An Interview with Pitch Dingman Competition Finalist: Gravity LLC

In anticipation of the final round of the 2017 Pitch Dingman Competition, the Dingman Center is interviewing each of the five startup finalists about their progress and upcoming challenges as they prepare to compete for a total of $30,000 in startup funding on March 7.

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Richard Kong, Founder & CEO of Gravity LLC

Gravity LLC

Richard Kong, Founder & CEO

logo6_concept_1_copyGravity LLC produces Gravity Tales, an online platform that publishes English translations of Chinese and Korean fantasy novels. Since Gravity Tales first launched in January 2015 with just one novel, the website has grown to become one the top 1,600 most visited websites in the United States, and in the top 3,000 in the world. The reasons for its popularity lie in its niche appeal among its adolescent user base. While Japanese “light novels” and comics have gained relative success in the U.S. publishing industry, Chinese and Korean works have a limited to non-existent presence on retail bookshelves. In addition to providing a forum for a growing segment of young readers looking to explore interests in Chinese culture and history, Gravity Tales offers its users free, unlimited content. The site’s rapidly increasing daily page views attracted advertisers, allowing Gravity Tales to collect revenue to pay its contracted translators and editors without charging users. At first launch, Gravity LLC founder Richard Kong was a junior in high school. Now a computer engineering freshman at University of Maryland, Richard is the youngest finalist in this year’s Pitch Dingman Competition.

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An Interview with Pitch Dingman Competition Finalist: POSH

In anticipation of the final round of the 2017 Pitch Dingman Competition, the Dingman Center is interviewing each of the five startup finalists about their progress and upcoming challenges as they prepare to compete for a total of $30,000 in startup funding on March 7.

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From left: Elania Tait, Nathalyn Nunoo, William Kwao

POSH

Nathalyn Nunoo, Founder & CEO
William Kwao, Operations & Tech
Elania Tait, Public Relations

Posh logo black.pngPOSH is a web platform that offers a reliable, affordable way to book freelance beauty professionals for any occasion. The task of scheduling a makeup artist typically comes with a number of obstacles and uncertainties: How do I know that the artist will give me the look I want? Are their rates consistent with other makeup artists? What happens if they’re late (and they often are)? How much do I tip, and at what point in the process is it proper to do so? POSH conveniently answers those queries on the back-end to ultimately pair their customers with artists who are vetted, talented and consistently punctual. The payment rates are transparent, the tip is included and all the customer has left to worry about is the event at hand. Makeup artists see a benefit as wellall the complicated logistics of working with a client are handled through POSH, allowing them to concentrate fully on their art. With its emphasis on convenience and customer service, POSH’s initial customer base has inevitably led to a growing list of new clients.

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An Interview with Pitch Dingman Competition Finalist: CourseHunter

In anticipation of the final round of the 2017 Pitch Dingman Competition, the Dingman Center is interviewing each of the five startup finalists about their progress and upcoming challenges as they prepare to compete for a total of $30,000 in startup funding on March 7.

CourseHunter

Aaron Bloch, Co-Founder (pictured right)
Benjamin Khakshoor, Co-Founder (pictured left)

CourseHunterLogoCourseHunter is an online platform that is revolutionizing course registration for college students. Students looking to get into important classes often encounter too-full classes with long waitlists that jeopardize the overall timing of their four-year plan. The CourseHunter website integrates with existing registration systems to help notify students when a class they are interested in opens up, allowing them to sign up for classes without worrying about waitlists. After achieving success with students using Testudo at University of Maryland, they launched at George Washington University and University of Southern California, and are looking to adapt to supplement registration systems at more schools.

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An Interview with Pitch Dingman Competition Finalist: Curu

In anticipation of the final round of the 2017 Pitch Dingman Competition, the Dingman Center is interviewing each of the five startup finalists about their progress and upcoming challenges as they prepare to compete for a total of $30,000 in startup funding on March 7.

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Curu’s co-founders at the Semifinals, from left: David Potter, CEO and Abb Kapoor, COO

Curu

David Potter, CEO
Abb Kapoor, COO

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Curu is a website and mobile application that assesses your spending habits and then notifies you of convenient, seamless ways you can improve or enhance your existing practices to optimize your credit score. Curu’s selling point is “credit confidence”—keeping Curu in the background to help you spend smarter will ensure you can make big purchases like buying a car or a house and never worry about high interest rates. Though the target market for Curu is primarily 25-30 year-olds working toward making large purchases, the founders see their product as appealing not just to an age group, but to anyone who is interested in improving their credit score.

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No More Pencils, No More Books: Marketing with Liz Sara

lizsara-headshotBest Marketing’s Liz Sara, Chair of the Board of the Dingman Center of Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneur-in-Residence, just completed teaching her flagship MBA Class, “Business-to-Business Marketing” during this 2017 Winter Session. Now in its fourth year, Liz has fashioned this class as a 100 percent experiential learning environment based completely on outside CEO speakers who present real world marketing challenges.  And much like the childhood rhyme we sang in grade school, there really were NO textbooks in this class, nor outdated case studies.

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What’s New with Kanvasroom Co-Founder Aaron Pludwinski

by: Megan McPherson

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This past November, Fearless Founder alumni Aaron Pludwinski ’16 and his co-founder Derien Scott ’17 launched Kanvasroom, a cloud-based communication tool that’s optimized for digital media creatives. The idea for Kanvasroom took shape three years ago while the founders were exploring their own creative pursuits—Aaron in video post-production and Derien in music production—and realized a niche for a website where creatives from around the world could come together and collaborate on projects. Rather than looking to replace existing tools such as Adobe Creative Suite, Skype, Paypal or Basecamp, they envisioned a website where many of the most basic needs these applications provide could exist in one space. The result would maximize efficiency and improve communication, leaving more time and energy for content creation. Eager to act on their idea, they joined the Spring 2015 cohort of Idea Shell, ultimately moving through Fearless Founders on to Hatch in Spring 2016 until Aaron graduated and moved back to his hometown of Miami.

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Kanvasroom’s co-founders: Derien Scott and Aaron Pludwinski

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Wrapping Up a Fantastic Semester at the Dingman Center

It’s that time of year. The stream of talented student entrepreneurs we’ve seen come through our doors begins to thin out with the arrival of finals, commencement and (at last!) winter break. But in the quiet of their absence, we can fondly reminisce on the outstanding semester we’ve had at the Dingman Center. In the past couple of months, we’ve seen a record amount of energy and engagement from the community in our programs. Read on for some of our favorite highlights from the semester.

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Entrepreneur-in-Residence: Rashad Moore

3184-cropThe Dingman Center is pleased to announce the addition of another successful founder, Rashad Moore, to our impressive group of Entrepreneurs-in-Residence. Rashad is excited to become more integrated into the Dingman community and to do what he enjoys most of all—helping young entrepreneurs. He started attending Dingman Fridays a few years ago and loved getting access to smart people with great ideas. He states, “Dingman is doing a lot of great stuff—if I had this in college, I may be further along.”

Rashad began his career in the defense industry in the outskirts of Washington, D.C., working for Northrop Grumman where he saw an unmet need for software engineers within the defense industry. After learning how to win government contracts while working for Clear Solutions, Rashad quickly realized it didn’t matter what company got the government bid, they would still come to him for software engineering.

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Good Food and Fun at the Yumpreneurship Showcase

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by: Megan McPherson

On December 7, I had the pleasure of attending the third annual Smith School of Business Food Entrepreneurship Conference at University of Maryland’s Shady Grove campus for the first time. Each year, students in Smith’s Entrepreneurship Fellows program organize the event from start to finish, selecting a new name and seeking out new local vendors to feature their food products. This year the event was named the “YUMpreneurship Showcase”and with fifty diverse and delicious food vendors for attendees to sample from, it more than lived up to its title. For just a $10 charitable donation to Manna Food Center, attendees were able to eat one sample from each vendor and give gold coins to the ones they enjoyed the most. At the end of the night, the coins were counted to decide which vendor’s food was the tastiest.

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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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