This startup wants to help high schoolers write a great college entrance essay

Essay Mentors founder Barak Rosenbloom

Essay Mentors founder Barak Rosenbloom at the TechCrunch Meetup in Seattle. Photos via Kevin Lisota.

Marijuana delivery. A fitness tracking app. And a jobs marketplace for former military personnel.

Those were just a few of the ideas presented Thursday night at the TechCrunch Meetup in Seattle, a fast-paced pitch off in which nine entrepreneurs were given 60 seconds to convince judges of their promise.

TC-Pitch-Off

Vet Commander is looking to match veterans with great jobs.

But, at the end of the day, it was an Issaquah startup that’s designed a method to help high school kids craft the perfect college essay that took home top honors, earning a table at the TechCrunch Disrupt event in San Francisco.

Essay Mentors — founded by leadership consultant Barak Rosenbloom — is planning to launch this fall.

“We’ve taken our process and modified it so it can be delivered digitally and scaleably to the millions of students a year who apply for college,” said Rosenbloom, adding that potential rivals such as Kaplan and Khan Academy have not yet cracked the nut.

The entrepreneur compared Essay Mentors to Intuit’s Turbo Tax program, but in this case simulating what it is like to work with a mentor who specializes in writing.

Madrona Venture Group’s Julie Sandler, one of the four judges, said she liked the idea. “It is a underserved market right now,” she said.

It’s an odd idea, and it left some of the audience scratching their heads. After all, isn’t the idea behind a college essay that it comes from the student’s gut?

“My philosophy and it is consistent with what college admissions’ officers say: They want an essay to be in the student’s voice, to really be of who the student is. For example, an essay might start out with: ‘I spent five years as camper and then became a counselor and learned all sorts of great things.’ That’s really boring. It is really different to say: ‘I lost it when Darius peed in the girls’ cabin.’ That really captures attention. But it is always in their voice. There are some other consultants, but if you look at the student essays, they are all the same format. Ours are all unique voices and unique stories.”

Canary co-founder

Canary co-founder Josiah Tullis wins over the crowd

The second place prize went to veterans’ job marketplace Vet Commander, while the audience choice winner was marijuana delivery app Canary. (See GeekWire’s post earlier today: “These college students are building an Uber for marijuana delivery.”)

Canary founders Megh Vakharia and Josiah Tullis — who met through The University of Washington’s Lavin Entrepreneurship Program — certainly gave the most entertaining talk of the night.

“Raise your hand if you smoke pot,” yelled Tullis as he started his 60-second pitch. He later delivered two of the best one-liners of the night what he dubbed an on-demand mobile service for marijuana delivery: “We are delivering green to make green.”

Asked when the service might be available and any potential regulatory issues, Tullis noted:

“Hopefully, by late summer you will be able to whip out your iPhone and get your weed.”