IDEA Center Friday Pitches continue and help keep Student Pipeline open

Author: Lillian Piz

Markus Straarup and Luke Jones

Even during this time of uncertainty, the IDEA Center’s commercialization engine continues to turn. This includes the Student Pipeline’s traditional Friday Pitches which have gone virtual for the rest of the year. Students will continue to have the opportunity to pitch their business ideas to successful entrepreneurs, receive feedback, and learn more about how they are navigating today’s current entrepreneurial landscape.

This past Friday, our guest speaker was Markus Straarup, founder of Friendspire, an app-based social media platform where you can share and curate lists of personal recommendations from your friends. The trick to what makes Friendspire successful? “We actually want to help you spend less time on your phone. People today want social media for more than the point of social media - people want things anchored in real experiences.” Friendspire gives people access to ratings they trust built by a network of people helping to cut through the noise of today’s overwhelming world of social media. During this new age of social distancing, Friendspire is helping groups of people stay connected through exchanging book, podcast, and movie recommendations. 

Straarup describes what it was like to transition from working within the corporate world to becoming an entrepreneur. “I really believed in the idea.” After raising some money for Friendspire’s proof of concept, Straarup felt prepared to make the leap from his role as a high-level corporate executive to startup founder where he began to work on collecting a group of superusers and scaling their business.

This week, Straarup listened in on Notre Dame junior Luke Jones’ pitch for his startup GoFuneral. GoFuneral is an online platform where families can plan the details of their loved ones’ funeral service. Their service focuses on helping to educate families on all of their options in advance in order to ease the burden during what is the most difficult time. Coming from a family of people who work within funeral services, including his brother, Levi Jones, Jones is an expert on the funeral service process - including some of its major problems. What can be painful conversations about the cost of available services are made easier through GoFuneral’s “reimagining [of] the funeral process to empower families” and offer lower cost merchandise options. 

With the rise in TeleHealth and growing comfort with utilizing online services for personal services, Jones believes GoFuneral has an opportunity to reach many families looking for much-needed guidance through the funeral process. Not only will GoFuneral help during the process but will also be sure to follow up with families. GoFuneral also hopes to coordinate their services with the work of hospice care centers and funeral homes. Jones and the GoFuneral team will be participating in the IDEA Center’s Race to Revenue program this summer.