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Startup madness pitch party

Student teams pitch their best business ideas

The University of Delaware’s Horn Program in Entrepreneurship gave students the opportunity to “slam-dunk” their venture pitches at last week’s Startup Madness Pitch Party. The pitch competition, which was March Madness-themed, promised a night with “no fouls, just fun.”

This edition of the Horn Program’s annual spring pitch competition saw 16 teams of UD students pitching their business ideas to a live audience and panel of accomplished judges in a fun, relaxed and welcoming environment.

Adam Stager, one of the night’s winners, said “The pitch parties held at the VDC are a great opportunity for people all over campus to share their ideas. It is the perfect environment to ‘break the ice’ for a new idea.”

The Pitch Party had a game day buffet complete with sliders and fries, a concession stand and energy drinks. The audience also had the chance to predict the winners of the competition by filling out an NCAA-style bracket. Participants with the highest scoring brackets won gift cards to Main Street restaurants.

Winners Palina Ivanova and Rachel Weinberger were awarded $700 in Venture Development Center (VDC) cash to be used toward the development of their company, Revive. Revive is a mobile platform that is on a mission to help college women constantly update their wardrobe by finding a purpose for the clothing they no longer wear. 

"Pitching at Startup Madness this past Thursday was a great experience,” said Weinberger. “It was so rewarding to see positive responses and get feedback on everything we are hoping to accomplish with Revive. Every opportunity has been a learning tool for us, and I am so excited to see what happens as we move forward!" 

Ivanova echoed her partner’s statement about the night. “We had a great time pitching our idea and responding to the questions from the judges. Pitching in a competition like this is always helpful because it lets you practice your presentation skills and allows you to get creative since you only have 90 seconds to persuade the judges and audience of your idea. It was also a great opportunity for our team because it prepared us further for our semi-final rounds of Hen Hatch!"

Before the final round of deliberation, the judges heard from the top seven presenters, along with an audience choice winner picked by the crowd. The “elite 8” teams had to answer predetermined random questions that were designed to showcase the pitchers’ ability to think quickly.

Ultimately, second place went to Jonathan Wood of Block Hire, third place went to Abhishek Iyer of Solabrid, and fourth place went to Adam Stager of Virtual Home. The prizes for second, third, and fourth place were $300, $150, and $50, respectively. Each of the “Final Four” winners was also given the ability to apply for the VentureOn program.

Block Hire fills a wide talent gap in the multibillion dollar Blockchain industry by training software developers to work with this new technology.

Solabrid aims to make HIT solar cells a “hit” in the market.

Virtual Home generates immersive, interactive home environments representing all available options for customers buying new or upgrading existing homes.

When speaking about the environment of the pitch party, Jonathan Wood said, “The event is a great way for anyone to practice pitching, even with absolutely no experience. With no barrier to entry, the event is accessible to anyone, and in exchange for putting yourself out there for only 90 seconds, you get amazing feedback, connections and experience. I would definitely recommend the Horn Program's pitch competitions for anyone looking to start their own venture!”

Audience choice winner Bryce Fender was happy that he had the opportunity to share his venture Wilminvest. “My partner, Joel, and I were ecstatic to see that the audience believed in our venture’s mission as much as we do. It’s nice knowing that we’re not alone in our dream to make the world a better place. Joel and I truly value everyone involved in the Horn Program and the opportunities they provide for us.”

Daphne Vantine, one of the hosts of the night’s event and special program assistant for the Horn Program, called the event a success.

"Startup Madness was our best competition yet,” Vantine said. “Not only must we thank the entire Horn Program staff for working together on this event, but also our incredible judges Hendrik-Jan Francke, Amira Idris and Jeff Turi. It was great seeing the three of them work together as a team to provide invaluable, expert feedback to our participants.

“Events like these make me so proud to work for and in be involved in one of UD's finest programs."

The pitches were evaluated by a panel of accomplished judges:

• Hendrik-Jan Francke, owner of Bright Orange Thread, creator of Chunkify;

• Amira Idris, UD alumna, CEO and founder of Vibrating Therapeutic Apparel, Delaware Innovation Week’s 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year; and

•Jeff Turi, experience as senior product leader and finance director at Fortune 500 companies, board member of Delaware Founders Initiative.

About the Horn Program in Entrepreneurship

The Horn Program in Entrepreneurship ignites imaginations and empowers world changers through educational offerings that emphasize experiential learning, evidence-based entrepreneurship and active engagement with entrepreneurs and other members of the broader entrepreneurial ecosystem. Through participation in Horn Program offerings, students gain the knowledge, skills, personal capacities, experiences, connections and access to resources needed to successfully manifest innovation and thrive in the rapidly changing world. 




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