Aspiring student entrepreneurs pitch startups

By Stephen Nye

Touch-feedback, affordable prosthetic hands. A positive reinforcement app designed to stop texting and driving. A product designed to help find visually similar fashion products online.

Aspiring student entrepreneurs gathered Wednesday to pitch their startups to fellow students, faculty and members of the public at the Technology Entrepreneur Center’s second SocialFuse event of the year.

Student startups pitch a crowd to advertise their product, garner interest and find people interested in working together to create something new.

SocialFuse is organized every two months, and in its lifetime has featured over two hundred and twenty groups of prospective entrepreneurs looking for help with their products, said Stephanie Larson, TEC assistant director of student programs and marketing, which also serves as a kickoff for the Cozad New Venture Competition.

“I’m really excited about this year,” said Larson. “52 teams wanted to pitch tonight, the most we’ve ever had.”

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Larson hopes the event will let young entrepreneurs “fuse skills and ideas,” and make connections that will bring successful teams together.

Jed Taylor, TEC director of operations, said the events have been successful in the past, but he would like to see SocialFuse grow even more. He said he thinks SocialFuse presents useful opportunities to any student interested in entrepreneurship, and wants to see more students get involved with the process.

“If you’ve got an idea, come to a social fuse event, even if you don’t participate,” said Taylor.

Raj Echambadi, senior associate dean for MBA programs at the University, said that as of 2015 the College of Business has existed for a century and has boasted a track record of success in that time, such as being number one in accounting research and number one in chief financial officers in Fortune 500 companies. He hopes events like SocialFuse and the Cozad competition can help maintain this level of achievement.

“[Making connections] is the future. We need to engage our students, involve our students,” Echambadi said. “Differences have to make a difference.”

Max Fisher, junior in the College of Business, presented with OneSpot Credentialing, a program to help doctors reach patients faster. He said that he wants to see SocialFuse grow, but that the number of entrants and the event’s handling of admissions and organization could use improvement in dealing with such increased participation.

The event was a kickoff for the Cozad competition, which is designed to encourage students to create new, sustainable businesses. In the competition, a team – at least 50 percent of whom must be students and 30 percent must be attending the University – creates a venture around a topic of their choice and are offered assistance in the form of mentors, workshops and courses while competing against rivals for prizes.

Last year’s winners, Rithmo, won $50,000 with no equity demands after pitching students at last year’s SocialFuse events several times, said Larson.

The Cozad competition is looking to be bigger this year than last year, with $150,000 dollars in cash and prizes already raised, and corporate sponsors on board to participate.