Students pitch their ventures during the final Friday Pitch Session of the year

Author: Lillian Piz

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Even as the academic year comes to a close, it seems that (virtual) engagement with the IDEA Center and Student Pipeline is as active as ever. This past Friday, student entrepreneurs pitched their business ideas over Zoom to the IDEA Center Student Startups staff and venture coaches. Other students and staff members on the call also had the opportunity to weigh in with questions, recommendations, or potential contacts for the founders. From fun personal finance solutions to a yacht sail clothing line, the range of ideas produced during this time of quarantine demonstrates that ND students’ impactful and imaginative thinking never stops.

Second year MBA student Pablo Carrillo kicked off the event with Venti, a coffee business committed to donating part of its proceeds to organizations involved in ocean clean-up. Following Venti was Anytime Game, an app which allows all types of athletes, from active adults to professionals, to connect with friends and set up impromptu games whenever they’d like. Continuing with the theme of staying active, first year student Ana Gonzalez and her team are working to address people’s concerns about being able to run safely outdoors with their app, Zon Loopt. Not only does the app generate routes for users looking to run in unfamiliar areas, but it does so by prioritizing the runner’s safety.

Savinspire is an app created by Sophomore Arts and Letters student Brendan Bettencourt who is proposing an interesting trade off: more screen time requires payment but this transaction can also be put towards building a savings fund. Other finance solutions are pushing geographic boundaries; graduate student Emily Clements is working with Watts for Love and Let’s Share the Sun Foundation to develop a solar microfinance solution delivering solar-powered lamps to families living in Haiti.

Declan Rourke, a first year Arts and Letters student, is developing the newest line of preppy clothing with his business, Yacht Club America. Rourke is designing clothing which will ultimately incorporate re-purposed Ripstop Spinnaker Sailcloth from yachts into pants, shirts, and jackets. While this entrepreneur starts a new fashion trend, Declan Rourke wants to capitalize on another trend that has swept college campus: scooters. The first year Arts and Letters student is creating a scooter specific lock for owners who are worried about their scooter being stolen.

In the face of the pandemic, these entrepreneurs are also thinking seriously about how their solutions can potentially help people navigate some of the dramatic changes happening in their lives. Strive is a debit card paired with an online platform which offers cardholders engaging and celebrity-endorsed education about personal finance as well as the ability to donate money to charity whenever they use Strive. ESTEEM graduate student Chuck Rioux and senior business major Patrick Digenan emphasized how important Strive will be particularly for young professionals as they enter this economic downturn. Junior design and visual communications major Olivia Anderson also sees new value in her company, Jüke, a digital platform designed to improve communication between musicians and their listeners. Live performers will more easily be able to engage with their audience, receive tips, and curate lists of requests. Now as a greater number of musicians are moving to virtual and live stream performance, Anderson acknowledges there could be an opportunity for Jüke to support this as well. In addition to finding new ways to virtually connect, finding new ways to increase cleanliness habits seems to be at the top of today’s list. Clean Cover, a business idea developed by first year Arts and Letters student Alexander Nour and his team, is a cover which allows airplane passengers to sanitarily and neatly use and dispose of items on their tray table. 

Staff and student judges were extremely impressed with the caliber of the student presentations for this final pitch event of the year.