Focus Debate: an EHS student’s take on a debate business

Art Boettge, staff writer

Debate is a recognized high school activity that is centered around competitors doing research on a subject, and then debating said subject against other competitors in a tournament-like setting. A new company founded by Edina High School junior Evan Jiang and his friends called Focus Debate aims to capitalize on the popularity of the activity and provide debaters with vital resources to help them get an edge in the competition. 

Jiang started this company at 3 a.m. during a FaceTime with some of his friends. “We had this idea that books were an underutilized resource in debate, instead of the evidence being typically based on articles from say, the New York Times,” Jiang said. Debaters are required to conduct extensive research on their topics, and having a wide range of resources available to them can help. As they prepare for a tournament. “We thought books could be a resource that debaters could use to flex within round, but also delve deeper into their topic,” Jiang said. Books can offer competitors much more sophisticated information on their topics. 

The process for creating their product starts with the team finding books about the topic. “We read from half a dozen to a dozen books per topic, and from those we would select the two or three that we deem best, and that’s like our main product.” Additionally, the company also provides guidelines with their book packages, which help readers understand the text by highlighting key details and providing summaries. 

Currently, the company acts as a subscription service, where debaters can receive two hand-picked books, the guidelines, exclusive interviews, and an “additional expert reading list” according to Focus Debate

Jiang wanted to create this company because he was both short on money and he and his friends thought they could help fellow debaters. “My friends and I thought that it could revolutionize the debate space, as everyone is very heavily focussed on trying to use articles to win rounds, but if you have an expert who’s been a field scholar for 20 years per say, that could be a compelling reason to immediately shift the direction of the debate,” Jiang said.