Each year, the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship hosts the Pitch Dingman Competition — the University of Maryland’s business competition. Hundreds of students, faculty, alumni and VIPs will gather to watch top student entrepreneurs pitch their businesses to an expert panel of judges to compete for a total of $30,000 in seed funding.
Pitch Dingman applications open at the beginning of the academic year, with a short quarterfinals phase in late September. A vetting process from alumni entrepreneur judges leads to a selection of 10 semifinalists. At the Pitch Dingman semifinals on Nov. 22, the founders of the 10 semifinalist teams pitched to judges in a classroom full of students taking entrepreneurship courses at the Robert H. Smith School of Business.
The final round on March 10 in the Grand Ballroom of Stamp Student Union will give attendees an opportunity to meet up-and-coming UMD student entrepreneurs at a Founders Showcase from 5-6 p.m. before the five finalists take the stage starting at 6 p.m.
These five startups and their founders reflect a diverse range of backgrounds and industries:
Dan Fucich, a 2020 PhD candidate in marine estuary and environmental science, has teamed up with Kelsey Abernathy, a 2020 PhD candidate in environmental and molecular biology, to launch AlgenAir, a startup that produces an algae-powered air purifier called the aerium that cleans dust and allergens from the air and produces as much oxygen as 25 houseplants.
Daniel Raithel ’20, a senior economics major and a veteran is the founder of BraceLint, a completely flat, single-use, and patent-pending version of a lint-roller that offers more portability for on-the-go needs. Raithel participated in the Dingman Center’s summer 2019 Terp Startup accelerator cohort.
Door Robotics, a drone startup launched by public health sciences senior Josh Ermias, class of 2020, is offering a more affordable drone that comes with an integrated virtual reality camera system and easy out-of-the-box software for hobbyists and experts alike.
Three A. James Clark School of Engineering seniors, Charles Grody, class of 2020 (mechanical engineering), Jack Sturtevant, class of 2020 (computer engineering), and Tuvia Rappaport, class of 2020 (aerospace engineering), lead the team behind Hydraze, an improved automatic toilet flushing mechanism that’s currently being piloted in the Clarice Performing Arts Center and aims to save institutions millions of dollars in wasted water. Hydraze previously won last year’s Do Good Challenge and Hult at the University of Maryland, and will be competing at the Hult Prize regionals in Toronto in April.
Last but not least, junior marketing major Caroline Ta, class of 2021, is the founder of SweetsbyCaroline, a growing catering business that specializes in French macarons and cakes. Ta was recently accepted into the spring 2020 cohort of the Dingman Center’s Ladies First founders course.
The Dingman Center's managing director Holly DeArmond, MBA ’17, offered her comments on the competition:
“Pitch Dingman Competition showcases our most dedicated student entrepreneurs from all across campus. These student entrepreneurs have spent the past three months growing their venture and honing their pitch. The winning team will need to deliver a strong pitch and convince the judges they have the traction needed to take the business to the next phase of growth.”
David and Robyn Quattrone, Parsons Ventures, Inc. and SECU generously donated the sum of $30,000 in funding, of which $15,000 is allotted to first place, with additional monetary prizes available for second place, third place, and audience choice.
To determine which of the finalists will receive funding, a panel of judges assesses each startup’s current level of success, plan for using the funds and their overall growth potential. The judges panel is filled with entrepreneurs and innovators who fully understand the needs and challenges that seed-stage startups face.
This year’s panel features the following judges:
David Quattrone MBA ’05, Co-Founder & CTO, Cvent
Quattrone was responsible for the design and development of Cvent’s original event management and online registration software, as well as all of Cvent’s subsequent product releases, updates and redesigns. Quattrone currently serves on the Dingman Center's board of advisors.
Matt Fishlinger ’07, Founder & COO, Gramercy Risk Holdings, LLC
Matt Fishlinger is the founder of Gramercy Risk Holdings, LLC, a sophisticated, blue-chip management company that provides a complete suite of operational services to insurance enterprises. Fishlinger is currently serving on the Dingman Center's board of advisors.
Aurelia Flores, Founder & CEO, Perfect Digital Connect
Aurelia Flores is CEO of Perfect Digital Connect, a company that provides business consulting and digital marketing strategy. She practiced intellectual property, corporate, and government contract law for nearly twenty years before founding Perfect Digital Connect.
Tom Parsons ’93, MBA ’10, President, Parsons Ventures, Inc.
Tom Parsons is the president of Parsons Ventures, Inc, and owns B&R Associates, an automotive equipment company in Gaithersburg, MD. Parsons previously served as a senior management advisor with DARCARS Automotive Group and has established himself as a respected leader in the automotive equipment industry.
Angela Singleton, Director, TEDCO Builder Fund
Angela is a business mentor to technology startups and director of TEDCO’s Builder Fund, an inclusive fund that assembles executive management support in addition to funding to help more diverse founders gain access to smart capital. Prior to joining TEDCO, Singleton invented, patented and commercialized a footwear technology.
Becky Smith, EVP, Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer, SECU
Becky Smith is the executive vice president, chief strategy and marketing officer for SECU and is responsible for the strategy and coordination of SECU’s internal and external communications. Smith’s background includes 20+ years of agency and client-side experience.
As the University of Maryland's largest student business competition, Pitch Dingman Competition brings together students, faculty and staff from all across campus in addition to local business leaders in an impressive display of entrepreneurial spirit. The Dingman Center hopes that the event will not only lead to success for the competition finalists but will also inspire and empower future entrepreneurs and changemakers to make the leap from an idea to a venture.