On October 24, thirteen talented teams of Penn student entrepreneurs presented their startup ideas at the Weiss Tech House’s Elevator Pitch. Judged by Spencer Weiss (M&T ’19), venture capitalist Brett Topche (W’02), and businessman Harvey Hoffman, contestants could leave with prize funding of $1000 for first place, $250 for second, and $100 for third.
From student projects such as TokenLaunch to GLO, many brilliant ideas were pitched. The judges ruled that in 3rd Place came MyOnlineLocker, 2nd was Fitalyst, and 1st was Inventor Space. MyOnlineLocker provides a secure online cloud service where nonprofits can store the documents of homeless persons for easy access and form filing. Current partners who are working alongside and offering expertise to MyOnlineLocker are Broad Street Ministry and Penn Law. Coming in 2nd Place, Fitalyst utilizes messaging platforms to build data-driven and time-saving wellness tools for students and their institutions. Their first product called Tag, which offers streamlined communication with friends over FaceBook messenger, has already 400 student users and the Fitalyst team seeks to expand to 3 to 5 schools in the near future. Finally, in 1st place, came Inventor Space. Inventor Space seeks to better design High School Makerspaces that are aligned with student interest and teacher expertise. Inventor Space currently pilots their approach with 180 students through a high school in Pennsylvania with partnering teachers. The team behind Inventor Space seeks to expand further and continue to offer new innovations in education.
WeissFund is now accepting applications from student-run startups on Penn’s campus for non-dilutive funding of up to $1500. Teams must have at least 1 current Penn student to apply. We encourage any team ranging from “back of the napkin” ideas to those with developed products and customers to apply. Our mission is to support student entrepreneurship and innovation by providing resources to founders to let them take their companies to the next level. Find out more about our funding process here. We look forward to meeting with you to achieve that goal!
Come join us for a Demo Day of our 2019 Summer cohort on Tuesday, August 27th at 6:00 PM in F85 Huntsman Hall. Meet some of our incredible startups that are changing the world, one innovative idea at a time.
If you only learn one thing from Isaiah and Kameron, it should be that…
Getting your idea on paper is only the beginning. The hard part and the crucial part is to take action to bring your ideas to life. Having a vision and something to look forward to is extremely important, and that coupled with the perfect, implementable strategy is what really makes a successful venture and entrepreneur.
Having dealt with transportation issues during their time as students at Penn, Kameron Hypolite (SAS ‘20) and Isaiah Washington (W’20). For example, Penn’s shuttles are only accessible after 5pm, so the founders have found themselves stranded off-campus with only ride-sharing options to return to school. Trekking through Penn’s expansive campus is also time-consuming and inefficient. After delving into a solution to these type of problems, the founders realized that traditional transportation-sharing companies, such as Indego, posed a couple of problems that made them subpar answers to these issues, especially in intimate environments such as a college or corporate campus.
BoostScooters combines the model of a scooter, a bike, and smart-ride technology to service college and corporate campuses. They strive to provide a clean and efficient system to help connect intimate campuses and make them more accessible to all members of that community.
In terms of challenges, Isaiah told us about something that he lives his entrepreneurial life by: “Entrepreneurs hear no all the time, but they also can never take no as an answer.” Like many entrepreneurs, the founders of BoostScooters have had opportunities close and open to them, and they say that perseverance through all that is the most challenging and integral part of their journey. Kameron reflected on the importance of time management, and the importance of remaining dedicated to their business through heavy academic and extracurricular workloads.
If you only learn one thing from Nestor, it should be that…
Unlike many traditional jobs, entrepreneurship doesn’t have a “set playbook.” So be ready for all the hurdles, the good and the bad, and know to not take hardships personally but rather that everyone’s journey is unique.
Today, millions of Americans are obtaining their insurance through brick and mortar industries. Not only is it generally an unpleasant experience, but the process is filled with extra fees. Founder Nestor Solari strives to bring these customers online, lowering the cost and getting rid of all of those extra fees. Nestor’s company, Sigo Seguros, focuses on non-standard or high risk auto insurance space, giving people an easy transparent way to get their auto insurance.
As a child, Nestor always remembered looking up to his teachers, and thought that he wanted to be a teacher growing up. Now that he’s gotten a taste of being an entrepreneur, the likelihood of that childhood goal is smaller, but he is devoted to the excitement of entrepreneurship. To him, no two days are the same. Everyday, he feels that he gets a new challenge and a new experience. The thing that is currently on top of Nestor’s mind is integrating with a new insurance partner and giving insurance access to millions of more people.
One thing that most people don’t tell you about starting a new company is the emotional roller coaster that comes with it. While a strong work ethic and diligence is undoubtedly important, Nestor believes that what really makes a difference is being able to handle your emotions. Making time to recuperate before tackling the next challenge is just as crucial as having those skills.
If you only learn one thing from Peter, it should be that:
Persistence is key. Challenges are inevitable, but it’s the mindset and method with which you tackle these challenges that really defines what an entrepreneur is.
Growing up in a shop that sold bare computer parts after his parents moved into the city from a rural village in Eastern China, Peter (Baile) Chen, the adults around him told him to take jobs that were common for his area. That means aiming low and becoming a waiter or a truck driver. However, Peter knew that that was their ceiling, not his. Today, he channels his experience with a lack of support and mentorship in his youth to become the co-founder of Peer, and has grown to fit his true potential.
Peer is a peer-to-peer mobile app that connects high school students with qualified college student mentors with similar experiences and interests in order to bridge the knowledge and opportunity in the Asian youth demographic. His company addresses the scarcity for mentorship for a large portion of youths in America — ⅓ to be exact — which can greatly impact these individuals lives. The advice that engaged high school students may receive include anything from academic advice to career guidance to general life tips.
As a freshman, Peter is already an accomplished entrepreneur, but he also notes that time management is a challenge at this point in his life. His academic course load may make balancing his entrepreneurship responsibilities difficult. This doesn’t stop him from achieving numerous prestigious accomplishments, though. Peer has secured funding from both the Penn Wharton Innovation Fund, and landed a place in the WeissLab Accelerator’s current cohort, along with winning several prizes.