREP395 Radical Entrepreneurship Wildfire Teams
Zcruit optimizes the college football recruiting process through predictive analytics, thus saving college football programs time and improving the quality of recruiting classes.

HearYe: Plan less, do more. HearYe is a mobile application that’s designed to organize casual group outings in an efficient way by allowing users to create, share, and communicate outing details on a central platform.


VertigōMetric Dx has developed a retinal-imaging medical device that rapidly helps an ER physician differentiate between a diagnosis of a non-life threatening issue and brainstorm stroke. Diagnosing this issue quickly will lead to tremendously better health outcomes for the patient while saving hospitals nearly a billion dollars annually.VertigoMetric Dxis led by an accomplished physician, a bioengineer, and a Kellogg MBA student.


HotPlate is an app designed to help you decide what to order at restaurants. Users can rate individual menu items, so that it is quick and easy to see the best dishes. HotPlate also allows users to see friends’ ratings, search by specific dish item, and receive tailored recommendations.

NewMoonChicago provides Spectacle Services that pair performance art, mechanical contraptions, and the fundamental elements of an event —from serving food to musical performance— to create new elements that redefine ultra-premium, cutting-edge aesthetics and transform perceptions. From Drones flying guests appetizers to Aerialists pouring champagne, NewMoon provides the fantastical experience guests are seeking and creates memories they never forget.

IFM Featured at TechCrunch Disrupt

On Monday, September 12th, Northwestern senior, Marc Gyongyosi, took the stage at TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield in San Francisco. His startup, IFM, is an autonomous drone technology for the $5 billion warehouse analytics market.

Marc is currently pursuing a degree in computer science. His team members include Siddarth Jain and Nathan Matsuda, both PhD candidates at Northwestern. IFM is currently incubating at The Garage.

Watch his presentation from Disrupt