An Insider View of spark, UMD’s First Idea Festival


Lakshmi in the front right in a photo with her spark team, “Steam Dream.”

by: Lakshmi Shyamakrishnan

As someone who is unsure of what she wants to do after college, I’ve had to be a bit experimental in the activities I pursue. I was already in the Smith School of Business, but I did not know where my talents or interests lay within the department. I decided to do something I had never been comfortable with, which was to just approach someone and ask for ideas. I caught up with one of my mentors in the Smith School, Ms. Kristin LaRiviere, and spoke with her about my dilemma. She encouraged me to experiment with entrepreneurship, the next step of which was to visit Dingman Fridays at the Dingman Center. These walk-in office hours were created especially for innovative and entrepreneurial students like me, who were unsure of how to carry on with an idea once it’s been hatched. I met with Ms. Sara Herald, Associate Director of Social Entrepreneurship, who introduced me to the event, spark: Where Fearless Ideas Start, which took place from Friday, October 7th to Saturday, October 8th. spark was a way for me to expand upon my talents and see if I was really cut out to be an entrepreneur. All the participants seemed eager and willing to start their projects as quickly as possible, but first we had to learn the basics.

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spark: Where Fearless Ideas Start

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Last Friday was the start of something new and extraordinary at the University of Maryland: spark: Where Fearless Ideas Start, a two-day idea festival co-hosted by the Dingman Center and Startup Shell featuring design-thinking and brainstorming activities that encouraged students to find solutions to problems they want to solve. spark has filled an essential niche at UMD by providing students who are interested in entrepreneurship but haven’t yet founded a venture with a means to discover and explore how their passions can translate into business ideas.

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The Rise of Social Enterprise: A Review of “Not Business As Usual”

by: Abraham Sidibe

This past week, the Dingman Center partnered with the Center for Social Value Creation to host a movie screening of “Not Business As Usual”, an informative documentary created by Institute B in 2014 about the transformation of the business world from capitalist to conscious capitalist.  The movie told the stories of several social entrepreneurs who are bringing humanity back into business. Institute B is an entrepreneur accelerator for businesses that put profit and societal value on equal footing as profits. They develop entrepreneurs by providing education, consulting and funding. They are also the same people who helped shape the business cultures of Starbucks, IKEA, and lululemon.


Miss the screening? Watch the full film here.

The film is an incredible resource for those who want to fix a social problem through business because it documents the history of social business and shares the stories of social entrepreneurs who are working to be a force for positive social and environmental change. One interesting thing I learned from this movie is that sustainability metrics continuously evolve. There is always a way to be more sustainable and have lower impact products, starting with the supply chain. Although there is also no way to have entirely zero impact when producing products, there are ways to minimize those negative effects.

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A Review of Dream, Girl: A Documentary About Female Entrepreneurs

This fall, the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship will be launching the Ladies First Initiative, our commitment to increasing the number of women in entrepreneurship at UMD.

by: Alison Scharman

Last week, women across Smith and their male allies gathered to watch Dream, Girl, thedreamgirl story of how Erin Bagwell, a young graphic designer from New York City, made a documentary. But this film wasn’t just the story of Erin and how she made a movie from inception to funding to distribution. Erin’s objective was to tell the stories of female entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds representing a variety of industries to inspire girls and women of all ages to pursue their entrepreneurial aspirations.

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UMD Student Entrepreneur Sparks Growth in a Small Japanese Village

This summer, Josh Turskey participated in the Helio program in Japan, a partnership between College of the Atlantic and Ashoka U.  The University of Maryland is an Ashoka U Changemaker Campus and had the opportunity to send one special student on the program to think like an entrepreneur in the higher education industry on a small island in Japan. Our Changemaker Campus designation is led by the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship.

by: Josh Turskey

For an architecture major, I have not traveled many places. I’ve been to Ohio countless times, and traveling to southern Canada is not much different than the landscape of America. With really only one trip out of the continent under by belt, I nervously boarded my flight from Tokyo to Hiroshima not knowing exactly if I was on the right plane.

Upon reaching the Island of Osakikamijima, a small island near Hiroshima City, we were given our mission: My peers and I were to begin critically thinking and laying out the ground work for what a college on the island would look like. We were split into groups to gather information and make recommendations on different pieces of the potential college. Groups focused on agriculture, food systems, sustainability, waste management and urban planning. My peers were from all over the world including Japan, Canada, Ethiopia, Ireland, England and all across the United States.


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Should an Entrepreneur Move to Silicon Valley?

by: David Potter, Co-Founder and CEO of Curu

Silicon Valley is constantly regarded as the ‘Innovation hub of the world’. With so many companies and successful startups headquartered in the area…. and even a TV show, it has become challenging to find someone who is oblivious to the reputation that Silicon Valley holds. For an entrepreneur, Silicon Valley could seem as New York did for immigrants—the land of opportunity. Due to the talent, funding, market reach and a history of performance, Silicon Valley to me seemed like a wonderland. This led me to believe the area was either over-glorified or truly the land of an innovator’s dream. This summer, I flew down there with my team to spend a month exploring the true environment of Silicon Valley.

CuruNew.pngI am David Potter, a junior Finance & Marketing student at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, and the CEO of Curu. Curu is an app that maximizes the user’s credit score with minimal effort on their end. This summer Curu was enrolled in the Dingman Center’s Terp Startup Accelerator where we received funding, mentorship, workspace and amazing support from a strong entrepreneurial network. Through Terp Startup we addressed critical areas of business development and set a stage for us to reach our market with a strong product. Following Terp Startup’s Demo Day, our team had our flights booked for the bay area with a mission to execute on Curu’s development to product launch.

In the land of entrepreneurial opportunity, it was hard to ignore that everything was so expensive. We lived in an Airbnb for the month (which was an RV) for $1,700. This was the cheapest deal we could find for our desired location in Redwood City, and considering prices for housing passed $5,000 we got a pretty good deal (although I think our bank accounts would disagree). Oh, and the 9% state tax didn’t help. We utilized the library and coffee shops as our primary workspace, free gym trials for working out and walked to the majority of our destinations. Thankfully our Airbnb was just a 10-minute walk from downtown, but all this goes to say, the area is expensive and planning ahead for travel, rent, food and a workspace is a necessity if you want to give all your focus to your entrepreneurial goals.

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Stewart Fellow Interns at an Innovative Healthcare Startup

This summer, several undergraduate students have been interning at startups through the Kathryn Stewart Fellowship program. Undergraduate Stewart fellows are awarded a $3,000 scholarship if they are able to secure a summer internship with venture capital or angel-funded startups and early stage companies. The Dingman Center interviewed each fellow about their experience.

Erich Meissner – LiftOff Health

Tell us about LiftOff Health. What is the company’s mission and core competencies?LiftoffHealth

LiftOff Health is accelerating healthcare innovation in all areas, whether it be HIPAA-compliant instant messaging services or a nanoscale glucose monitor. LiftOff Health has valued connections with the public sector as it is located right outside DC in Crystal City. Our most immense industry by GDP makeup, the healthcare industry, is also the most highly regulated. Things like FDA approvals for medical devices can easily take over a year, and for a startup, that timeline is dangerous. LiftOff Health leverages our proximity to over 200 foreign embassies and international organizations to expedite the process. Startups can find success abroad and monetize their product-to-market fit faster in other countries. We seek to help healthcare executives achieve 10x equity value for their businesses, a principle that mimics Peter Thiel’s first rule for creating a great business: Build Proprietary Technology That Is 10x Better.

Tell us about your responsibilities thus far at LiftOff Health?

LiftOff Health is putting on a series of healthcare hackathons at dozens of colleges and universities. Our lineup so far is global, with hackathons planned in Belarus, Venezuela and local schools like George Washington University and James Madison University. My responsibilities thus far have been around these hackathons. Participants need a place to upload their hacks, and although Devpost and Github are excellent solutions for demos, we want students to come together and popularize our LiftOff platform. I am currently working on the web functionality to host all these hackers. Also, just like with Bitcamp at UMD, we need to have hardware labs ready and enough 3D printers for the events. The most exciting part of this hackathon series is that it is healthcare focused; we will invite speakers to talk about the biggest challenges facing healthcare today. The industry accounts for almost 20% of US-GDP yet the World Health Organization ranks our healthcare as 37th overall in patient outcomes—it definitely needs some innovation.

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Hisaoka Fellow Interns at an Early Stage Real Estate Startup

This summer, several Smith MBA students have been interning at startups through the Hisaoka Fellowship program. Hisaoka fellows are awarded a $5,000 scholarship if they are able to secure a summer internship with venture capital or angel-funded startups and early stage companies. The Dingman Center interviewed each fellow about their experience.

Arjun Goel – Martin Development Corporation

Tell us about Martin Development Corporation. What is the company’s mission and core competencies?

Martin Development Corp is a real estate investment company focused on building a mixed-use, retail centric real estate portfolio in the District of Columbia. The company’s primary target acquisitions are located within the Eastern Core of DC (loosely defined as Connecticut Ave NW through H St NE), which contains over 2.1m SF of retail space not affiliated with a major project. The company focuses on creating an equal distribution of the following two types of retail asset classes within a target deal size of $2.0m-$25.0m:

  • Fully or partially occupied existing retail space in the established corridors of the District with existing income and immediate or future rental growth.
  • Vacant building, Raw Land or Retail condos from multifamily, office and hotel developers in the Eastern Core both for stabilizing projects and entitled but not yet completed projects.

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Hisaoka Fellow Interns at a Startup that Helps Make Higher Education Affordable

This summer, several Smith MBA students have been interning at startups through the Hisaoka Fellowship program. Hisaoka fellows are awarded a $5,000 scholarship if they are able to secure a summer internship with venture capital or angel-funded startups and early stage companies. The Dingman Center interviewed each fellow about their experience.

Ashish Agarwal – MPower Financing

Tell us about MPOWER Financing. What is the company’s mission and core MPowerFinancingcompetencies?

MPOWER’s mission is to remove financial barriers to higher education in the U.S. To accomplish this mission, MPOWER works with investors and universities to lend to high-potential students who are left out by traditional banks. In addition to providing students with access to the financial resources necessary to attend and complete college, MPOWER builds students’ credit histories, provides them with personal finance education, and offers gateway financial products to prepare them for life after college.

Tell us about your responsibilities thus far at MPOWER Financing?

My responsibilities at MPOWER included:

  • Understanding MPOWER’s product inside and out
  • Managing key operations processes and critically thinking about opportunities for improvements
  • Drawing insights based on our data sets to promote efficiency and influence decisions for the MPOWER team

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Stewart Fellow Interns at a Medical Supply Startup

This summer, several undergraduate students have been interning at startups through the Kathryn Stewart Fellowship program. Undergraduate Stewart fellows are awarded a $3,000 scholarship if they are able to secure a summer internship with venture capital or angel-funded startups and early stage companies. The Dingman Center interviewed each fellow about their experience.

Emily Turner – Hybrent Inc.

Tell us about Hybrent Inc. What is the company’s mission and core competencies?Hybrent_Blue_Logo-tagline-1

Hybrent is a medical supply chain company.  The core competency of the company is to evolve the supply chain process to be more efficient and cost cutting.

Our mission is to develop technology that improves the clinical and operational efficiency of healthcare facilities. Hybrent products and services are dedicated to solving real problems in the healthcare supply chain by providing groundbreaking technology, business intelligence and visibility beyond the limits of current enterprise systems. We help procurement managers make better decisions when running their healthcare organizations.

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