StartupHoyas hosted a competition titled Entrepreneurship: A Force for Good, at which 16 student-led startups pitched their ideas and products on Feb. 14.
Grants were awarded based on a four-tier system. A people’s choice winner was chosen using the popular vote and received $500. The third-, second- and first-place teams were determined by the jury, and received $1,000, $2,000 and $3,000, respectively.
First place and the grand prize of $3,000 went to Shivum Bharill’s (COL ’17) Thrive Health, which provides students the opportunity to connect with registered therapists through video chat. Bharill said his startup allows student more flexibility in choosing therapists.
“Students have the ability to connect with therapists beyond those on their own campus,” Bharill said. “Accessibility leads to convenience. Easier video chatting means that students can meet with therapists in the privacy of their own dorm or apartment.”
The event featured entrepreneurs aiming to instigate social change through their original initiatives. Participants represented all undergraduate schools, numerous post-graduate programs, the School of Continuing Studies, the Law Center and the Global Competitive Leadership Program.
The event was co-sponsored by the Compass Fellows Program, Innovo Solutions, the Georgetown University Social Impact and Public Service Fund, the Georgetown University Global Social Enterprise Initiative and the Georgetown University Center for Social Justice.
At the competition, Director of the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative Jeff Reid praised the diversity of people and ideas that participated in the program’s forums.
“This diversity of attendees is one of the things we love, because entrepreneurs come from all shapes, all walks of life, all disciplines,” Reid said. “Our entrepreneurship program at Georgetown here serves students across the entire university.”
Presenters had two minutes to pitch their startups, with no question-and-answer session following. The jury was entirely composed of Georgetown faculty members.
First up was Trade-ing Up, founded by Brian Vodicka (GRD ’18). Vodicka said he planned to work with local organizations and establish a trade school in Ghana in order to boost the region’s economic independence and address the skills gap in the developing world.
“One advantage we have is not only to educate and allow them to be employed but also to drive inter-connected driving economies in this region and in Ghana,” Vodicka said.
Afterwards, Franklin Lee (GRD ’17) presented Celestial Nap Pod, followed by Pak Aranyawat (GRD ’17) who presented his startup, Trust-Alternative Credit Scoring, which aims to help low-income individuals obtain good credit scores.
Following the first few presentations, Chris Gavin’s (MSB ’19) Rocket Bargain, an online platform for purchasing affordable name-brand clothing, was featured in the competition. Rocket Bargain has already sold $60,000 worth of merchandise at discounted prices to low-income Americans during the past four months.
Additionally, Rocket Bargain partnered with Fashion Delivers, a charity which brings children and families new clothes, toys, furniture and books, in order to bolster its outreach.
Gavin said he grew aware of the significance of his company’s mission in selling more than just clothes.
“I realized that I’m not selling clothes anymore, I’m selling confidence,” Gavin said.
After presentations from VamosA, In A Box and VeriFact, entrepreneur-in-residence, Founder of Savenia Labs and President of Jamesmin Advisory, John Jabara delivered the keynote.
Speaking on the meaning of social entrepreneurship and its relation to Georgetown’s Jesuit values, Jabara advised students about starting their own projects. According to Jabara, it is important to have a well-defined objective and target market, as well as to persist throughout the process.
“Aim high and be specific about the social change you want. Keep poking until you hear ‘ouch,’” Jabara said. “What you find is you need to do a ton of customer discovery. In social entrepreneurial companies in particular, the main point isn’t always where you expect it’s going to be.”
Following Jabara’s lecture, Febin Bellamy (MSB ’17) spoke on Unsung Heroes’ latest accomplishments in uniting facility workers and the broader Georgetown community. The competition was catered by Oneil Batchelor, a service worker at the university about whose business Unsung Heroes helped raise awareness.
Sebastian Garcia (GRD ’17) introduced Ubiqua, an enterprise aimed at helping immigrants allocate remittances directly to goods and services without the need for intermediaries.
Leopold, Foodasis, Hope Soaps, EdgeBiome and Crepe&Shake followed, with ThriveHealth’s Rainier Go (MSB ’17) closing the pitching portion of the competition.
The third-place and corresponding $1000 went to Rocket Bargain. Ubiqua won both the people’s choice award and second-place, taking $2500 in total.
Calvin Dass (MSB ’20), who presented the startup In A Box, gave a positive review of the event and said the experience was rewarding regardless if one won or not.
“Even if you don’t win first prize, it’s still good, because you’re making all these connections, and you’re also getting to interact with people that you usually don’t see,” Dass said. “We’re all entrepreneurs, and we’re all trying to make it. The support that you get from other people who are trying to do something, make a positive change, is really great.”