Matchmaking for College Students Takes on a New Meaning

Matchmaking takes many forms. When we think of this term we often think of finding a significant other. Someone who can help make your life whole. In startupland, matchmaking is being redefined. When entrepreneurs talk about a true match it’s usually in the form of a co-founder, a developer, a salesperson. Similar to traditional matchmaking, this match is hugely important to a founder’s life because it’s who they’ll spend 80-plus hours weekly working on a venture.

Venture StormThere are a number of big players in entrepreneur matchmaking, including CoFoundersLab, as well as a number of big players in the freelance space, such as Elance, Upwork, and Freelancer. At the University of Maryland, a team of students are combining matchmaking and freelancing with their startup, VentureStorm. VentureStorm differs from the major players because it is not solely a platform to find a freelance project for the month, but also provides the opportunity to join a team. The startup is entering the market with a focus on college students. Users of VentureStorm are aiming to form relationships, build teams, and launch a business straight out of college. The venture’s value proposition is that students can find team members or co-founders on their campus.

“College students have brilliant ideas for websites and apps but they can’t build them on their own,” says Tyler Denk, VentureStorm’s Chief Operating Officer. “In tech, there’s so much space to develop ideas that benefit everyone. VentureStorm allows students to collaborate with other students to bring an idea to life.”

When a student logs into the VentureStorm web site they create one of two profiles: project owner or developer. The project owner posts their idea with a description of the type of developer they’re looking for, as well as their budget and offered compensation. Developers can then browse the database of projects at their university and apply to projects based on their interests and expertise (Ruby on Rails, php, etc). From there the matchmaking begins. Once a match has been made, the VentureStorm collaboration page allows project owners and developers to communicate, negotiate, and utilize legal documents and development tools. VentureStorm also acts as a third party payment platform that ensures secure transactions between the two parties.

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L to R: Ephraim Rothschild and Tyler Denk.

Like so many startups, the founders came up with this idea when they ran into the problem themselves. A few semesters ago Denk, a Mechanical Engineering major, and co-founder Taylor Johnson, an Electrical Engineering major, came up with an app idea but neither student knew how to develop an app. That’s where the idea for VentureStorm began. From there, Johnson brought on twin brother, Tommy Johnson, also an Electrical Engineering major. Later, the team added two talented developers: Ephraim Rothschild and Akash Magoon; both Computer Science and Mathematics double-majors. Rothschild is currently VentureStorm’s Chief Technology Officer, and Magoon is the company’s Chief Information Officer.

After working on the idea for a few months, members of the team joined the Dingman Center’s Fearless Founders accelerator where they did extensive customer discovery and developed a minimal viable product. Denk and Rothschild are spending the summer in the Fearless Founders incubator program, Terp Startup.

“For students who are not in the computer science school, finding a talented developer can be hard,” said Rothschild. “We bridge that gap and that’s why I’m excited to be spending my entire summer working on VentureStorm.”

Like students with corporate internships, both Denk and Rothschild are spending 40-plus hours per week working on VentureStorm. The main focus of the summer has been developing. Both value the Terp Startup experience and are enjoying working on their own venture rather than for an outside entity.

“There’s nothing better than pursuing your own idea, working on your own schedule,” said Denk. “I always wanted to be an entrepreneur because I like carrying out my vision.”

The team acknowledges they have to start focusing on more than just perfecting the tech side of the platform, they must start focusing on marketing and business development. This fall, they hope to bring on several campuses to the platform. Denk, Rothschild and the rest of the team hope to grow VentureStorm so that after graduating they are able to run the business full time.


About VentureStorm

Co-Founders: Tyler Denk ’16, Taylor Johnson ’16, Tommy Johnson ‘16, Akash Magoon ’18 and Ephraim Rothschild ’17

VentureStorm is an online platform that connects aspiring student entrepreneurs with talented student developers locally on their campus to advance their business from idea to launch. The VentureStorm team is currently building a unique collaborative workspace on their platform to enhance the communication and development process. The team aims to expand their services to more universities by Fall ’15.

Stewart Fellow Interns at NYC Tech Incubator

At the Dingman Center, we work with many students who want to start their own business. We also work with students who don’t yet have an idea to pursue. For both groups, we encourage them to spend a summer interning in startup land. To jumpstart students’ startup careers, the Center offers two fellowship programs. Dingman Center Angel and Board of Advisors member, Kathryn Stewart, wanted more students to gain the valuable experience of working a venture capital firms and startups so she made a generous gift to form the Kathryn Stewart Fellowship Program. To be selected as a Stewart Fellow, students must secure a summer internship with a VC or angel-funded startup. Once selected, Stewart Fellows are granted a $5,000 stipend to supplement the summer salary offered through their internship.

When the program was launched last winter, student interest sky rocketed. However, many realized how hard it can be to find the right startup or VC to intern. This was not the case for Daniel Stern. Daniel has worked on a few business ideas as a Terp. He’s participated in the Center’s Fearless Founders accelerator program. This summer, he wanted the valuable experience of working at a tech incubator. Through an alumnus from his high school, Daniel learned about the Grand Central Tech Incubator. Pursuing the incubator’s summer internship program would allow Daniel to gain exposure to more than one startup and he jumped at the chance to apply to both Grand Central Tech Incubator and the Stewart Fellows.

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Tell us about Grand Central Tech Incubator. What types of startups are there?

DS: Grand Central Tech is really unique in that they offer free rent and office space to startups without asking for equity.  They have startups apply to be in their program for a whole year, and after the year is up, most of the startups “graduate” to the upper floor of their building where they continue to operate and remain part of the GCT community.  The whole idea is to create the most vibrant tech and entrepreneurial hub in New York City.  There are startups working on all different challenges, from 3D printing and Bitcoin solutions to creating unique sports betting and online marketing platforms.

How many and which startups are you working with? 

DS: I’m splitting my time working for two startups currently: LiquidText and Barebands.  LiquidText helps users better understand, read and make connections with online content and analyzes how these people interact with this online content.  Barebands is a lightweight watch for fitness fanatics, looking to take their product into retail.  I will most likely spend end up all of my time working for LiquidText.

Take us through your day (or week) at your internship?  

DS: So far I’ve mostly been through orientation, which consisted of visiting the offices of Google, Microsoft, and General Assembly to learn about design thinking and the processes that go into building a startup.  Currently my day consists of figuring out the best route to get Barebands into retail, learning from people at other startups in the co-working space, and doing market and user research for LiquidText at night.

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What projects are you most looking forward to working on this summer? 

DS: I’m looking forward to building business partnerships and helping decide what features to launch with for LiquidText, and also helping Barebands get their foot in the door with retail stores.

Why did you want to intern at an incubator rather than a startup? 

DS: I wanted to intern at an incubator because I get to work with the best of the best entrepreneurs all under one roof while still getting the experience of working at one of their startups.  Being part of this incubator allows me to be part of a large entrepreneurial community while still getting experience at a startup.

What do you hope to gain from a summer spent in NYC? 

I hope to learn from experienced startup veterans how to start and grow a business and gain the skills necessary to do so myself.  I also hope to build relationships and meet some awesome people along the way.

Have you had any cool startup/networking experiences since you’ve been in NYC? 

DS: I haven’t had any crazy stories yet, but there are some impressive people working in GCT (the co-founder of Shapeways, the founder of Gilt, the founder of General Assembly, multiple ex Google executives) who I hope to get to meet and build relationships with as the summer goes on.

What else are you working on this summer?  

DS: On the side, I started my own Ecommerce website with a friend from UMD called East Coast Cornhole (www.eccornhole.com).  While it has yet to take off, running my own business is an awesome learning experience, and has forced me to learn extensively about internet and content marketing, as well as SEO and the patience it takes to grow a business from absolutely nothing.

Dan SternDaniel Stern is finance major and a junior at the University of Maryland. He’s from Cheshire, CT, and aspires to run his own startup in the near future. He’s passionate about tackling big problems and changing the way we view the world. During his time at UMD, Daniel has participated in the Dingman Center’s Fearless Founders accelerator and competed in a Pitch Dingman Competition with his startup idea, Globoclub Fitness. In July 2015, Dan and a fellow student launched the e-commerce site, East Coast Cornhole (eccornhole.com), to sell high quality Cornhole Sets and Boards.

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Startup Founder Inspires Unique Company Culture

 

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David Engle is the CEO and co-Founder of Demere.co, a a virtual clothing platform that allows users to upload photos of their garments and within 20 seconds – based on age, gender, weather, and personal style – Demere can predict the best outfit for the user to wear in addition to notifying them of what to purchase online to add to their current wardrobe, as well as while they are shopping in physical stores. Currently, the platform is in a private beta, which is one reason why David is participating in the the Dingman Center’s Terp Startup summer incubator program. Leading up to the full site launch in early fall, David and the Demere team are spending the summer collecting valuable user data to improve the platform. Continue reading

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Dingman Center Angels Portfolio Deepens with New and Follow-On Investments

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The Dingman Center Angels is a Maryland based angel investment group, managed by the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship, which provides funding to early-stage companies within the Mid-Atlantic region. Since inception, the group has invested more than $12 million in more than 50 companies primarily in the enterprise software and consumer internet sectors. The Dingman Center Angels recently completed another successful year, expanding the portfolio and hosting meetings in College Park, Baltimore and Crystal City. Keep reading for an overview of the group’s activities over the past investment season. Continue reading

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Hisaoka Fellow Spends Summer Working at Virtual Reality Startup

At the Dingman Center, we work with many students who want to start their own business. We also work with students who don’t yet have an idea to pursue. For both groups, we encourage them to spend a summer interning in startup land. To jumpstart students’ startup careers, the Center offers two fellowship programs. Through a generous gift from UMD alumnus, Robert Hisaoka ’79, we offer the Hisaoka Fellowship Program to MBA students. In order to be selected as a Hisaoka Fellow, students must secure summer internships with VC- or angel-funded startups and early stage companies. The Dingman Center provides each Hisaoka Fellow a $5,000 stipend to supplement students’ summer salaries.

Mobile-logoDue to overwhelming demand among undergraduate students for startup internships, one of the Hisaoka Fellowships was offered to undergraduate student, Mike Mandl. Mike has participated in our Fearless Founders accelerator program and is passionate about virtual reality technology. He worked his network in the spring to land a summer internship with YouVisit in New York City. After three weeks on the job we interviewed Mike about his experience:

Tell us about YouVisit. What is the company’s mission and core competencies?
MM: YouVisit helps industry leaders in higher education, travel and real estate increase public awareness, online traffic, quality leads, and in-person visits with immersive virtual reality experiences and virtual tours.
Tell us about your responsibilities thus far at YouVisit?
MM: Creating and editing 360 3D videos. Hopefully I will have an opportunity to go film some shots in the upcoming weeks. I have also been helping out the business development team in any capacity.
What projects are you most looking forward to working on with YouVisit?
MM: There are a few different projects that I am excited to be working on, but most of them are confidential as of now. I can say that University of Maryland just became a client, so that will be a project I intend to work closely on.
Why did you want an internship with a virtual reality company?
MM: Before I found out about YouVisit I was creating a 360 college campus tour of University of Maryland with help from the UMD startup company, VisiSonics. The virtual reality industry is estimated to be a 30 billion dollar annual industry by the year 2020. I want to continue working in this field and the best way to do that is to get work experience.
What do you hope to gain from a summer spent in NYC at YouVisit?
MM: My goal is to make as many connections as possible within the growing industry and to learn as many skills as possible relating to creating virtual reality experiences while I am interning in New York.
Have you had any cool startup/networking experiences since you’ve been in NYC?
MM: Going into work everyday has been exciting. After all the work our team has put in I am one of the first people that gets to view some of the coolest cutting-edge virtual reality experiences.
What has been the biggest adjustment as an intern in New York City?
MM: I would say my biggest adjustment has been the change in my environment. There are people everywhere doing lots of cool things at all hours in the day. I have improved managing my free time so I can take advantage of everything this city has to offer.
Mike Mand83550_Mike_Mandl_Y145105_MD005SAE Yl is a University of Maryland undergraduate student majoring in economics. He has a strong interest in up-and-coming technology with the potential to disrupt markets. Mike started his own profit-generating businesses through his landscaping and cell phone repair services, ProTech MD. He spent the past year creating virtual reality college campus tours and plans to find his niche in the market after graduation.
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Inspired By Spanish Art, Student Launches Street-wear Brand

As a college student, Jordan Greenwald didn’t know he would become an entrepreneur. It wasn’t until an eye-opening study abroad trip to Spain that he realized he was destined to run his own company.

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Terp Startup K. Sultana Creates Breathable Head Scarves For Muslim Women

Omar Goheer is on a mission to change the way Muslim women feel in a head scarf. His company, K.Sultana, was founded to solve the prevalent problem of discomfort from hot temperatures experienced by Muslim woman who wear the head scarf. These innovative scarves ventilate and provide comfort over the head and around the neck through the use of a unique blend of breathable and lightweight fabrics. The K. Sultana scarf can be worn over the head by women who wear the hijab or it can be used as the perfect fashion accessory for women who choose to not wear the hijab. K. Sultana also has a social impact component to the business, partnering with local homeless shelters to allow battered and abused Muslim women help sell the scarves in exchange for a sales commission.

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Powering Women Entrepreneurs

By Elana Fine

Last Saturday I moderated a “Powering Women Entrepreneurs” panel at Forte Foundation’s annual MBA Women’s Leadership Conference. Over 450 current women MBA students from top business schools filled the conference hall wearing “Let’s Power Up” t-shirts while taking selfies with cutouts of powerful women leaders such as Smith School alumna Carly Fiorina, Oprah Winfrey, and Sheryl Sandberg.

The panel included three successful women entrepreneurs:

Tiffany Norwood, Serial Entrepreneur, Entrepreneur in Residence, Georgetown University

Arum Kang, Co-Founder and CEO Coffee Meets Bagel

Hillary Lewis, Founder and President, Lumi Organics

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L-R: Elana Fine, Tiffany Norwood, Arum Kang, Hillary Lewis

I quickly realized what an opportunity our panel had to inspire such a large crowd of impressive women at such an important inflection point in their careers.  As I told the crowd, my goal was for each of them to consider one entrepreneurial experience during their two years as MBA students. Continue reading

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Terp Startup Javazen Is Putting a Healthy Twist On Your Morning Coffee

What comes to mind when you hear “the Arnold Palmer of coffee?” In the D.C. area, many people think Javazen.

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According to the company website, Javazen is organic coffee combined with premium teas and nutritious “superfoods,” including cacao and goji berries. Aaron Wallach, Eric Golman and Ryan Scheuler started the company in their college apartment while attending the University of Maryland. After recently graduating from UMD and making their first sales, the team decided to run Javazen full-time. Continue reading

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Keep Up With The Dingman Center This Summer

Did you think the Dingman Center was taking a break this summer? Think again! Although we’re not having weekly Pitch Dingman sessions or monthly Dingman Center Angels investor meetings, there are a number of ways you can stay engaged with us this summer.

1. Attend a FREE startup workshop.

One of the biggest perks of being in the Terp Startup summer incubator program is that students have access to workshops from leading experts. Since not all of the entrepreneurs in our network could join Terp Startup, many of these workshops will be open to the public! Join us for sessions on a wide range of topics including Growing Beyond Product #1, Customer Relationship Management, Sources of Funding and Accounting Needs. A full listing of all open workshops are available on the Terp Startup page on our website.

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2. Sign-up to receive The Pitch!

The Pitch is a bi-weekly email digest that will keep you informed on what’s happening in our community. It includes regional events, job postings, updates on our portfolio companies and student startups, as well as recent news from inside the Dingman Center. If you don’t already receive The Pitch, join our mailing list.

@UMD_Dingman3. Tweet, tweet, tweet.

The best place to get real-time updates from the Dingman Center is through our Twitter feed. Don’t miss a shout out, behind the scenes picture or #tbt post!

4. Network with us

Our involvement in the regional startup community doesn’t stop just because it’s summer. You can see our staff out at various events in D.C. and Baltimore. This weekend, Managing Director Elana Fine will moderate a panel on MBA Women Entrepreneurs at the  2015 Forté MBA Women’s Leadership Conference. Our Fearless Founders will be out at various tech meetups too. We look forward to seeing you out and about.

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