A better job search system. Destroyed iPhones. Email without boundaries. Bacon. Those were some of the business ideas from five student businesses who went head-to-head for $3,500 in funding in the fall Pitch Dingman Competition, Thursday, Nov. 21 at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.
In the end, SellMyOldTech.Com ($2,000 first prize) came out on top after pitching a panel of judges and an audience of students, faculty, staff and alumni. QuickMailCheck captured second place ($1,000) and the Audience Choice award ($500).
The competition was the highlight of the Smith School’s celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week, the world’s largest celebration of innovators and job creators who launch startups that bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and expand human welfare.
"Throughout Global Entrepreneurship Week, the Dingman Center hosted and partnered on eight different events on campus and across the region," said Elana Fine, managing director of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship, host and organizer of the competition. "All of these events and programs furthered our mission to build a community that discovers, equips, connects and celebrates entrepreneurs. The Pitch Dingman Competition accomplished all four by highlighting five strong finalists, coaching them on their business models and pitches, connecting them with distinguished judges and our board of advisors and celebrating their initiative, passion and creativity in front of an audience of over 260 people."
Each team delivered a six-minute pitch followed by a three-minute Q&A with judges. Unlike ordinary Pitch Dingman Competitions, held throughout the year, this competition featured impressive judges, including Alex Triantis, Dean of the Smith School; Tari Cash, Under Armour; Amy Millman, Springboard Enterprises; and Smith School alumnus Lane Wiggers, Cordam Group. The line-up was led by Timothy Chi, CEO of WeddingWire. Chi delivered a keynote address before the finalists took to the stage to pitch.
“I would really encourage everyone to enjoy the journey, to stop and take a breath at times and look back at all that you’ve accomplished every step of the way,” Chi told the entrepreneurs in the audience. “That for me has been one of the most rewarding things about being an entrepreneur.”
Chi founded WeddingWire less than five years ago, and the platform has become the largest online marketplace connecting local merchants with engaged couples. The site offers great a great marketing platform for merchants and vendor recommendations, local business reviews, personal websites and online planning tools for engaged couples. Previously, Chi co-founded Blackboard Inc. in 1998, helping to grow the company to more than 600 employees and a valuation of more than $750 Million.
Chi and all of the judges were very impressed with the creativity and passion all of the teams demonstrated on stage. “It was very clear to every one of us that you all saw an opportunity or experienced something from a personal pain that could connect you with it at a very deep and emotional level and turned it into something really, really neat.”
He also offered entrepreneurs some constructive criticism: “Think bigger in general, be a little bit more bold, don’t sell yourself short when you’re really thinking about how to get to market and how big this opportunity really could be. There’s a lot of different ways to get to market,” Chi said. “You have to take risks and put it out there to really grow.”
Bacon Barbell / Toni Zhang: Bacon Barbell makes tank tops for gym bros. The founder has designed tank tops that accentuate the muscles lifters work so hard to gain.
Kivvik / Leon Nwankwo: Kivvik plans to revolutionize the job search industry by establishing a user-friendly system that improves compatibility between employers and professionals.
Pride Shorts / Ian Moritz: Pride Shorts combine classic khaki shorts with college pride patterned embroideries creating clothing that incorporates college spirit with everyday lifestyle.
QuickMailCheck / Sam Feldman: This service allows “dumb phone” owners to access e-mail without Internet. The service works 100% through text and picture messages.
SellMyOldTech.com / Harrison Baum: This startup provides the fastest and easiest way to sell old or broken smartphones. The team erases the phone and disassembles it to use the parts in another device.