As the University transitioned to online classes due to the coronavirus pandemic, 10 UNC Charlotte student entrepreneurs participated in Ventureprise’s inaugural virtual 49er Foundry and Student Entrepreneur Showcase.
Undergraduate winners were Adonis Abdullah, a junior in the Belk College of Business (Hot Route Analytics); Fidel Henriquez, sophomore, College of Computing and Informatics, (Heben); and the team of Sahithi Meduri, junior, CCI, Ivan Zaytsev, sophomore, CCI, and Aditya Bjujle sophomore, CCI, (Bridge).
Graduate winners were Lee College of Engineering’s Akintonde Abbas and Olalekan Ogundairo (PROaktif) and Jimmy Nyanwapolu, Lee College/Belk College (DiGESSCO).
UNC Charlotte’s Research and Economic Development and Ventureprise awarded each team $2,000 and a spot in the Ventureprise Summer Student Accelerator. Teams participating in the summer accelerator will create minimal viable products, interact with customers and in some cases generate revenue.
Tristin Fields (Loose Lace) received the J. Chris Murphy Award, winning $500 as crowd favorite.
“The accelerator is an opportunity for the students to launch and grow their business ideas in an encouraging and supportive environment,” said Devin Collins, the interim executive director of Ventureprise.
For the showcase, student entrepreneurs produced a three-minute pitch video for the judges and general public. Chris Elmore ’93, Meggie Williams and Miguel Avila ’18 were the event judges.
The videos were posted on Ventureprise’s YouTube page where the public interacted with the students in the event; they also could vote for their favorite team.
“I could tell they (the student entrepreneurs) really put a lot of hard work into it. The spectrum of businesses, interests and backgrounds was engaging and compelling,” said Williams, Ventureprise board member and CEO and founder of Skipper.
Leading up to the showcase, Ventureprise hosted a virtual panel session with the judges and student competitors.
Avila was the first UNC Charlotte graduate invited to participate in the Venture for America program, which trains recent college graduates and young professionals to work for startups in emerging cities throughout the United States. He started his entrepreneurial journey at Ventureprise and advised the students that “each path will be different. I realized I didn’t have enough expertise to get me to the next level in my startup journey, so I needed to work at a tech company that was more established to learn more before starting my own company.”
Elmore added, “What you are doing, you’re taking one of the first and most difficult steps into making your dreams a reality. That separates you from hundreds of thousands of people around the world.”
Adonis Abdullah, one of the student winners, said, “It was great to hear from those who are where we want to be.”