IDEAS That Matter Workshop and Pitch Competition brings Students and Community together to Learn and Share

Author: Emily Tyson

Ideas That Matter

The past two Thursday evenings,  a few dozen community members and Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross students gathered to learn from each other and share their ideas and ventures.

Notre Dame’s IDEA Center, Elevate Ventures, and Startup South Bend | Elkhart co-sponsored the event which was held virtually. Dustin Mix and Maria Gibbs, co-founders of INVANTI LLC, facilitated the first evening on September 17, coaching participants on how to break down the problem they have identified into its core parts, and providing valuable insight into how to build a solution that addresses real needs.

85 people attended the first night of the two-part event, with 29 teams pitching their event to the rest of the workshop attendees. They were then given an opportunity to gather in breakout rooms for the purpose of recruiting additional team members, if needed. 

Over the subsequent week, teams worked to refine their presentations and applied to pitch their ideas during the second night of the event. They would be competing for cash prizes and to receive feedback from judges.

On the 24th, 13 teams pitched their ventures to four judges: Dustin Mix and Maria Gibbs of INVANTI, Soraya Hernandez, Sr. VP with GlobalData Plc, and Nicholas Kuhn, Entrepreneur-in-residence with Elevate Ventures. 

The ideas and ventures presented ranged from solutions for on-campus challenges to innovative medical devices, from a mental health app to a new way for travellers to enjoy camping. Each presenter gave their pitch and then took questions and got feedback from the judges. At the end of the evening, the judges deliberated and the prize winners were announced.

Two teams tied for second place and took $500 each: 

  • Brava! ~ Inclusive, quality lingerie at an affordable price. Team leader is Liliya Chernysheva, a graduate student in the College of Engineering, University of Notre Dame
  • Sleep Easy Pillow ~ Letting people sleep a little easier. Team leader is Anthony Esplin, a graduate student in the ESTEEM Graduate Program, University of Notre Dame

The $1000 first prize went to:

  • Zokos ~ Resale smarter, Faster. Team leader is Michael Altenburger, a 2013 (MTS) and 2019 (PhD) graduate of the University of Notre Dame and currently an enFocus Innovation Fellow. Mike is joined by Ryan Ryker, a student at IUSB, and Rod Baradaran, a graduate of IU Bloomington.

Altenburger commented afterwards that his team “really enjoyed the experience, and found it very helpful, especially as we move forward with our McCloskey application.” 

The McCloskey New Venture Competition offers more than $400,000 in cash and prizes and is open to all undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff and alumni from the University of Notre Dame may enter the McCloskey Competition. Students from all Colleges, all majors and all programs are encouraged to enter. Local community startup ventures (St. Joseph, Elkhart and Marshall counties only) are welcome and encouraged to participate. Students from other local universities (including St. Mary's College, Holy Cross College, Bethel College, IUSB, Goshen College and Trine University) are also eligible to participate as well. Submission deadline for Round 1 is Sunday, October 18.

“It was great to see so many teams get the chance to show off the hard work of entrepreneurship, getting out and talking to people about the needs they have and then being creative about how to solve those challenges,” said Dustin Mix, one of the workshop leaders and final evening judges.

Patti Reinhardt, the IDEA Center’s Director of Student Engagement, Competitions and Events, and organizer and moderator of the event, agreed: “I was very pleased with the enthusiasm and turn-out for this event. The ideas pitched spanned a variety of different industries. This event was a great illustration of how the IDEA Center is open to working with students from all disciplines across campus as well as with alumni and our local community.”