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UMD Student Startups Vie for $30K in Pitch Dingman Competition, Chaired By Robert Hisaoka

Feb 21, 2019
Entrepreneurial Spirit

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Student founders of five University of Maryland startups are gearing up to compete in the final round of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship’s top business competition, the Pitch Dingman Competition. The Dingman Center at the Robert H. Smith School of Business hosts the annual event, to be held this year on March 7, 2019, in the Grand Ballroom of Maryland’s Stamp Student Union. More than 500 students, faculty, alumni and VIPs are expected to attend 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. The competition is chaired by UMD Distinguished Alumnus Robert G. Hisaoka ’79, whose generous donation created more opportunities for student entrepreneurs to receive funding, guidance and mentorship.

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 led to a selection of 10 semifinalists. At the Pitch Dingman Semifinals on Nov. 15, 2018, the field was narrowed to five finalist teams, who became the second cohort of Hisaoka Entrepreneurs. As part of the program, they participated in coaching and workshops to further accelerate their ventures.

Attendees of the final competition on March 7 will have 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.

The five finalist startups are:

  • Aurora Tights, a company that makes performance sports apparel for women of all skin tones and sizes, led by Jasmine Snead ’19 and her alumni co-founders Imani Rickerby ’17 and former Pitch Dingman finalist Sydney Parker ’18
  • crepkitchen, a go-to site for “sneakerheads” looking to track down sale information on limited edition sneakers, led by computer science major Mathew Steininger ’22
  • OpenPoll, an interactive web and mobile polling platform to collect reliable opinion data, launched by Zachary Wynegar ’19
  • Solr Tech, a solar-powered charging station that can retrofit any patio umbrella, invented by founder Alex Onufrak ’20
  • Synapto, a device that uses novel AI and portable EEG to streamline Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis, developed by founders Dhruv Patel ’20, Christopher Look ’20, Anoop Patel ’20, David Boegner ’20 and Megha Guggari ’20

“Pitch Dingman Competition showcases our most dedicated student entrepreneurs from all across campus,” said Holly DeArmond, MBA ’17, Dingman Center managing director. “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.” 

Along with Hisaoka, alumnus David Quattrone and his wife Robyn and credit union SECU generously donated to fund the competition and the $30,000 prize pool, of which $15,000 is allotted for first prize, with additional monetary prizes available for second place, third place and audience choice.

A panel of judges will assess each startup’s current level of success, plan for using the funds and their overall growth potential. This year’s panel features:

  • 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.
  • Cassie Costin, Community Market Leader, SECU
    Costin has over 18 years of financial services experience, with 10 of those years being spent in the credit union industry. She primarily serves Prince George’s, Anne Arundel and Baltimore county businesses and residents. As a representative of competition sponsor company SECU, she brings experience from watching many past competitions to the judge’s table.
  • Bill Boyle ’80, Founder, FiberGate Inc. and Chair, Dingman Center Board of Advisors
    Boyle founded FiberGate, Inc., a Washington D.C. metro area provider of Dark Fiber services. He ran the company for 17 years and successfully exited in the fall of 2012. Currently, he is acting chairman of the Dingman Center Board of Advisors, and invests and works with startup companies through the Dingman Center Angels.
  • Gloria Jacobovitz, Technology Manager, Applied Physics Laboratory
    Jacobovitz is an entrepreneur, angel investor and technology manager. She has over 20 years of experience in research, technology based startups and entrepreneurship, as well as Fortune 500 companies worldwide. She is the founder of four technology based startups, and is a member of the Dingman Center Board of Advisors.

As UMD’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.

For more information and to register, visit the website

About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty master's, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.