Category Archives: Fearless Founders

A Day of Entrepreneurship with the Dingman Center

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by: Megan McPherson

This year for 30 Days of Entrepreneurship, the Dingman Center decided we would roll a month’s worth of activity into a single day: Thursday, April 20. The result was our Day of Entrepreneurship, which featured the return of a popular Dingman Center event, Terp Marketplace, and later a rousing speech by entrepreneurship guru Jeff Hoffman.

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Catch Up with this Semester’s Crop of Fearless Founders

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The spring season is a time for growth, and there is no exception at the Dingman Center. Each spring semester we welcome not one, but two cohorts of aspiring entrepreneurs to watch their business ideas grow under our Fearless Founders program. Students come to an Idea Shell to validate their idea through repeated testing until they are able to form a minimum viable product. Once they reach the Hatch phase, they continue to iterate on their idea by fine-tuning their business model and market segment until it’s ready to launch.

Read on for a list of all the ideas growing in Idea Shell and Hatch this semester.

Idea Shell

Adaptive Audio – Javed Akthar Shaik, Abhishek Velayudham, Praneeth Chandu
Beat’n Coffee – Asad Masood, Khaled Nurhssien
The Beauty of I am… – Shanazar Dupuy Sandy
Ashley Ellis
Cali Club – Joey Hurm
College Cleaning –  Michaela Clarke
Dibble – Roman Fuentes
Emprology, LLC – Sydney Parker
GROTechnologies – Abeeb Ayodeji
NPO Connect – Akhil Gupta
pecunia – Amartyo Sen
Plus Interest – William Singelstad
Rapha – Andrae Wiggins
Record Venture – Duk Shin
Recyclify – Charlie Barton, Ardy Djourabtchi
See Food – Oluwatamilore Olafunmiloye
The SPARC Initiative – Taj Keshav
Wedding Planner – Sandhya Taneja
Yomil – Alexandra Gbozia

Hatch

You may recognize some of the Fearless Founders below. Nina Silverstein and Babafemi Adegbite’s social ventures 2B and Re-Empower have been profiled on our blog. afterclass and FroDoh were Pitch Dingman Competition semifinalists, and POSH and Grumpy Joes made it to the final round. Carpo’s app launch was featured in The Diamondback. Stay tuned for more great things from this Hatch cohort!

2B – Nina Silverstein
afterclass – Uday Misra
Carpo – Alec Aronwald
Dark Sonar – George Lee, Simon Schlegel
Feast – Arsalaan Ali, Stephen Frocke, Christina Michael
FroDoh – Alexandra Cimino
Grumpy Joes – Gary Hwang
Line-a-day – Benjamin Taragin
Pangea Medical – Ariel Efergan, Jacob Pollack
POSH – Nathalyn Nunoo
re: Fresh – Carl Comasco
Re-Empower – Babafemi Adegbite
ROOTS – Salvador Fawkes, Elizabeth Gilahuanco, Nebafabs Nwafor
Smith Store – Duk Shin
Terra Bella – Georges Colbert, Val Csontos
Think About It – Von Bell
Tommy Wares – Thomas Piantone


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Capital One provides seed funding to exemplary entrepreneurs in the
Idea Shell and Hatch programs.

Pitch Dingman Competition Finals Rundown

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The Pitch Dingman Competition Finals were on Tuesday, March 7 and as promised the Dingman Center and our partners gave away more than $30,000 in startup funding! Here’s the breakdown:

The David & Robyn Quattrone Grand Prize – $15,000
Curu, David Potter & Abb Kapoor

Second Place Prize – $7,500
CourseHunter, Aaron Bloch, Benjamin Khakshoor

Third Place Prize – $3,500
Gravity LLC, Richard Kong

Audience Choice Prize – $1,500
Curu, David Potter & Abb Kapoor

Runners Up
Grumpy Joes, Gary Hwang
POSH, Nathalyn Nunoo

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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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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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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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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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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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