David Freschmen, a UD alumnus, discussed the formation of his company, FashInvest.

Breaking down barriers

UD President's Forum promotes entrepreneurship, innovation

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8:40 a.m., April 29, 2013--The word “fear” flashed in bold across a screen at the front of the room as University of Delaware President Patrick Harker told attendees at the sixth annual President’s Forum on Innovation and Entrepreneurship that fear was voted the most powerful barrier against innovation and entrepreneurship.

This year’s forum, themed “Breaking Down Barriers,” was held on Thursday, April 18, in Clayton Hall and included presentations by UD alumni entrepreneurs and funding pitches from students, alumni, faculty and staff.

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The event also featured an entrepreneurial exhibition and an award reception for recipients of various monetary prizes for innovative entrepreneurial pitches.

Entrepreneurs from startup companies like CA Advisory, SevOne, FashInvest and Lean Startup Machine participated in panels and discussions throughout the daylong event. They discussed their own battles with fear and other barriers against innovation, as well as how they went about breaking them down and pursuing their goals.

“We’re here today in the name of breaking down barriers,” Harker said. “It’s those barriers that can make adventurous people abandon ingenious ideas.”

Harker discussed the recent launch of the Horn Program in Entrepreneurship and credited 1975 alumnus Charles W. Horn and wife, Patricia, for their $3 million commitment to expand entrepreneurial studies. He said their gift helped to unleash the “pent up innovation” students experience in college and commented that the speakers would help students and audience members better realize how to put their ideas into action without being blocked by any personal barriers. 

Innovation and startup stories

David Freschmen, founder and CEO of FashInvest, a community for emerging growth companies within fashion, retail and branded goods consumer sectors that brings together financing strategies and business expertise within the industry, started off the main part of the day with a brief history of the founding of his company. 

Freschmen, a 1984 UD alumnus, said he wished the Horn Program had been around when he was a student. He said he started out in accounting, but was launched into the fashion finance industry through the skills he acquired at UD. He said that before starting FashInvest, he noticed there was a void in the fashion market place with no place where entrepreneurs could meet to discuss business opportunities, something he sought to correct. 

“I put up a simple post on what was then a very early stage technology called LinkedIn,” Freschmen said. “That post was ‘I’m a venture capitalist. I’m interested in the convergence of the fashion branding goods industry with the financial industry. I’d like to hear your thoughts.’ From that, we got 1,000 email hits, but we linked up with 2,400 people globally.”

FashInvest’s objective was to create the premiere media company in the world, focused on established growth companies among fashion tech companies. Freschmen said in 2012, the company launched its first global industry blog, which is now followed by 10,000 people every day. He said it is the only platform where the fashion industry and financiers can meet to discuss business opportunities and give advice on how to financially support fashion based companies.

Roger Frank, a 1978 UD alumnus and founder and managing director of Innovare Advisors, an alternative investment management company focused on the agribusiness value chain, said he never thought he would ever end up in the finance world. He said he has carved out a particular niche of “social finance” for himself in order to make a difference in people’s lives.

Frank said one must approach being an entrepreneur with an open mind in order to have any chance of succeeding. One problem Frank claimed he often sees in entrepreneurs is an inability to successfully execute their ideas and said entrepreneurs need aid in order to successfully make any of their dreams come to fruition. 

“Entrepreneurs are visionaries, they don’t get things done,” Frank said. “They’re big picture people. I have a CFO at my current organization; he drives me crazy but thank God he’s the CFO and I’m one of the founders. The idea of building a house of cards is easy, it’s all in the execution.”

Other main program speakers included Horn; Cal Amir, a 2001 UD graduate and founder and president of CA Advisory; Tanya Bakalov, a 2004 UD graduate and cofounder and senior vice president of operations at SevOne; Catherine Cooke, cofounder and vice president of brand strategy at MeetMe; Dan Freeman, professor of business administration and director of the Horn Program; Liz Griggs, a 1984 UD graduate and chairman and CEO of NextImage Medical; Trevor Owens, founder of Lean Startup Machine; and Patrick Riley, a 2006 UD graduate and executive director at Global Accelerator Network.

Hen Hatch

The finalists for Hen Hatch, UD’s premier business startup funding competition, presented to a panel of expert judges for a share of a $50,000 prize pool of startup cash and services. 

The judges the finalists fought to impress included Cook, Horn and Brad Bono, founder and CEO of Princeton Hosted Solutions.

Also participating in the judging were Griggs; Steve Friedman, adviser to numerous companies; Thomas Harvey, president of Harvey Hanna and Associates; and Grace Leong, managing partner at Hunter Public Relations. 

After presenting their pitches, the finalists were awarded prizes of varying cash value.

Finalists in the student track were:

  • $3,600 to Anniversary, a mobile app for reliving fun or sentimental moments with family and friends, led by Benjamin Klein and Kenneth Wallach;
  • $3,400 to Bonneterie, a concept for hand-made knitted ear warmers, led by Caroline LaPrise; and
  • $3,000 to Nemesis, a company for aftermarket parts for Audi and Porsche enthusiasts, led by Danielle Whitaker.

Finalists in the alumni, faculty and staff track were:

  • $6,100 to AnCatt, a conductive polymer used as an anti-corrosive coating, led by Sue Wang, Nar Wang and Jianguo Wang;
  • $2,000 to Healio, a mobile app that eliminates the need for most in-person post-surgical wound care follow-up appointments, led by Peter Jackson, Benjamin Arneberg, Gino Inverso, Nathan Ie and Patty Furukawa; and
  • $1,900 to WholesomeOne, a WebMD for holistic medicine, led by Kevin Burke, Greg Wilson, Cristie Ritz-King, Jessica Braun and Kristen Stewart.

Article by Rachel Taylor

Photos by Doug Baker

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