Charlotte Venture Challenge Student Showcase
Ventureprise Awards over $10,000 to Student Entrepreneurs as Charlotte Entrepreneurial Leaders Discuss Innovation and Startup Culture
As students were managing to wrap up their semester, along with adapting to online courses, ten UNC Charlotte student entrepreneurs participated in Ventureprise’s inaugural virtual 49er Foundry and Student Entrepreneur Showcase. Ventureprise, UNC Charlotte’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center, hosted students from College of Computing and Informatics, Belk College of Business, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, William States Lee College of Engineering and Cato College of Education. Three community entrepreneurial leaders served as judges for the showcase. “These are students who have worked all year on their projects and we wanted to give them an opportunity to showcase their innovation. We were excited to welcome Chris Elmore, Meggie Williams and Miguel Avila as our judges for the event,” comments Laura Smailes, Ventureprise Assistant Director. Student entrepreneurs produced a three minute pitch video for the judges and general public to compete for prizes totaling over $10,000 and an opportunity to participate in a summer mentorship program. The videos were posted on Ventureprise’s YouTube page where the public interacted with the students and voted for their favorite team. “I could tell they really put a lot of hard work into it. The spectrum of businesses, interests and backgrounds was engaging and compelling,” commented Meggie Williams, CEO & Founder of Skipper, who also serves as a Ventureprise Board Member. “This was a very diverse group of student entrepreneurs who are dedicated to making an impact and exploring their ideas. They have worked very well together, challenging each other along the way and they represented well in their final videos,” adds Smailes.
Ventureprise hosted a virtual panel session with the judges and all participating student teams, where valuable insight and feedback was given to the students to advise them on how to continue their entrepreneurial ventures. Each judge gave a mini TED Talk based off of the video pitch submissions they scored and took questions from the students. Miguel Avila, the first UNC Charlotte graduate to be invited to participate in the Venture for America program, started his entrepreneurial journey at Ventureprise had this advice for the students, “Each path will be different. I realized I didn’t have enough expertise to get me to the next level in my start up journey, so I needed to work at a tech company that was more established to learn more before starting my own company.” He also discussed the benefits of the Venture for America program and how it fosters entrepreneurial thinking and the startup culture.
Williams focused on the importance of the understanding the problem you are trying to solve. “Take the time to understand the pervasiveness of the problem, the customer’s willingness to pay and if they are willing to pay for the solution now.” Chris Elmore, also a Ventureprise Board Member, UNC Charlotte Adjunct Professor and well-known Charlotte entrepreneur among many titles, added to Williams’ advice, “Pivoting is not a failure. You need to continue to work and see it through.” Another Elmore message that resonated with the students, “What you are doing, you’re taking one of the first and most difficult steps into making your dreams a reality. That separates you from hundreds of thousands of people around the world.” The students came away from the virtual panel with a renewed energy for their businesses and some personal advice that they didn’t necessarily expect. “It was great to hear from those who are where we want to be,” commented Adonis Abdullah. Fidel Henriquez agreed, “So much experience was shared and the feedback was great.”
After the panel and Q&A, prizes were awarded to the five teams that had the highest cumulative score from the judging panel. Undergraduate winners were Adonis Abdullah (Hot Route Analytics), Fidel Henriquez (Heben) and Sahithi Meduri, Ivan Zaytsev and Aditya Bjujle (Bridge). Graduate winners were Akintonde Abbas and Olalekan Ogundairo (PROaktif) and Jimmy Nyanwapolu (DiGESSCO). UNC Charlotte’s Research and Economic Development and Ventureprise awarded each team $2,000 and a spot in the Ventureprise Summer Student Accelerator. Teams participating in the summer accelerator will be creating minimal viable products, interacting with customers and in some cases generating revenue. “The accelerator is an opportunity for the students to launch and grow their business ideas in an encouraging and supportive environment,” said Devin Collins, the Interim Executive Director of Ventureprise. With over 150 votes coming in for the crowd favorite, Tristin Fields (Loose Lace) received the J. Chris Murphy Award and winning $500 for receiving the most votes for crowd favorite.
The full show, panel discussion and all student videos, can be found on Ventureprise’s YouTube page:
Full list of Participants:
Fidel Henriquez, Sophomore, College of Computing and Informatics
Tristin Fields, Senior, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Robert Abbott, Graduate Student, College of Computing and Informatics
Neleesh Mungoli, Graduate Student, College of Computing and Informatics
Adonis Abdullah, Junior, Belk College of Business
Daniel Johnson, Junior, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Sahithi Meduri, Junior, College of Computing and Informatics
Ivan Zaytsev, Sophomore, College of Computing and Informatics
Aditya Bhuijle, Sophomore, College of Computing and Informatics
Joshua Gibbons, Junior, William States Lee College of Engineering
Emmanuel Wallace, Junior, William States Lee College of Engineering
Jimmy Nyanwapolu, Graduate Student, William States Lee College of Engineering and Belk College of Business
Olalekan Ogundairo, Graduate Student, William States Lee College of Engineering
Akintonde Abbas, Graduate Student, William States Lee College of Engineering
Individual videos can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLBgF4ZV1iDx0GpjoUaboAJEKvMQPCtVBh
To learn more about the 49er Foundry Members, https://entrepreneurship.uncc.edu/students/49er-foundry