CourseHunter: The Answer to Frustrating College Registration Systems

by: Megan McPherson

This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the eight student startups who are participating in the Terp Startup summer incubator phase of our Fearless Founders accelerator program. Participating student entrepreneurs received $3,500 stipends that would enable them to work exclusively on their startups over six weeks in the summer.

Every college student is familiar with how maddening registering for classes can be, especially when you don’t have the luxury of first dibs. Freshmen in particular are assigned a lower priority, so if you can’t manage to get into a class you need—even if it’s for your intended major—you are faced with having to reexamine your entire four year plan. The co-founder of CourseHunter, Benjamin Khakshoor, encountered just this dilemma when he was turned away from an essential introductory Computer Science class in his first semester at University of Maryland. Instead of giving up on the class, Benjamin wrote a program that would analyze UMD’s registration system, Testudo, and notify him when the class had an empty seat. It worked. After he told friends what happened, he received a surge of requests for help getting into classes.CourseHunterLogo

Enter Benjamin’s roommate and fellow Computer Science major, Aaron Bloch. Seeing a business opportunity, Aaron created a Facebook page to monitor incoming requests to use the program. The program’s appeal to students is understandable, according to Aaron, “We’ve gotten people ahead of 150 person waitlists.” Through word of mouth alone, the demand quickly became overwhelming, so they decided to automate: they built their own website for the program, and thus CourseHunter 1.0 was born.

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Touring Local Shops in Principal, Ecuador

This summer, we will feature guest posts from students who received a Dingman Center scholarship to participate in the Maryland Social Entrepreneur Corps (MSEC). They will share their experiences learning about social entrepreneurship while consulting with local businesses in Latin America. Learn more about MSEC here.

Ecuador is a beautiful country with unbelievably rich culture. We visited a town called Principal that is about two and half hours from our home base in Cuenca. This was my first taste of the kind of communities that we are going to be working with in our two other locations.

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A Round of Golf with the Dingman Center Angels and Baltimore Angels

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On June 8, the Dingman Center Angels ended their 2015-2016 investment year. This year, the Baltimore Angels were also extended an invitation to the final investor meeting and annual golf event. In the morning, the investors reviewed a strong lineup of startup companies including Cybrary, Devensoft, InHerSight, Inky and Zoobean. After some engaging discussions and light lunch networking, the Dingman Center Angels and Baltimore Angels joined the Dingman Center team for a round of golf.

Each group played a 4-man scramble, so both early stage and mature golfers had opportunities to shine. Closest to the pin and longest drive contests on the 8th and 9th hole kept things interesting for the more competitive players. The positive energy of the morning investor meeting coupled with the beautiful weather made for a relaxing, fun afternoon. We hope that even more players will sign up for next year’s golf event. Angels, have a great summer and we’ll see you in the fall!


Interested in joining the Dingman Center Angels? Find out more on the Dingman Center website.

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Microconsignment and Empathy in Ecuador

This summer, we will feature guest posts from students who received a Dingman Center scholarship to participate in the Maryland Social Entrepreneur Corps (MSEC). They will share their experiences learning about social entrepreneurship while consulting with local businesses in Latin America. Learn more about MSEC here.

Hi! My name is Ted Falk and I’m a rising senior at UMD with a major in marketing and a minor in Spanish. This summer, I’m living in Ecuador as an intern with the Maryland Social Entrepreneur Corps (MSEC). I’ve only been here for a week, but it’s felt like a year’s worth of experiences. Here I am in a small indigenous town we visited yesterday, called Principal:

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Meet Our 2016 Kathryn Stewart & Hisaoka Fellows

Though the Dingman Center is perhaps best known for its venture creation programs, we are also very passionate about giving students opportunities to give back to the existing innovation economy. A student who is able to experience the fast-paced, fluid environment of a startup inevitably cultivates a broad skillset and knowledge-base that further enriches their careers, whether as entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs. Though the potential outcomes of a startup internship are highly attractive, the reality is that many students hesitate when choosing a lower startup salary over a higher one offered by a corporate entity. The Kathryn Stewart Fellowship Program and Hisaoka Fellowship Program exist to provide students who are eager to spend their summer interning at a startup with a stipend to supplement their salaries.

Kathryn Stewart Fellowship Program

Through a generous donation by Dingman Center Angel and Board of Advisors member Kathryn Stewart, this program awards a $3,000 scholarship to undergraduate students who are able to secure a summer internship with venture capital or angel-funded startups and early stage companies. Now in its second year, meet the 2016 Kathryn Stewart Fellows:

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Congratulations to the 2016 Student Entrepreneur Grant Winners

Each year, the Dingman Center sees many aspiring student entrepreneurs pass through its doors. Students that participate in our Fearless Founders accelerator program and Dingman Fridays advising hours have an opportunity to grow their companies at a rapid rate, but as with anything, willpower prevails. To those students who have shown a particularly strong level of dedication and commitment to their entrepreneurial endeavors, we are able to award seed funding through our Capital One and Venture Well sponsored grants:

Capital One Grant:CapitalOne_Logo_06_02_14

For several years, Capital One has been an
ever-loyal supporter and sponsor of student entrepreneurs. With our Capital One MVP grants of $500 and our larger grants of $2,500 for those who have completed the Hatch course in Fearless Founders, recipients are enabled to take their business ideas to a new level of growth and possibility.

This year’s winners are:

Capital One MVP
Teddy Li, Tixel Labs – a data analytics company that aims to provide smarter inventory management for restaurants
Carlouie Nievera, Carlouie & Company – a retro fashion line inspired by the ’90s looks of Saved by the Bell and Fresh Prince of Bell Air
David Potter, Abb Kapoor and Giorgi Managadze, Curu – an app that provides tools and tricks for smarter credit management
Thomas Rivas-Siles, Vendoo – an app that allows online sellers to access multiple marketplaces from one convenient location
Davit Sargsyan, Sunset Sangria – an American-produced sangria company and lifestyle brand
Victoria Tataw, Nails by Tataw – a vegan, 5-free and cruelty-free nail polish brand
Oru Wonodi , NOVA Prints & Apparel – a globally conscious fashion line with a mission to supply aid to individuals in developing countries

Capital One Grant: Hatch
Dustin Ecton, TapTimeTV – a customizable entertainment and advertising channel for bars and restaurants
Sumanth Jinagouda, SpotThis – a fashion discovery service that helps you find outfits based on images you can upload

Capital One Grant: Idea Shell
Danielle Karpa – a mobile app that provides incentives for better driving practices
Nathalyn Nunoo, William Kwao, Elania Tait, and Saron Bizuayehu, POSH – a beauty and makeup consultation service

VentureWell Grant:VentureWell_logo_stacked

VentureWell is a higher education network that cultivates revolutionary ideas and promising inventions. Their grants of $500 each are given to students with promising startup ideas who have shown outstanding commitment to furthering their business.

This year’s winners are:

Saron Asfaw, East Habesha – an online clothing store and cultural destination for East African wares
Philemon Masewal, Q – an app that allows you to pay a fee to reserve a bar seat during peak hours
Shyon Parsadoust, RollaWire – a wireless headphone alternative to unreliable bluetooth options
Aaron Pludwinski, Kanvasroom – an online platform for creatives across industries to collaborate on projects

Congratulations on your hard work, everyone!

Learn more about the Fearless Founders program on the Dingman Center website.

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Dingman EIR Disrupts the Real Estate Industry with Latest Venture, iUnit

 

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UPDATE – Recently, we caught up with Brice to get a few updates on iUnit. Within the next few weeks, iUnit will deliver to tenants the first project and MVP. This video gives the viewer a glimpse into the construction process and community amenities. In additional news, iUnit is expanding its partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), one of the world’s largest research centers focused on energy efficiency. The iUnit prototype will be housed in NREL’s Energy Systems Integration Facility where it will be used in testing everything from materials used to build the iUnit to energy efficient mechanical systems like iUnits battery and software systems.

It’s an exciting time for Brice and his team. To put a finer point on the company’s progress, Brice commented “iUnit is essentially the electric car of housing.”


February 4, 2015 – Envision the Prius of apartment buildings: wired with the latest “smart” technology, environmentally friendly, affordable, cool. That’s exactly what lifelong entrepreneur Brice Leconte delivers in his latest venture, iUnit.

Brice is one of the Dingman Center’s EIRs (Entrepreneurs-In-Residence), who help UMD students realize their entrepreneurial ideas during the Dingman Center’s weekly Dingman Fridays sessions. A long-time entrepreneur, Brice has a passion for disrupting industries and building socially active companies. He has started and invested in a wide range of businesses, from real estate development, to bricks and mortar, to e-commerce and tech startups. Today, he is focused on disrupting the real estate industry with his latest brand, iUnit.

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Celebrating the 2nd Annual Rudy Awards

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More than 100 entrepreneurs, advisers, investors, students and alumni gathered on May 5, 2016 for our second annual Rudy Awards ceremony. This year’s Awards were especially meaningful, as they marked the 30th anniversary of the Dingman Center and its community. Prime movers in the history of the Center were in attendance, including founding donor Michael Dingman and his family, along with first director Charlie Heller and former director Asher Epstein. Under their lasting influence, the Dingman Center network has grown many new branches. The Rudy Awards are not only a way to honor members of each branch, but to allow the entire Dingman center community to celebrate with each other, united in their passion for entrepreneurship. Congratulations to the following award winners.

2016 Rudy Awards Winners

Research Honors

Yang Pan PhD ’17 – Winner
Yuan Shi PhD ’18 – Winner

Faculty Award

David Kressler Winner
Joseph Bailey
Evan Starr

Mentor of the Year

Polly Vail – Winner
Drew Bewick ’88
Paul Capriolo ’06
Bob London ’83
Rashad Moore

Angel Investor of the Year

Bill Boyle ’81 – Winner
Hilton Augustine
Joshua Goldberg
Vadim Polikov

Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year

Ali von Paris ’12, Route One ApparelWinner
Eric Golman ’15, Javazen
Matt Furstenburg ’11, Grip Boost
Evan Lutz ’14, Hungry Harvest
Manpreet Singh ’03, TalkLocal

Social Entrepreneur of the Year

Alexis Carson ’16, Cocoa Queens Winner
Nadia Laniyan ’16, Cocoa Queens Winner
Robin Chiddo ’06, Love Blanket Project
Anastasiia Polyakov ’17, Annie’s Children
Oru Wonodi ’18, NOVA Prints and Apparel

Student Entrepreneur of the Year

Sam Feldman ’16, Cardbuddy Winner
Damar Bess ’18, Nonich
Taylor Johnson ’16, VentureStorm
Tommy Johnson ’16, VentureStorm
Ryan Pillai ’17, WeCook
Daniel Stern ’16, Route One Ventures

Terp Toolkit: Incorporating Social Impact into Your Business Model

by: Sara Herald

Social impact, long considered to be the exclusive territory of nonprofits, is becoming an integral part of for-profit businesses across the globe.  From huge corporations like Unilever to local startups like Misfit Juicery, generating both profits and social good is gaining acceptance as good business practice.

This shift isn’t necessarily based in moral arguments such as “it’s the right thing to do”, but rather in solid business fundamentals: that’s what customers want.  As more and more Millennials enter adulthood, they want to start up, work at, and buy from companies working to achieve social good.  84% of Millennials “consider a company’s involvement in social causes in deciding what to buy or where to shop” and they report “increased trust (91%) and loyalty (89%) in…companies that support solutions to specific social issues.”

If Millennials expect companies they engage with to have more than one bottom line, how can aspiring entrepreneurs of all kinds deliver on those expectations? The key lies in moving from a donations mindset to an operations mindset.
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6 things we learned at Do Good Challenge Finals

By: Megan McPherson

The positive energy at last night’s Do Good Challenge was palpable. From the showcase to the finalist pitches to the panel of past Do Good competitors, it was clear that every person  there was united by a passion for driving social change. Do Good delivered not only excellent pitches but also an informative platform for discussing the unique challenges and rewards of social entrepreneurship. Here are some takeaways:

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