Party Round has announced a Facebook product designer as the winner of its BigTech Fellowship.
Lauren Connolly is a single mom who has worked in Big Tech for over a decade.
Her idea is to build a crypto-focused financial literacy platform.
Lauren Connolly just won $50,000, so she quit her job at Facebook.For the past three years, Connolly was working on product design at the soon-to-be metaverse company. She was responsible for helping design the COVID-19, voting, and climate information centers you sometimes see on the app. The scope of her work was 1 billion users, and her designs at times were approved by CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself.Despite her accomplishments, the 30-year-old was tired of working in Big Tech.So she applied for Party Round’s BigTech Fellowship (in partnership with the financial platform MainStreet), which offered Big Tech employees a one-time “no-strings attached” $50,000 grant to quit their job and build a startup — without expectation of receiving equity or repayment. Party Round is a startup offering a fundraising tool for founders and has become known for its viral marketing campaigns.There were 600 applicants, according to Connolly, and she found out on Monday her idea won.”They reached out to me and was like, ‘Congratulations!’ And that’s when I walked into the wall at Bedford Ave. station,” Connolly told Insider.Her winning idea is building a crypto-focused financial-literacy media company with the goal of empowering women and people of color to secure financial freedom. According to a survey of 3,000 crypto holders from the cryptocurrency firm Gemini, 74% of respondents said they are men, and 71% said they are white.”I feel like in crypto or in Web3, you hear a lot of people say things like, ‘We’re all going to make it,'” Connolly said. “But it’s like, we’re all not going to make it if we just perpetuate the same existing systems.”Connolly, a single mom, was playing “Minecraft” with her son when some friends sent her the application on Twitter. She applied on the spot on her phone.”He was like, ‘Mom, I need you to figure out this recipe for the crafting table,'” Connolly said. “And I’m like, on my phone, like, ‘I can’t right now. I’m sowing seed.'”At the time, Connolly was working “all hours of the day, seven days a week” at Facebook, she said. Before her current gig, she worked at other tech giants like Spotify, Yelp, and Mozilla as a product designer.Those are highly competitive positions in companies that pay well. But she took the leap to believe in herself.”I feel like for the same reasons that it makes sense to stay, there’s also the same security to leave,” Connolly said. “When you write it down on paper, you’re like, ‘OK, what am I really afraid of?'”She’s calling her company Lumos because understanding the crypto world is “a lot like moving around in the dark, and as you learn certain things, you’re lighting up the way,” she said.She’s also cofounding the company with Maya Bakhai, a 27-year-old whom she met at a Twitter crypto meetup. Bakhai previously worked for several years at the famed basketball player Kevin Durant’s venture fund Thirty Five Ventures.The duo plan to use this grant to build a demo cryptocurrency called a “penny token,” according to Connolly, which lets users learn to buy and sell cryptocurrency for under $1.”Someone once asked me, ‘Do you want to get rich building something for 10 million people — or 100 million people?'” Connolly said. “I was just like, ‘Dude, what are you talking about?’ Like, forget about me. I want to make 100 million people rich.”