Fifty-four Georgetown students submitted startup ideas to the annual Startup Hoyas Twitter Pitch competition, which ended Oct. 23. The competition received approximately 15 percent more submissions than last year’s contest, according to StartupHoyas co-president Beatrice Fabris (COL ’16).
The competition asked undergraduate and graduate students to propose startup ideas in the form of a 140-word tweet, with the winning tweets receiving $140 each. The competition, as with all of StartupHoyas’ competitions, was funded by private donations and sponsorships.
A core StartupHoyas leader team of 10 students from varying grades and schools judged the competition. Each leader had three votes to dole out to the best tweets — the first vote counted for 15 points, the second for 10 points and the third for five points.
“In part, it was based off how feasible the idea was,” Fabris said. “Some of the ideas were incredibly creative and awesome, but it was slightly too imaginative for feasibility purposes. Also, the effort and thought that went into the Twitter pitch idea [mattered] because some ideas were more fleshed out, and it was clear that the individual had spent a lot of time crafting it while others were slightly more abrupt.”
Eric Wu (SFS ’17) wrote this year’s winning tweet. His Oct. 19 tweet read, “PhonicChef.co is your hands-free kitchen. User curated, voice controlled, audio-guided recipes via our mobile app.”
Along with T-shirts for his team and $140, Eric Wu was also encouraged to continue onto the Rocket Pitch Challenge, where the grand prize is $1,500.
Participant Rahul Desai (MSB ’17) began competing in the startup competition his freshman year as a requirement of the Compass Fellowship, a national program that engages first-year undergraduates in entrepreneurship experience. Desai placed second last year in the Rocket Pitch, another competition offered by StartupHoyas that requires students to deliver a two-minute elevator pitch for a startup.
Following Desai’s participation in the Rocket Pitch, he created the startup Trendify, which predicts the success of startups.
“I’ve learned how best to explain an idea in one or two sentences,” Desai said. “Communication is important. In startups, the pitch is everything. It’s absolutely crucial.”
Though Desai did not place in the Twitter Pitch competition this year, his submissions were “a computer word processor that has the auto-correct and machine learning capabilities of a phone keyboard. Write more, faster!” and “an app that controls when people can contact you via phone, email, FB, etc. Different availabilities for friends, fam, work.”
The annual Rocket Pitch Challenge will be held Nov. 17 this year and precedes the showcase StartupHoyas Challenge in March. The StartupHoyas Challenge, with its $5,000 grand prize, is set up like a nicer version of Shark Tank, Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative Associate Director Alyssa Lovegrove said.
“Our goal is just to encourage people to think of good ideas and be brave enough to pitch them and present them because that’s such an important skill,” Lovegrove said.
This year’s Twitter Pitch accepted submissions from graduate and undergraduate students. Startup Hoyas’ other two pitch competitions also accept submissions from any level of Georgetown student.
“We get asked that question a lot,” Lovegrove said. “‘Why don’t you have a different track for the graduate and undergrads? Isn’t that unfair?’ I guess not, because the undergrads do just as well as the graduate students.”
Throughout the year, professional entrepreneurs are also available to advise students interested in creating their own startups. These entrepreneurs could also judge the Rocket or Startup Competition, but according to Lovegrove, they are expected to self-regulate any bias.
Other startup pitches to this year’s Twitter competition included an online marketplace that gives customers the option of Santa and elves delivering merchandise on Christmas, a mobile investing platform for South Africans and a showerhead that simultaneously dispenses soap and water.