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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Entrepreneurs Split $100,000 in Annual Bark Tank Competition

Eight teams of Georgetown University students and recent graduates pitched their startups at the Bark Tank pitch competition.

Teams competed in the Nov. 2 competition, which was hosted by Georgetown Entrepreneurship,  a sector of the McDonough School of Business (MSB) that empowers student entrepreneurs, and funded by the Leonsis Family Entrepreneurship Prize, an annual $100,000 donation by Monumental Sports & Entertainment CEO Ted Leonsis (COL ’77). Judges evaluated each finalist based on the feasibility of their startup, the team itself, how well the project aligns with Georgetown’s values and how they plan on using the prize money.

Each finalist worked with two mentors who provided feedback on its ideas and pitches during the three weeks leading up to the competition. While individuals who are not members of the campus community are able to compete in the competition, only current students and recent graduates are allowed to present the final pitch.

A panel of judges, including Leonsis, decided how much of the total prize each finalist received. 

Ivica Labuda | Teams of Georgetown University students and graduates pitched startup ideas to earn funding at the Bark Tank pitch competition.

The top winners, Mackenzie Loy (GRD ’22) and Panos Kostopoulos (GRD ’22), were each awarded $30,000 for their startups. Loy’s startup, Homemade in DC, seeks to elevate local food entrepreneurs, especially women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Kostopoulos’ business, Proxy Foods, is the first business-to-business artificial intelligence service developing alternative proteins.

According to Benjamin Zimmerman, managing director of Georgetown Entrepreneurship, Bark Tank has awarded $700,000 to 50 different ventures, helped Georgetown entrepreneurs raise more than $220 million and enabled the creation of hundreds of jobs.

“We also pride ourselves on some of the more intangible metrics that stem from impact of the ventures on the communities and clients they serve, which don’t fit well into typical numbers but have far reaching benefits,” Zimmerman wrote to The Hoya. 

Loy said she plans on using the funding to make her first hire and expand her business to reach more entrepreneurs throughout the Washington, D.C. area. 

“We’ve got our website today, but we want to upgrade it to become a true marketplace that connects the food entrepreneurs to these businesses,” Loy told The Hoya. “So that’s where some of the money will go.”

Kilian Liptrot (LAW ’23) won $15,000 for his photography company Tessen, which develops lightweight camera technology that allows photographers to travel more conveniently. 

Liptrot said being a Bark Tank finalist has encouraged him to pursue entrepreneurship more seriously.

“It just changes the way you view yourself,” Liptrot told The Hoya. “To be a finalist in Bark Tank is a pretty validating event. I think now I’d like to lean into as many student related entrepreneurship competitions as possible to be able to raise as many non-dilutive funds as I can.”

Victoria Gomes-Boronat (GRD ’22) pitched her social gaming platform LUCIO, which aims to connect gaming users based on shared interests, experiences and location, at the competition, winning $15,000 as well as the People’s Choice Award, which granted an additional $5,000 to one venture chosen by the audience. 

Gomes-Boronat said her participation in Bark Tank has changed her perspective about entrepreneurship and her personal path.

“I’m not usually a business person — I’m a creator. I’m a researcher,” Gomes-Boronat told The Hoya. “But Georgetown’s community really helped me grow in my entrepreneurship journey. I want to create a platform that helps people find those connections in those communities that really light up your life.”

Liptrot said his mentors provided valuable input on how to improve his pitch and align it with his business model.

“They looked at my materials, and they get a sense for the business model that we have and the product that we’re hoping to bring to market,” Liptrot said. “They bring so many decades of experience.”

Loy said her mentors helped her craft a stronger narrative for her business.

“It’s also about the story, which is a big part of Homemade in D.C.,” Loy said. “With the food, we always give you the face of the food entrepreneur behind it and their story, and that helps you really connect with and appreciate the food.”

Zimmerman said Jesuit values are important to the initiative’s mission of emphasizing creativity and promoting projects that improve the community.

“We enable students to see the world as entrepreneurs do while providing them with the knowledge and skills they’ll need to act on their insights and provide value to society,” Zimmerman wrote. “We foster an entrepreneurial mindset in and out of the classroom and create a supportive environment that pushes students to think creatively.”

Gomes-Boronat said she was inspired by her fellow competitors and the connections she made at the competition.

“Georgetown Entrepreneurship really taught me about how welcoming and collaborative entrepreneurship is and that it’s not about using people,” Gomes-Boronat said. “It’s really about making connections with people and hearing about their problems and seeing how that could be incorporated into your business and seeing how you could help address different problems for different demographics.”

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About the Contributor
Emily Han
Emily Han, Senior Multimedia Editor
Emily Han is a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences from Los Altos, Calif., studying government and economics. She was a ball kid for Roger Federer and Bill Gates when they played doubles together at the 2018 Match for Africa. [email protected]

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