On April 21, Trinity University held the inaugural Stumberg Prize competition, which gave students the opportunity to pitch startup business ideas and awarded funding the same night. Fourteen student teams competed, and five teams were awarded $5,000 in seed funding with the opportunity to compete with one another for the ultimate prize of $25,000 in October.
Students ranged in age from first-years to graduate students, all with an equal chance to dazzle the judges with their presentations. Students from every major were eligible to compete, and their industry selections varied wildly.
Participants had to apply online, submitting a “lean business canvass,” and then on the big night had five minutes to make their pitch, surrounded by wide monitors and a large audience. Afterwards, judges posed questions and commented for five minutes.
Judges were selected from the local entrepreneurship community. In to providing expert advice, they had the capacity to help the fledgling startups develop their businesses in San Antonio: Nick Longo, the founder of Coffee Cup Software, is a co-founder of Geekdom, Emily Bowe is the operations manager for the 80/20 Foundation, David Morris is CEO of ZuPreem, Cristal Glangchai is CEO of VentureLab, and Peter French is president of Café Commerce. The judges conferred in private after all 14 presentations, and then announced their favorites to an enthusiastic crowd and the anxious students.
The announcement was followed by polite applause, which concluded with the winners holding up comically large checks for photo ops. Among five winners, two of the recipients were in the health care field.
Denify will help nurses organize and complete tasks by automatically creating queues for patients through an on-call system. In theory, it could reduce backlog and prioritize tasks for overworked nurses.
Laundry Service for Colleges intends to solve a problem even more pressing. The business will receive, launder, and return college students’ clothing items through a subscription model (see top photo).
Plova Chewing Gum contains a new antibacterial compound that could significantly improve dental health.
Noso is creating affordable pockets that customers can stick onto their shirts. There is a growing market of consumers who want to customize their clothing, and a stick-on pocket would open up the option to those that can’t sew.
VHT: ChildLife4Kids is working on an app-based platform that helps physicians and patients monitor certain biometric data like insulin levels. Improved sensors have made it easier to collect biometric data, but they need an interface to display such information.
Each of the winning teams will get some mentoring and advising to develop their business in the next several months, and then in the Fall, finalists will compete for the grand prize of $25,000.
Louis Stumberg, the event’s namesake, was a member of Trinity’s board of trustees for many years. The newly-launched annual competition is “a tribute to his leadership in San Antonio’s business and civic community and his commitment to the economic and business development of San Antonio,” the university announced.
“It’s a little intimidating, but a good experience,” said Olivier Dardant, a junior. “You go through proposing your idea, going through your slides, reading the audience’s body language, and then defending yourself during the questioning.”
Dardant’s team proposed an online service that connects high school students looking at colleges with students who already attend, called Uconvo. Following the competition, they’re still working on improving the service. “I’ll definitely compete next year, as long as we come up with a really great idea,” Dardant said.
“We aim to shift the failure cycle from post-graduation to while they are still students by creating an environment where it is safe to fail,” said Dr. Luis Martinez, head of the entrepreneurship program. “All of our students are realizing the experience and challenges of starting and participating in ‘real world’ ventures while they are students.”
The grand prize award competition will likely occur in October at the entrepreneurship center at Trinity’s Center for Science and Innovation.
*Featured/top image: Michaela Hoffman and Edwin Manton, both freshmen, receiving their $5000 prize for their startup Laundry Service for Colleges. Photo Courtesy of Anh-Viet Dinh.
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