By Brittney Dunkins
Mobile Farmers Market, a portable, wireless payment application for farm-to-table vendors, and Replica, a 3-D technology that can scan any object from a mobile device, were the first-prize winning ideas presented at the George Washington University’s annual Pitch George Elevator Pitch Competition on Saturday.
More than 40 teams competed for a total of $10,000 in prizes at the celebration of innovation and entrepreneurship hosted by the Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence (CFEE) and organized by the Office of Entrepreneurship, the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of Business.
“We think it’s important for entrepreneurially inclined students to experience this process in a safe environment,” said Kevin May, a Ph.D. candidate at GW and competition organizer. “This is a launching pad for people with very early stage ideas, and it offers support for piloting the next steps of bringing a business to life.”
Only 12 teams of undergraduate and graduate students qualified for the semifinal round where they presented their fledgling business plans to a team of judges inside an elevator. Graduates and undergraduates were judged separately.
The concept of the elevator pitch reinforces the idea that students need to be focused and enthusiastic in their approach in order to capture the attention and support of potential investors, Mr. May said.
“Watching the winning teams today, you could feel their enthusiasm during the presentations, and you knew that they were going to follow their passion,” said Amy Millman, M.P.A. ’79, a CFEE guest lecturer and founder of Springboard Enterprises, a platform for female entrepreneurs.
“There is so much talent on this campus and to give students an opportunity to be front and center and get support for their endeavors is very exciting,” she added.
Team Mobile Farmers Market included students Tony Liu, Yuchen "Felicity" Xie, Lulu Ma and Lisette Garcia, who took home the first-place undergraduate prize of $2,000. Their portable application connects users of the Electronic Benefit Transfer card, a government-issued card for food and cash benefits, with 8,000 fresh food retailers worldwide.
“It was amazing to win,” Ms. Xie said. “Pitch George was a great opportunity to get feedback from judges, to further develop our business idea and to get a chance to talk to other groups.”
The graduate first-place and $2,000 prize went to Team Replica, led by Brandon Minor, B.A. ’13, B.S. ’13, a computer science Ph.D. candidate at GW. Replica uses object recognition algorithm technology to scan and print objects from mobile devices.
“Winning Pitch George was a little surreal, to be sure, but the validation it brought was satisfying,” Mr. Minor said. “I had an opportunity to pitch what I thought was a good idea, and the results showed me that I might actually be onto something.”
Both teams will have the opportunity to advance directly to the semifinals of the Business Plan Competition and compete for $101,000 in prizes.
Other undergraduate winners include second-place team Carne Asada winning $1,500, third place team StudentStart.it winning $1,000, and the audience selected “fan favorite” team, JiYeon’s Tea Thermos, which won $500.
Graduate second-place winner Luckipets took home $1,500, third-place winner FoodRunners took home $1,000, and graduate “fan favorite” winner Craft/Work took home $500.