MIT / Solve
The social network and companion website for the annual Solve competition at MIT.
According to MIT, "Solve is an initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a mission to drive innovation to solve world challenges. Solve is a marketplace for social impact innovation. Through open innovation Challenges, Solve finds incredible tech-based social entrepreneurs all around the world. Solve then brings together MIT’s innovation ecosystem and a community of Members to fund and support these entrepreneurs to help them drive lasting, transformational impact."
In other words, Solve is essentially a venture capital competition with a focus on doing good rather than profit generation. Every year, MIT produces a series of challenge areas for teams to focus on, solutions to those challenges are submitted by the general public, both the public and other solvers are given the opportunity to comment and vote on solutions, and then a panel of judges decide the winners.
I was recruited to the Solve project by a good friend and old colleague Nate Luzod, who was managing a team for The Atlantic at the time. My job was to design an overall technical plan, develop the Solve website and social network, and get it deployed to production.
One requirement that MIT had was to maintain the website themselves after launch. This limited us to using PHP for the backend, because that is what their staff were comfortable with. Given this, Nate and I both agreed that the Laravel framework was natural choice for the project. Laravel paired with MySQL gave us the flexibility that was required to implement the complex functionality–of what was essentially a social network–along with the modern conveniences the framework provides.
The Solve website launch was massively successful. The number of solutions that were submitted more than doubled. Public engagement on solutions flourished. The refreshed website and brand helped attract celebrities such as Yo-Yo Ma and Justin Trudeau to promote Solve. MIT continues to operate the version of Solve that I built for them, along with some additions of their own, such as the Solver Map.
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