Twenty-nine students pitched business ideas ranging from portable charger kiosks to loans for immigrants taking citizenship tests at the StartupHoyas’ annual Rocket Pitch Competition on Tuesday evening in the Rafik B. Hariri Building.
Eric Wu (SFS ’17) took home the $1,000 first prize for his business pitch of the mobile application AudioFork, which provides audio-guided recipes and recognizes voice commands to provide users with hands-free cooking guidance. Wu also received a design workshop from the competition’s sponsor, EchoUser.
“I always had trouble in the kitchen with messy hands and cookbooks or iPads,” Wu said.
Scott Goldstein’s (SFS ’16) pitch for Smart Toilet, a toilet that conserves water, won him second place and $500 at the competition.
“The goal is to save water by customizing the amount of water that flushes depending on the weight of a deposit,” Goldstein said.
Dara Ladjevardian (COL ’19) and Kamar Mack (COL ’19) received the People’s Choice Award with a $250 prize for their startup OneTouch. Referred to by its creators as “the Uber for charity,” OneTouch is an application that allows users to easily feed people in need by connecting their credit cards to the app.
“Basically, you’re walking down the street and you see a homeless person and you want to help him or her out, but you don’t have cash on you,” Ladjevardian said. “Or, even if you had the money, you want to make sure he or she spends it on the right things, not drugs or alcohol. So instead, you drop a pinpoint and a driver comes and delivers a meal.”
The app would also allow users to randomly donate to someone in their local area and then receive a photo a few minutes later of the person who received a meal, according to Mack.
When users donate meals, they also receive points that can be redeemed with participating restaurants for predetermined food or drink items.
Prior to Tuesday evening’s final pitch, contestants had to post 30-second videos of their pitches on the event’s Facebook page and submit a Google form detailing the idea. From there, 29 finalists were selected and invited to attend the Founders Round Table on Nov. 13 in preparation for the Rocket Pitch Competition. Finally, at the competition, contestants were allowed two minutes to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges and the greater audience.
A panel of 14 judges ranked the winning pitches. The panel included MeetMe co-founder Catherine Cook (MSB ’11) and Waveborn CEO Mike Malloy.
StartupHoyas, founded in 2009 by director Jeff Reid, is an organization within the McDonough School of Business that offers young entrepreneurs on campus valuable coaching and opportunities to develop and formulate ideas. For Rocket Pitch, student competitors are allowed to enter individually or as part of a team to pitch a potential business venture. There is no cost for students to enter the competition.
“Learning to evaluate the feasibility of a startup idea, to pitch and persuade others to join you, to deal with setbacks and failures and risk and ambiguity — these are all valuable ‘life skills’ that are learned through the courses and experiences offered by StartupHoyas,” Reid said.
StartupHoyas also hosts events like the Rocket Pitch Competition to give students valuable experience and exposure. This year’s Rocket Pitch Competition consisted of multiple rounds.
Goldstein said that unlike many entrepreneurship competitions, the Rocket Pitch competition was collaborative rather than cutthroat.
“People were wishing each other luck beforehand and congratulating each other after,” Goldstein said. “The environment was very constructive and supportive.”
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