Introducing the Pitch Dingman Competition Finalists

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The Semifinal round of Pitch Dingman Competition saw its biggest turnout ever this year. Over 300 people packed into Frank Auditorium, popcorn in hand, to watch their friends and fellow students compete for the night’s award opportunities. With only 4 minutes to pitch and 2 minutes to answer questions from the judges, each semifinalist was tasked with communicating their story and value proposition in a short span of time. It was a tough competition, with each team giving an impressive showing. The five teams who made it to the Finals distinguished themselves through sound business models, impressive traction and a clear vision for building their startup. Read on below for a list of the finalists.

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Smith MBA Candidate Launches a Global Renewable Energy Startup

adegbiteb-18aug15-1In celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week, we are taking at look at some of the global impact movers and shakers within our Terp network. Meet Babafemi Adegbite (or Femi as he’s known within Van Munching Hall) MBA ’17  who is launching a global social enterprise startup. The mission of his startup, ReEmpower, is to help alleviate global energy poverty through renewables while also empowering the communities it serves. More than 1 billion people worldwide, even those above the poverty line, lack access to energy which affects their ability to get clean water, medical care and education.

Growing up in Nigeria, Femi saw the effects of energy instability firsthand. Living in a world where women give birth in hospitals without power and children do their homework by dim candlelight, he saw a desperate need to solve this problem. While he was an undergraduate student, impact investing took off and Femi found inspiration from Jacqueline Novogratz’s book, The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World. Femi looked at the issue he wanted to tackle and worked backwards to guide his career toward that goal. He started working for Solar City, the number one solar installer in the United States. After four years of familiarizing himself with the solar industry, Femi decided to pursue an MBA so that he could start his own company.

Over the next year, Femi will be working to launch ReEmpower in Nigeria. Currently he is focused on customer acquisition, project development and of course the most challenging part—financing. Within the first few years, ReEmpower will focus on setting up solar power micro grids. Customers would range from government entities to individuals who will be able to pay-as-you-go based on income levels. Femi’s long-term goals for ReEmpower are to expand into other renewables and to enter new markets outside Nigeria.

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Bootstrapped Season 2 Opens with Social Venture MISFIT Juicery

From their dorm room at Georgetown University to the exclusive Chobani Food Incubator in New York City, the co-founders of MISFIT Juicery, Ann Yang and Phil Wong, are growing their food startup into a recognizable brand with a mission. MISFIT fights food waste by using discarded “ugly” fruits and vegetables to make their attractive and delicious line of cold-pressed juices.

To close out our Ladies First launch, co-hosts Elana Fine and Joe Bailey interviewed female founder Ann Yang and her co-founder Phil Wong about their journey as rising social entrepreneurs on the second season premiere of our Bootstrapped podcast. Listen below and subscribe on iTunes.

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Meet the 10 Semifinalists of Pitch Dingman Competition

After a rigorous quarterfinals judging process, the 10 semifinalists for this years Pitch Dingman Competition have been selected. University of Maryland alumni entrepreneurs, past Pitch Dingman Competition participants and Dingman Center staff judged each application on the basis of its existing traction, revenue model and viability. At the Semifinals on November 17 at 6 p.m. in Frank Auditorium, Van Munching Hall, they will pitch their businesses shark-tank style to a panel of esteemed judges, including Bill Boyle, Dingman Center Angel investor; Ryan Pillai of WeCook, last year’s Pitch Dingman Competition winner; Harry Alford, Managing Director of Humble Ventures; Zeki Mokhtarzada, former co-founder of Webs, Inc. and Chief Architect of Digital Products at Vistaprint; and Julianna Neelbauer, former Dingman Center legal advisor and current COO of Ad Hoc LLC.

Sign up to watch what is sure to be a close competition between 10 exemplary student startups at UMD.

We are proud to announce the 10 semifinalists:

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An Interview with Amritha Jayanti, the Founder of Technica

This post is part of a blog series for the launch of Ladies First, the Dingman Center’s commitment to increase the number of women involved in entrepreneurship at UMD.

Ladies First isn’t the only initiative at University of Maryland that is breaking down gender inequality—this weekend marks the second year of Technica, UMD’s all-female hackathon, a student-run event that has garnered national attention. Young women in tech from all over the country flock to Technica, and its list of corporate sponsors includes tech giants like Facebook and Yelp. This year, the Technica team added a “Tech + X” week of workshops and panels leading up to the hackathon to help women better prepare for the weekend ahead. Last night, the Dingman Center contributed its network to a panel on Tech + Social Entrepreneurship, which examined how technology can generate social impact. We spoke with Amritha Jayanti ’18, the founder of Technica, about her vision for the hackathon.

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Reflections from the Ladies First Kickoff Dinner

This post is part of a blog series for the launch of Ladies First, the Dingman Center’s commitment to increase the number of women involved in entrepreneurship at UMD.

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by: Nina Silverstein MBA ’17

Last week the Ladies First Kickoff Dinner brought together over 85 current and aspiring female changemakers at the University of Maryland. Ladies First is an initiative to get more women involved in entrepreneurship by creating and empowering a community of changemakers across campus. I was inspired to see so many young women in attendance to hear impactful stories and insights from the panelists.

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Introducing the Fall 2016 Idea Shell Cohort

Each semester, the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship runs a 6-week long program called Idea Shell, the first phase of our Fearless Founders Accelerator. Using lean startup methodology, students are encouraged to perform numerous customer interviews and continuously pivot on their idea as they work toward launching their startup.

This fall saw two major changes to the Idea Shell formula. The first was the addition of new our two-day idea festival, spark: Where Fearless Ideas Start, the weekend prior to the first Idea Shell workshop on October 12. Of the students currently enrolled in Idea Shell, 25% came to spark and left with an idea for a problem they wanted to solve. The second major change is the input of our new Student & Venture Program Manager, Chris Rehkamp, who debuted as the instructor of Terp Startup this summer and has been a welcoming fixture at Dingman Fridays this fall.

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Ladies First Spotlight: The Story Behind Cocoa Queens

This story is part of a blog series for the launch of Ladies First, the Dingman Center’s commitment to increase the number of women involved in entrepreneurship at UMD.

by: Nadia Laniyan

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Nadia Laniyan ’16

During the fall semester of my senior year at University of Maryland I was taking an English course titled “Writing for Social Entrepreneurship.” This was the second professional writing course I took during undergrad, because unlike most seniors, as a part of my Individual Studies Program requirements I had to take two of these courses instead of one. Needless to say, I was not excited about having to take this extra English class, but it quickly became one of my favorite classes. Social entrepreneurship became this new and intriguing world that opened up an innovative side of me that I did not know existed.

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Announcing Ladies First: a community of changemakers, creators, and pioneers at UMD

Here at the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship we believe that the skills taught by the process of launching a new venture are useful for everyone. Whether a student is interested in launching a traditional business, a social venture, being an “intrapreneur” with an existing organization, or is just passionate about solving a particular problem, our courses and programs are designed to help.

But the truth is that the entrepreneurship world is not as diverse as it should be, because not everyone who could be an entrepreneur thinks it’s a viable option for them. Those who take the entrepreneurial plunge, particularly in high-growth fields like technology, are lionized in our culture. But when we think of those entrepreneurs, we almost exclusively think of men, often without realizing it.  When you search online for images of “famous entrepreneurs”, you see multiple pictures of Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates, along with others like Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson. Out of the first 33 images, only 3 are of women.  Popular culture often overlooks female founders, and the statistics behind gender and entrepreneurship are troubling: while women launched 41% of new businesses on average for the last two decades, that number is falling. It’s even worse in the tech world: in Silicon Valley, only 3% of technology companies are started by women.  Currently, our classes and programs reflect that gender imbalance.ladies-first-badges-black

We’re committed to changing that. The Dingman Center is proud to launch the Ladies First initiative to increase the number of women involved in entrepreneurship at University of Maryland.  Instead of simply increasing marketing efforts to women on our campus, we’re going to help women solve the problems they care about. In many instances, those problems are ones facing our society: climate change, hunger, poverty and inequality, and launching social ventures is one way for them to take action on solving those problems. Entrepreneurship research supports this focus, as women are 17% more likely than men to start a social venture rather than a purely economic one.

In its inaugural year, the Ladies First initiative will:

  • Adapt our courses and programs to be inclusive to social entrepreneurs
  • Expand what it means to be an entrepreneur on our campus

In order to achieve those goals, we must tell stories about diverse entrepreneurs, so that when someone says the term “entrepreneur” we think of Sarah Kauss, founder of S’well, or a classmate who has started a venture, instead of only famous male entrepreneurs. Ladies First launches this week with a series of events, communication pieces, and a visual campaign promoting what female founders look like at the University of Maryland. Additional programming will be offered throughout the school year as we strive to increase the number of women opting in to entrepreneurship on our campus.

Stay tuned for more blog posts in this Ladies First series, and learn more about the initiative on our website.

 

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

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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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