On November 15, 2018, 250 attendees filled Frank Auditorium in Van Munching Hall to watch the Pitch Dingman competition semifinals, chaired by Robert G. Hisaoka ’79. The event features undergraduate, graduate and PhD student founders of 10 exemplary startups across the University of Maryland, College Park. Each team who advanced to the semifinals was vetted through a quarterfinals round by a judges panel of alumni entrepreneurs. Through Hisaoka’s generous donation, each semifinalist is given a $500 award and named a Hisaoka Entrepreneur, providing them access to funding and mentorship regardless of the results of the competition.
This year’s Pitch Dingman competition semifinals was a featured event in the center’s promotion of Global Entrepreneurship Week. The caliber of pitches at the semifinals was emblematic of UMD’s strong emphasis on entrepreneurship education.
Below is the list of finalists, who each received a $500 award from competition sponsor SECU. Each startup will pitch at the Pitch Dingman competition finals, where they will compete for the David & Robyn Quattrone Grand Prize of $15,000. The finals event will take place on March 7, 2019, in the Grand Ballroom of Stamp Student Union.
Aurora Tights- Jasmine Snead ’19
Aurora Tights designs performance apparel for dancers and skaters in the full-color spectrum to support inclusivity.
crepkitchen - Mathew Steininger ’22
crepkitchen provides key information to customers looking to buy limited edition sneakers and clothing before they sell out.
OpenPoll- Zachary Wynegar ’19
OpenPoll connects end users to decision makers through an engaging and personalized web and mobile polling platform.
Solr Tech - Alexei Onufrak ’20
Solr Tech has created a unique solar-powered charging station that can be retro-fitted to any patio umbrella.
Synapto- Dhruv Patel ’20, Chris Look ’20, Anoop Patel ’20, David Boegner ’20, Megha Guggari ’20
Synapto uses novel AI models and portable EEG to make Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis more accessible and efficient.
Congratulations to the remaining semifinalists on their impressive performance:
AlgenAir - Dan Fucich, PhD ’20
AlgenAir creates desktop bioreactors that combat the problem of indoor air pollution by using algae to clean the air we breathe.
Code&Play LLC - Felipe De Padua, MS ’19
Code& Play is an online coding school for kids and teenagers featuring classes with real engineers in real time.
Dauntless - Caitlyn Singam ’20
Dauntless is designing easy-to-read labels for hazardous medications that better communicate their danger if improperly handled.
Olympus Projects - Peter Robinson ’19, Zubin Gadhoke ’19 - Winner of the Audience Choice Award for $500
Olympus Projects looks to empower music artists in the digital age by providing them with managing and consulting services.
Pearl Long Term Care Solutions, Inc.- Myisha Gatson, MBA ’19
Pearl Long Term Care Solutions, Inc. uses fintech to create a platform for consumers to lock-in long-term care costs.
The semifinalists who competed but did not advance to the finals receive a $500 Hisaoka Entrepreneurs Award, provided by Hisaoka.
Each semifinalist was required to perform a 4-minute venture pitch followed by a 2 minute Q&A session from a panel of judges, including:
Maurice Boissiere '89 - Founder, Higher Calling Ventures
Maurice is a startup coach and consultant with more than 20 years of product leadership experience at early-stage ventures. He is an Adjunct Professor at UMD and a member of the Dingman Center Board of Advisors.
Benjamin Khakshoor '18 - Product Security Engineer, Flatiron Health
As a student at UMD, Benjamin Khakshoor and his co-founder Aaron Bloch ’17 launched CourseHunter, the second place winner of the 2017 Pitch Dingman Competition. Khakshoor also won Student Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2017 Rudy Awards.
Juliana Neelbauer, JD '12 - Senior Associate Attorney, Drew Eckl & Farnham
Juliana Neelbauer is an attorney and business ops executive with more than a decade of experience in growth management, team building, contracts negotiation and more.
Polly Vail - Founder, Turnstyle Partners
Polly Vail is an Independent Consultant for startups and social impact clients. She is a member of the Dingman Center board of advisors and won Mentor of the Year at the 2017 Rudy Awards.
Adam VanWagner '11, MPS '15 - Technical Program Manager, Amazon Web Services
As a student at UMD, VanWagner founded MyFridgeRental.com, a dorm-sized refrigerator rental service. He competed in the 2011 Cupid's Cup student business competition and won first place and $15,000.