Category Archives: startup

Find Your Friends and Cool Events with Terp Startup Flee

This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the nine student startups who are participating in the Terp Startup summer incubator phase of our Fearless Founders accelerator program. Participating student entrepreneurs received a stipend up to $5,000 that would enable them to work exclusively on their startups over eight weeks in the summer.

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Flee

Didac Hormiga, a rising junior at University of Maryland, is the founder and CEO of Flee (Find Local Events and Entertainment), a location-based social media app that helps people find events and entertainment happening around them. As a marketing and information systems double-major with a minor in technology entrepreneurship and a knack for design (he designed the wireframes for the app himself), Didac’s diverse skillset is complemented by his CTO, Ian Sawyer, whom he met while interning at Talk Local. Together, they’re developing a platform with features such as video stories, discounts and transportation options that provide convenient benefits to both users and venues who partner with the app. Friends find cool events to attend together, venues gain access to an effective marketing channel, and everyone gets to have fun.

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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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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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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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The Rise of Social Enterprise: A Review of “Not Business As Usual”

by: Abraham Sidibe

This past week, the Dingman Center partnered with the Center for Social Value Creation to host a movie screening of “Not Business As Usual”, an informative documentary created by Institute B in 2014 about the transformation of the business world from capitalist to conscious capitalist.  The movie told the stories of several social entrepreneurs who are bringing humanity back into business. Institute B is an entrepreneur accelerator for businesses that put profit and societal value on equal footing as profits. They develop entrepreneurs by providing education, consulting and funding. They are also the same people who helped shape the business cultures of Starbucks, IKEA, and lululemon.

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Miss the screening? Watch the full film here.

The film is an incredible resource for those who want to fix a social problem through business because it documents the history of social business and shares the stories of social entrepreneurs who are working to be a force for positive social and environmental change. One interesting thing I learned from this movie is that sustainability metrics continuously evolve. There is always a way to be more sustainable and have lower impact products, starting with the supply chain. Although there is also no way to have entirely zero impact when producing products, there are ways to minimize those negative effects.

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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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Stewart Fellow Interns at an Innovative Healthcare Startup

This summer, several undergraduate students have been interning at startups through the Kathryn Stewart Fellowship program. Undergraduate Stewart fellows are awarded a $3,000 scholarship if they are able to secure a summer internship with venture capital or angel-funded startups and early stage companies. The Dingman Center interviewed each fellow about their experience.

Erich Meissner – LiftOff Health

Tell us about LiftOff Health. What is the company’s mission and core competencies?LiftoffHealth

LiftOff Health is accelerating healthcare innovation in all areas, whether it be HIPAA-compliant instant messaging services or a nanoscale glucose monitor. LiftOff Health has valued connections with the public sector as it is located right outside DC in Crystal City. Our most immense industry by GDP makeup, the healthcare industry, is also the most highly regulated. Things like FDA approvals for medical devices can easily take over a year, and for a startup, that timeline is dangerous. LiftOff Health leverages our proximity to over 200 foreign embassies and international organizations to expedite the process. Startups can find success abroad and monetize their product-to-market fit faster in other countries. We seek to help healthcare executives achieve 10x equity value for their businesses, a principle that mimics Peter Thiel’s first rule for creating a great business: Build Proprietary Technology That Is 10x Better.

Tell us about your responsibilities thus far at LiftOff Health?

LiftOff Health is putting on a series of healthcare hackathons at dozens of colleges and universities. Our lineup so far is global, with hackathons planned in Belarus, Venezuela and local schools like George Washington University and James Madison University. My responsibilities thus far have been around these hackathons. Participants need a place to upload their hacks, and although Devpost and Github are excellent solutions for demos, we want students to come together and popularize our LiftOff platform. I am currently working on the web functionality to host all these hackers. Also, just like with Bitcamp at UMD, we need to have hardware labs ready and enough 3D printers for the events. The most exciting part of this hackathon series is that it is healthcare focused; we will invite speakers to talk about the biggest challenges facing healthcare today. The industry accounts for almost 20% of US-GDP yet the World Health Organization ranks our healthcare as 37th overall in patient outcomes—it definitely needs some innovation.

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Hisaoka Fellow Interns at an Early Stage Real Estate Startup

This summer, several Smith MBA students have been interning at startups through the Hisaoka Fellowship program. Hisaoka fellows are awarded a $5,000 scholarship if they are able to secure a summer internship with venture capital or angel-funded startups and early stage companies. The Dingman Center interviewed each fellow about their experience.

Arjun Goel – Martin Development Corporation

Tell us about Martin Development Corporation. What is the company’s mission and core competencies?

Martin Development Corp is a real estate investment company focused on building a mixed-use, retail centric real estate portfolio in the District of Columbia. The company’s primary target acquisitions are located within the Eastern Core of DC (loosely defined as Connecticut Ave NW through H St NE), which contains over 2.1m SF of retail space not affiliated with a major project. The company focuses on creating an equal distribution of the following two types of retail asset classes within a target deal size of $2.0m-$25.0m:

  • Fully or partially occupied existing retail space in the established corridors of the District with existing income and immediate or future rental growth.
  • Vacant building, Raw Land or Retail condos from multifamily, office and hotel developers in the Eastern Core both for stabilizing projects and entitled but not yet completed projects.

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Hisaoka Fellow Interns at a Startup that Helps Make Higher Education Affordable

This summer, several Smith MBA students have been interning at startups through the Hisaoka Fellowship program. Hisaoka fellows are awarded a $5,000 scholarship if they are able to secure a summer internship with venture capital or angel-funded startups and early stage companies. The Dingman Center interviewed each fellow about their experience.

Ashish Agarwal – MPower Financing

Tell us about MPOWER Financing. What is the company’s mission and core MPowerFinancingcompetencies?

MPOWER’s mission is to remove financial barriers to higher education in the U.S. To accomplish this mission, MPOWER works with investors and universities to lend to high-potential students who are left out by traditional banks. In addition to providing students with access to the financial resources necessary to attend and complete college, MPOWER builds students’ credit histories, provides them with personal finance education, and offers gateway financial products to prepare them for life after college.

Tell us about your responsibilities thus far at MPOWER Financing?

My responsibilities at MPOWER included:

  • Understanding MPOWER’s product inside and out
  • Managing key operations processes and critically thinking about opportunities for improvements
  • Drawing insights based on our data sets to promote efficiency and influence decisions for the MPOWER team

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