On the evening of April 27, six groups of TU student entrepreneurs gathered in the Chisholm Auditorium for a Shark Tank-style business model pitching competition, where they (much like those on the reality TV show) competed for the attention of very real potential investors, business partners and advisors. The occasion was especially noteworthy, as it marked the conclusion of TU’s successful new initiative, the Tiffin Innovation Program (TIP).
This event acted as the culmination of a semester-long journey for each student team, filled with trial and error, late (sleepless) nights, hard work and dedication. Prior to being admitted into the budding program, each potential group had to pass a demanding assessment, with only six finalists passing the bar. Said business startups then hit the ground running to refine their ideas, come up with startup costs, marketing plans, acquisition strategies, costs of goods and labor and entertained many other variables. This was all done under the continued guidance of a special group of advisors. Not professors in the traditional sense, these mentors were brought on by the program’s faculty advisors and Tiffin’s President, Dr. Lillian Schumacher. Each consultant was a current or former industry-expert with years of entrepreneurial experience to their name. The impressive group was composed of business founders, venture capitalists, current and former CEOs and other high-level corporate professionals.
Notable among this cohort was Daniel Jameel, member of the Tiffin University Board of Trustees and the Founder / President of Ready Education, a leading student engagement platform serving over 350 colleges and universities in North America. Daniel graciously agreed to participate as the program’s primary third-party advisor and remained closely involved from start to finish, even having virtually attended every weekly meeting since they began on January 26.
The six teams knew what the end-goal was when they first began their journeys – to participate in the pitch competition. From the get-go, it was made clear to them that by successfully completing the course, they would be awarded a certification in entrepreneurship from TU. Not to mention, the audience for Demo Day would be filled with potential investors, ready to bite any business they thought looked good. Lastly, there was the added pressure of knowing that the three teams to win category awards for their business models would receive continued funding and guidance from the program. To say the stakes were high would be an understatement, but each team had plenty of time and support as they prepared for the 27th.
The event kicked off with some opening remarks by Ron Lonzo, Vice President for What’s Next – Strategic Innovation and Program Facilitator, wherein he shared the overwhelming sense of pride he felt for each team and what they had accomplished. President Schumacher followed suit, offering words of encouragement to each team and gratitude to all involved in the program’s execution, including Ron and Daniel, the Board of Trustees, all community investors and program mentors as well as the members of her Cabinet.
With the opening ceremonies out of the way, it was time for the groups to give their formal pitches. The teams presented in the following order:
DragonMart – This group’s business model is centered around meeting the need for healthier fast food options within the Tiffin community and seeks to bring a grocery store / café to the TU campus. The group stated in their pitch that they not only wanted to create a one-stop-shop for whole foods, but also create a place for University students and locals to gather and socialize, placing a high emphasis on bringing people together.
iPromei – This skincare line company focuses on customer education, with the company CEO stating in their pitch that even though the skin is one’s largest organ, many aren’t aware of how to properly care for it. Through their business, they seek to inform the public of proper maintenance techniques and also offer organic, high-quality products that are accessible and affordable to help customers reach optimal skin health.
Connected by Ink – This company pitched their idea for an organizational bookkeeping tool to be used by female tattoo artists and their potential clients. This group seeks to create an app-based network that amplifies and supports female artists and promotes their businesses and their portfolios to the public. The app would also allow these women to easily communicate with and book patrons while simultaneously celebrating their artwork and that of others.
CryptoInvest – This company seeks to provide a simple pathway to financial freedom through cryptocurrency and crypto investing and plans to do so by demystifying the process for new potential investors unfamiliar with this newer way to invest. In their pitch, they stated that this is done through their app-based algorithm that takes one’s deposited funds and automatically invests them based on each person’s unique and desired level of risk to take. Each client’s goals and desires are assessed through a short questionnaire taken upon registering through the app.
Zeit Technologies – This company seeks to advance and ultimately license the technology for an Omniband wristwatch – a new human interface device that utilizes the movement of one’s tendons to “bridge the gap between man and machine.” The watch’s sensing technology tracks the movement of one’s tendons, allowing the user to control any form of pairable technology (lights, computer, TV, etc.) with a simple movement of the wrist. During their pitch, the company founders explained their desire to license their patent-pending technology for medical robotics applications, as well as consumer use.
Nomenclature – Put simply, this company advertised their platform as “Zoom for musicians.” This group seeks to develop and provide an online experience that allows musicians to give virtual lessons and have jam sessions in an easy online format through a technology that is designed with music in mind. This software will include key features like consistent sound quality, easily adjustable settings, etc. and will also provide a way for participants to view music on-screen and make notes in real-time, replicating a music stand that would be present in a physical environment. It is their plan to offer this technology through a subscription-based platform, much like Zoom.
A brief video slideshow filled with student and faculty testimonials followed the pitches. Afterwards, the moment all attendees had been anxiously awaiting finally arrived – the awards ceremony. Daniel took the stage to both explain the significance of each award category as well as describe the criteria each team needed to meet to be recognized. Zeit Technologies was awarded the award for “Innovation,” the award for “Growth” was given to Connected by Ink and finally, the “Startup Recognition Award” was presented to iPromei. Daniel also announced that each of the teams who received a special recognition would also be granted startup funding for their ideas through the Tiffin Innovation Program.
The ceremony was immediately followed by an investor open house – a symposium of sorts where both potential customers and investors could chat with each business in a more personal setting, ask questions and (hopefully) make offers. As of the following morning, several groups had received offers of capital totaling $14,000 (and counting).
The TU Community would like to extend its sincere congratulations to each of the six teams, and is proud to see this new platform being utilized in such a fruitful, productive way. The hard work and dedication of each student participant was clear to all who attended last night’s event, with its overall resounding success boding well for the program’s future as a campus staple.