The budding future of entrepreneurship appeared early and often on the Joan B. Kroc IPJ Theatre stage during the University of San Diego’s sixth annual Venture Vetting (V2) Pitch Competition on May 4.
Happy Spoon, Trash Tracker Triumph
Spain’s David Jimenez Burgos, a first-year USD MBA student, was the first of six entrepreneurial pitches. He came onto the stage eager to inform the audience about Happy Spoon, a restaurant finder mobile application that can provide the consumer instantly with a list of restaurants and plates that match a user’s specific dietary requirements. Happy Spoon earned the most seed funding of the night, $22,000, leaving Burgos ecstatic and eager to see this idea succeed and help all who can benefit from his app. He said the app is ready to go to market and that he plans to utilize his V2 funding to help with marketing Happy Spoon across numerous platforms.
Jordan Schultz, a senior USD engineering major, introduced the audience to Trash Tracker, an idea he’ll actually be graded on when he participates in the May 12 Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering Showcase for senior design projects. The Trash Tracker is a device attached to garbage trucks to collect data on how much trash/recycling/green waste each house produces. The data gathered is used to provide waste collection companies with increased operational efficiency and seeks to help change recycling behavior.
Trash Tracker was awarded $8,000 and was the only other USD track idea to receive funding from angel investors Stath Karras, executive director of USD’s Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate; Andreas Roell, a USD alumnus and managing partner for San Diego-based Analytics Ventures; and Amanda Lettmann, a U.S. Air Force veteran who is the co-founder and COO of Simple Disability Insurance, Inc., a venture capital-funded IsurTech start-up in the Silicon Valley.
Furthermore, Schultz’s effort in V2 was a preview of things to come. The next day, as a Social Innovation Challenge finalist, Trash Tracker won an additional $8,000.
Another USD track finalist was Global Seller Holdings, Ltd. Pitched by its CEO Ryan Garrett, who will graduate later this month from USD’s dual JD/MBA program and its Marketing Director Esben Retboll, a USD MBA student, has a portfolio of companies in which they serve the logistics needs of ecommerce sellers on a global scale. The company, which was incorporated earlier this year, has among its companies the 2014-created FBAForward which today provides consulting services to cover product selection and sourcing, logistics optimization and Amazon brand growth to help sellers reach their goals.
Latin America Track Results
And then there was V2’s newest addition to its lineup. The V2 competition, which has been bi-national for three previous years, expanded on that by having a team representing Uruguay as well as two pitch teams from Mexico-based companies.
The show stealer was 19-year-old Brian Wilson from Mexico, who pitched Flipp. The company provides a platform for college students in Mexico to buy and sell mainly used college books fast, easy and affordable. Wilson said the idea was developed two years ago. Through his pitch, Flipp was the lone Latin America entry to receive seed funding, $10,000, from angel investors Silvia Mah, CEO of Hera-Labs, an accelerator program for female-owned businesses; Veronica Yepez, owner of Perpetum Consulting; and Ramon Toledo, founder of Busca Corp.
Even though they were not awarded funding, Uruguay’s Mauro Carballo, Gaston Legnani and Aguistin Santorio were ecstatic to gain experience and exposure to the audience in pitching their idea, Krowth. Their idea is a business-to-business platform where companies can hire and sell services without using money, thus transforming their excess capacity into needed services, reducing cost of sales and increasing international exposure.
Also pitching was Evimed Health Care, which offers the first transaction-based platform to connect medical services in Mexico to users in the United States. The company’s pitch was given by Cid Camarena. Angel investors, while also not receiving funding, did get an offer from Silvia Mah to provide mentoring help to further develop their concept.
Support, Inspiration and Making a Dream a Reality
Following the six student team pitches a series of 15-minute one-on-one meetings with each track’s three angel investors offered plenty of helpful feedback for these entrepreneurs.
And even before the program inside the IPJ Theatre started, there were a number of V2 “Hot Prospects,” teams who have an idea that’s got potential and could be next year’s V2 finalist with a little more seasoning showing their ideas at the Venture Fair an hour before the main program. This year’s crop was Carve Strap, Never Peak Media, VIRTLimb, Mr. G’s Garden, Fries First, The POD and Large Screen Display.
The evening’s V2 program also included a keynote presentation by School of Business alumna Felena Hanson ’95, founder of Hera Hub, who shared her entrepreneurial journey and Sarah Becerra, a Hera Hub community director in Sorrento Valley, offered some tips to aspiring student entrepreneurs.
Also inspiring were the words that Regina Bernal ’12, the USD School of Business entrepreneurship manager, who works alongside V2 founder Mike Lawless, clinical professor of management and academic director of entrepreneurship initiatives, used to praise the entrepreneurial spirit of the students.
“These are entrepreneurs who are getting close to final exams, have homework and, at the same time, are juggling their entrepreneurial life. They are putting their dreams out here in front of you, which is very brave and very special,” said Bernal at the start of the program. “The rock stars are these students who have been practicing, pitching and dreaming to make their ventures a reality.”
— Ryan T. Blystone