As a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Heidi Allstop found herself facing a number of personal problems such as homesickness, breakups, and career decisions. She knew she needed help, but she didn’t want to bother her friends or go to a counselor. While sitting on a bench outside the university’s Helen C. White Library one day, Allstop saw other students with “heads down, headphones in, basically ignoring each other” and realized that she wasn’t alone. Hence, she decided to start Spill, a forum where students can share their troubles. After making a Google site, she invited students to email in their problems. More than a hundred responded within a week, with 10 of them asking about leadership positions. After a few months, Spill was a popular student organization.
When Allstop took an entrepreneurial class at the UW School of Business later on, she created a startup model for Spill, letting students spill anonymously and receive replies from five peers who were dealing with the same challenges. With Professor Phil Greenwood as her mentor, Allstop joined the Burill Business Competition, where Spill was named the most investment-ready company.
During her senior year, Allstop was offered a high-paying consulting job opportunity. She turned it down at the advice of her professors and started to work on Spill full time. She then received an invitation to the TechStars program in Boston, allowing her to secure seed funding and build her professional network. In January 2012, Spill beat 600 companies from 50 countries to win the Global Social Venture Competition.
Today, Spill has student chapters at several campuses across the US and provides universities with information about their student body’s health. The startup has helped prevent 21 suicides so far. The social support website is now open to non-students as well, making it easy for anyone to vent anonymously online.