Semi-finalists develop pitches

Tracy Ko/Daily
Engineering sophomore Firas Mouasher pitches his idea at a customer discovery session at MPowered's 1,000 Pitches Summit at Palmer Commons Saturday. Buy this photo

By Kristen Fedor, Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 23, 2013

Investors, pay attention.

Tracy Ko/Daily
Engineering freshman Joshua Spigelman pitches his idea to a panel of judges at MPowered's 1,000 Pitches Summit in Palmer Commons Saturday.

Two hundred University students came together Saturday at the 1000 Pitches Summit in Palmer Commons to push their ideas and innovations. These semi-finalists were selected from a record-breaking pool of 5,342 pitches in the startup competition sponsored by the student-run entrepreneurship organization, MPowered.

Students from a variety of disciplines submitted simple video pitches to one of nine categories, ranging from health to education to mobile apps. A winner will be selected from each of these categories, receiving $1,000 in prize money to further their idea.

This year, the project was expanded to Pennsylvania State University, where the 1,000-pitch goal was met as well. The total of this year’s campaign reached 6,396 pitches between the two universities.

At Saturday’s summit, the 200 students with the most impressive pitches had the opportunity to develop their ideas in anticipation of the announcement of the winners in a few weeks.

Business sophomore Zach Wloch, a 1000 Pitches project director, stressed the value of the summit for the semifinalists.

“We provide the basic skills about how to take an idea to the next level,” Wloch said. “The main goal is to promote collaboration and show them that any idea can really take off.”

The summit kicked off with advice from keynote speakers Adam Bratt and Jason Raznick of Benzinga, a financial news outlet with startup roots in Southfield, Mich. The company now has three U.S. offices.

Raznick emphasized the importance of being proactive with ideas and taking risks to bring them to fruition. He said those who are “doers” are able to make an impact, a phrase he coined as “do-archy.”

Bratt encouraged the students to believe in their ideas, reiterating Raznick’s advice to take action. He proposed that the next billion-dollar idea could come from University students like themselves if executed properly.

With those inspiring words in mind, the students split into smaller workshops to take a closer look at their pitches and figure out how to improve them. Participants were able to discuss their ideas together and get feedback from both mentors and their peers.

Engineering freshman Teri LaForest was one of the 200 semi-finalists. Her pitch included a new type of contact lens that has the ability to take a picture, providing the user with a more precise image.

She said pitching her idea got her out of her comfort zone.

LaForest entered the competition as an assignment for her Entrepreneurship 407 class, yet she enjoyed the satisfaction of developing it further in the summit workshops.

The pitches came from a diverse collection of students. Most pitches this year came from LSA students, and there was also a strong showing of Business students.

Business sophomore Emily Goodman developed a pitch about fundraising methods for various environmental efforts as part of her involvement in the Tamid Israel Investment Group, a business club. While she is still unsure about pursuing her pitch, she found both the summit and the competition as a whole to be a great learning experience moving forward with future ideas.