Student entrepreneurs pitch ideas in 90 seconds


Twenty-five teams pitched business models ranging from just ideas to already launched startups




Imagine entering an elevator and finding the boss of your dream job in it; you now have however long it takes for the elevator to go up 50 stories to get that job — what do you say?

That’s exactly what 25 teams of student entrepreneurs practiced on Jan. 20 in Skirkanich Hall.

Penn Startup Challenge, cleverly named the “Elevator Pitch Challenge,” invited teams to pitch their business models to judges in 90 seconds. The business plans varied from just ideas to already launched startups.

Judge Vincent Schiavone, co-founder and chair of ListenLogic, emphasized that when given only 90 seconds, teams should be clear, “like [they’re] explaining it to their grandma.”

“We’ve pitched our idea before but never in 90 seconds,” Wharton junior Shiv Kapoor said. “It was a unique experience.”

Kapoor and Wharton and Engineering junior Aneesh Satnaliwala’s startup, “this ya that” — which aims to make online shopping in India easier — is ready to be launched in a few weeks.

The $500 grand prize went to Nursing graduate students Antonette Shaw, Mackenzie Mapes and Kristen van der Veen for their startup, Body Wars. The three started the business as a project for a clinical community class.

“We didn’t think about growing it into a business until our professor told us to,” said Mapes, adding that they “had nothing to do with Wharton.”

The project is an interactive game that uses seminars, trivia and physical activities to teach teengers about anatomy and the effects of drugs, alcohol and sexually transmitted diseases on the body.

Invisergy, a company founded by Wharton and Engineering sophomore Ryan Marschang and a student from MIT, won the Audience Choice Award at the challenge. The company focuses on producing solar energy from existing infrastructure, such as replacing normal windows with solar windows.

Weiss Tech House hosted the competition for the first time this year as part of the larger competition, called PennVention.

The goal of PennVention is to “bring out the best entrepreneurs at Penn,” organizer and College freshman James Feuereisen said.

The event is part of the three-phase PennVention sequence that leads up to the major Invention Fair held in April.

Kapoor said that the best part of the competition was the good networking opportunities, something PennVention Chair and Wharton and Engineering sophomore Sharon Wang agreed with.

“PennVention leads students through the process of innovation,” said Wang, who added that they were working on collaborations with PennApps and Women in Computer Science.

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