Fairfield Startups Strike Deals with Investors
The energy in the room was palpable as students competed in the fifth annual Fairfield StartUp Showcase earlier this week in Gonzaga Auditorium. The Showcase is the culmination of Fairfield StartUp, a year-long program of events designed to foster young entrepreneurial talent at Fairfield University through engagement with mentors and investors drawn from alumni and local business communities.
Five teams took the stage to make their pitch to a panel of alumni investors after months of preparation and refinement of their business pitch based on collaboration and input from Dolan School mentors and advisors. “Going through this process takes a lot of getting used to people telling you ‘no’ all the time,” said Chris Huntley, associate professor and program director of Fairfield StartUp. “So you have to be highly motivated to follow through.”
With their pitches memorized and talking points prepared, team presenters took their place behind stage while other team members watched from the audience of 250 students, faculty, family and friends and members of the local business community. Master of ceremonies and Dean of the Dolan School Don Gibson kicked off the evening by introducing the alumni panel and reviewing the rules of the competition. “What society needs are good business ideas,” said Dean Gibson. “Tonight the investors will be looking for ideas that have viability and longevity. We’re excited to see what the teams have come up with.”
Each team had five minutes to make their pitch followed by six minutes of questioning from the investor panel. The investors evaluated the pitches in the same way they would assess a business proposal made to them on the job. One of the most exciting aspects of the competition for the audience, and over 100 viewers watching the live stream, was the dialogue between investors and students. The audience also participated in text to vote questions that followed each team pitch while the teams made their way to the lobby where they debriefed with student correspondents and their mentors.
Team FavrWire, who pitched an app for busy people who need help doing odd jobs around the house, was grilled by investors about the potential liability associated with neighbors doing odd jobs for others. FavrWire explained they had begun to discuss legal implications with Fairfield StartUp legal advisor Dan Fitzgerald ’99, and investors Lynn Ann Casey ’90 and Michael Garvey ’89 pledged startup funding to explore legal questions further.
George Pertesis ’16 who is sole proprietor of Thrivio, a social media platform where members of the disability community can rate and review products and connect with one another, talked about the untapped community of 60 million people in the US who could benefit from his app. Investor Showky Kaldawy ’94 emphasized the need for a strong marketing plan to reach this community, and pledged funding backed by the rest of the investor panel to develop grass roots marketing. He also proposed Pertesis apply for a grant through Connecticut Innovations to match the investment.
In total the investors pledged $40,000 in startup funds to the students, many of whom will be continuing in the Fairfield University Entrepreneurial Labs (FUEL) accelerator as part of the Summer Fellows program. The evening rounded out with awards and recognition for the students, including teams who participated in Fairfield StartUp through the Qualifier round in March. Team Zapp who pitched a mobile app to revolutionize the process of connecting with people, took the audience choice award and $1,000 towards their business as the audience voted on the spot from their phones.
If you missed the excitement of the Fairfield StartUp Showcase, visit fairfield.edu/startup to watch the live recording and read more about each team’s pitch and this year's panel of all alumni investor's.
Congratulations to the 2016 Fairfield StartUp Showcase teams:
DraftSales: Thomas Casale ‘17
FavrWire: John Bauer ‘16, Christopher Nicastro ’16 and Jason Wierzel ’16
Thrivio: George Pertesis ’16
RediMed: Austin Hliboki ’16, Romario Lemy ’16, Michelle Puthota ’17, Cameron Sayles ’16, Hassaim Vahora ’16, Cameron Whitelaw ’16 and Kevin Zwick ’16.
Zapp: Anthony Crasto ’18, Kumeil Hussain ’18 and Joseph Pisano ’18.