Southlake-based Allen Zhou decided to create a nonprofit with his brother Anthony and his friend Aditi Merchant after trying to figure out what he could do to help people during the ongoing pandemic. In an attempt to solve the issue of loneliness due to COVID-19 forcing many people into social isolation, he launched Big & Mini.
“I saw so many people struggling around the world, but without money or medical expertise, I wasn’t sure what I could do to help,” Allen told Dallas Innovates.
Now, the registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization works to connect young people with seniors through video calls.
Anyone who wants to participate in Big & Mini can sign up online to receive training upon becoming verified. Users will then get matched with a Big, which tends to be an older person, or a Mini, which tends to be a younger person, depending on who they are.
Once the match is confirmed, the two can schedule a video call to meet virtually.
Allen Zhou and Merchant are currently students at the University of Texas at Austin, while Anthony Zhou is still in high school. Allen is the CEO of Big & Mini, while Merchant is the COO and Anthony is the CTO.
After Big & Mini was featured on The TODAY Show last month, Allen says it gained over 500 sign-ups in one weekend. The platform currently has more than 1,000 users from 47 states and 18 countries, but Allen believes it will become grow even bigger.
“It’s great to see family and friends and even strangers being super excited about the work we are doing,” he says.
So far, Big & Mini has received grants from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation and Techstars and has also been given support through grassroots donations, but has not created an official fundraising campaign yet. The nonprofit has also received support from UT Austin for its development.
Big & Mini plans to continue scaling quickly and developing its infrastructure with a streamlined system, as well as release a mobile app to make the platform more accessible and user friendly.
“We have spent the past four months working tirelessly developing this platform with ReactJS and AWS,” Allen says. “Honestly, we wake up and go to bed thinking about how we can improve.”
Quincy Preston contributed to this report.
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