Tag Archives: startup

3 Things I Did To “Surprise and Delight” My Way to 15,000 Customers

by: Sam Feldman, Founder, CardBuddy

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BACKGROUND ON ME

I fell in love with entrepreneurship soon after arriving at college, and made it my goal to run a business full-time upon graduating. I went 2 years without any paying customers, but during my junior year I started CardBuddy, a stick-on phone wallet company that now does over $100K annual revenue (and have been running it full-time since graduating last May).

I have some unique customer service strategies which have brought me great results, and I thought I’d share them here!

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Startup Stories: A Summer Internship at Sandboxx

This past summer, Michael Khizgilov ’20 received a stipend to work at a startup through our Kathryn Stewart Fellowship Program. The Dingman Center asked him about his experience to give other students a preview of the benefits a startup internship has to offer.

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Tell us about Sandboxx. What is the company’s mission and core competencies?

SANDBOXX simplifies the military lifestyle. Its mission is to keep the military community connected—and it does that in a number of ways. It helps people send letters to their loved ones who are off the grid at boot camp. It also helps parents find great travel deals and helps active duty members stay connected with their community. This all centers around the free SANDBOXX app. SANDBOXX was founded by vets and is leveraging tech to improve the military community—to serve those who serve us.

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Tell us about your responsibilities over the summer at Sandboxx?

My responsibilities were focused on operations as well as marketing. I helped ensure that the operations process was running smoothly, with a focus on quality and efficiency. In addition, I was responsible for analyzing various stages of the operations process and finding ways to improve the quality and efficiency of the system, with great success. This type of thinking and focus on constant innovation is ingrained into the company culture, and I often find myself analyzing ways to improve my own daily workflow since completing the internship. On the marketing side, I was also responsible for writing blog posts and creating social media content. This process required me to truly understand Sandboxx’s mission and the expectations of its users. I feel that my marketing experience had a strong connection to the process of launching a startup as I had to emphasize with the end-user and understand their needs and pain-points. For example, in the case of Sandboxx’s Letters platform, I needed to fully understand the challenge that loving family and friends face in staying connected to their future service member during boot camp. As someone with limited prior exposure to the military, I had to truly immerse myself in the culture and history to effectively fulfill my role.

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Get Stock Market Savvy with Terp Startup Senvision

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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Senvision’s founders: Sanna Madan (CTO) and Christopher Look (CEO)

Senvision

Rising University of Maryland sophomores Christopher Look (CEO) and Sanna Madan (CTO) are the youngest founders in our Terp Startup incubator, but their spot is well-earned. Their venture, Senvision, uses a machine-learning algorithm that conducts sentiment analysis of companies on social media to track stock market movement. Their desired end-product will be a mobile app targeted to millennials to help them invest smarter through day-to-day trade, yielding higher returns. Competing apps tend to rely on a mutual fund strategy, which places the user in a more passive role and denies them the ability to effectively educate themselves about the stock market. The Dingman Center interviewed the founders about their startup, which they launched in their freshman year.

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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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Ladies First Profile: Shizu Okusa of JRINK

As part of the Dingman Center’s involvement in Women’s Month at Smith, this post profiles Shizu Okusa, a local founder who will be participating in our Ladies First: Becoming a Savvy Startup Investor workshop on March 10th.

by: Nina Silverstein MBA ’17

Shizu Okuza - Head shotShizu Okusa’s entrepreneurial journey has not been a lateral one, but rather a circuitous culmination of experiences that led her to co-found JRINK, a “fresh-pressed solution for life-pressed people.” The no-sugar added, preservative-free, cold-pressed juices are locally produced in Falls Church, Virginia, and have permeated the Washington D.C. healthy living scene. JRINK serves delicious and nutritious offerings via both their retail locations and online delivery.

Shizu’s path to launching JRINK was a winding one, first taking her to the trading floor at Goldman Sachs, where she met her future co-founder, Jennifer Ngai. After her analyst program ended, Shizu traveled to and worked in Mozambique and Bali, where yoga and clean eating were key priorities. It was during this trip that she became more curious about the world and other cultures. When she returned to D.C., Shizu took a job with the World Bank, where Jennifer was also working. Having kept in touch over the years, the two reunited and quickly realized that healthy food options were not available near their office. They did not have access to delivery services at the time and had no healthy options nearby, and the idea for JRINK emerged. Seeking to solve their own problem, Shizu and Jennifer began bringing their own juices to work, where colleagues would ask for tastes and where to one for themselves.

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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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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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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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