Student Teams Win Cash Prizes for Entrepreneurial Ideas
This year’s Launch It business idea competition was the culmination of several months of ideation, exploration and mentorship by alumni with students from a range of majors.
Inspired by the charge from PwC Global Chair Bob Moritz ’85 to students last spring to take advantage of the time and opportunities afforded to upskill during the COVID-19 pandemic, School of Business Dean Dr. Prabakar Kothandaraman developed the Innovation Challenge, a virtual workspace where students, faculty, staff and alumni collaboratively brainstormed ideas to solve business or social programs while building entrepreneurial skills.
The program began with the ideation stage in July, followed by the venture stage in August and the “pitch” stage in September. During this time, students were partnered with alumni mentors who provided guidance and feedback as the students developed their business ideas.
Ed Alberts M’92 M’97, CEO and leader of multiple businesses, including the corporate sponsor of the first-place prize, Wired, served as the main sponsor of the Innovation Challenge as well as a coach and mentor to students in the challenge.
The Innovation Challenge led to the virtual Launch It competition on Oct. 30, in which 13 student teams each had exactly 5 minutes to pitch their ideas before a panel of judges and more than 100 attendees, who were then invited to vote for the “crowd favorite.”
The ideas ranged from a monthly subscription-based, chocolates-of-the-world box to a coffee shop, to several apps that offered such services as emergency assistance in a car accident, an online community that promotes positive body image for women of color, and a fashion and clothing marketplace.
The winners of the 2020 Launch It competition were:
• First-place prize of $2,500, sponsored by Wired, to meteorology major Dan Maslowski ’21 for the start-up “SWTRS” (Severe Weather Threat Ranking System), coached by Mike Colucci ’12
• Second-place prize of $1,500, sponsored by Wegmans, to business administration major Keith Loh ’20 M’21 for the “Composting Initiative,” coached by Tucker Sholtes ’15
• Third-place prize of $1,000, sponsored by Sherwin Williams, to human-computer interaction major Mairna Yousef M’22 for “Audio Guidance for the Blind,” coached by Erin Nelson ’09
• Crowd Favorite prize of $300 to Nicole Noel ’24 for “Networking App,” coached by Jake Berg ’04
A special thank you to the alumni who served as mentors and judges: Ed Alberts M’92 M’97, Phil Alfaro ’85, Paul Austin ’89, Jake Berg ’04, Mike Colucci ’12, Bridget Curran ’92, Mike DeCandido ’87, Jocelyn Egan ’84, Tim Fitzpatrick ’93, Aunree Houston ’00, Ron Klein ’90, Erin Nelson ’09, Paloma Sarkar M’11, Tucker Sholtes ’15, Dennis Shuler ’78, Jordan Shutts ’17 and Bill Testa ’87.
Launch It business idea competition began in 2017 to encourage students interested in entrepreneurship and to nurture the business start-up ecosystem on campus. Often considered to be the college’s own version of Shark Tank, the competition involves mentorship and coaching by alumni before students compete for a chance to win seed money for their idea.
If you would like to get involved in this project, please email LaunchIt@oswego.edu, or download the Innovation Challenge app at engage.oswego.edu.
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