Do you dream of one day being an entrepreneur? Do you watch Shark Tank and wonder how contestants turn ideas into thriving ventures? Well, do we have an event for you! On Tuesday evening April 5 Seton Hall University's top student entrepreneurs will pitch their innovative startup concepts to a panel of distinguished judges as they compete for $16,000 in seed funding awards and professional services.
Students, faculty, alumni, parents, and members of the community are invited to an incredible night of innovative ideas at the 12th annual Pirates Pitch Startup Competition. The virtual event, which will be livestreamed on Microsoft Teams Live from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., will showcase startup businesses being developed by the six finalist teams that have advanced to the championship round.
Attendees will have an opportunity to select their favorite finalist and vote for the $500 Audience Choice Award. Provost Katia Passerini and Stillman School Dean Joyce Strawser will provide opening remarks to kick off the competition. John Fanta '17, College Sports Play-By-Play Broadcaster, FOX Sports, will serve as master of ceremonies.
The event is the centerpiece of the Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship's entrepreneurship education program. "The goal of Pirates Pitch is to cultivate the ambitious drive of student entrepreneurs and assist those young professionals in making their ideas a reality," said Susan Scherreik, Director of the Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. "Each year, Pirates Pitch continues to grow and develop as a competition. That growth reflects both the limitless creativity and ingenuity of Seton Hall University students and the support of those involved."
The judging panel includes Bryan Jakovcic '09, President and Owner, Fusion Health; Pravina Raghavan '01, Director of the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) in the U.S. Department of Commerce National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST); Abe Kasbo, '94, MPA '99, CEO, Verasoni Worldwide; Lara Kanjo '05, MS Accounting '06, E&Y New Jersey Entrepreneur of the Year Program Co-Director; and Ben Lowe, Adjunct Professor, Entrepreneurship, and an entrepreneur and formerly an executive at both Verizon and Nokia Bell Labs.
The judges will be looking for creative and innovative thinking about new markets, products and services. Also important, the teams will be judged on their perceived ability to execute the idea and turn it into a viable, profitable business. Student teams that have already launched a venture will be evaluated on their perceived ability to expand their startup and turn it into a sustainable business.
Unlike many other collegiate startup contests, Pirates Pitch does not award first, second and third place prizes. Rather, the judges award seed funding amounts to all finalists based on how well they impress them. At past Pirates Pitch contests, award amounts have ranged from $7,000 to $750. In addition, finalists will receive pro bono legal advice from Santomassimo Davis LLP /Outside General Counsel Solutions, the competition’s legal sponsor. Further, finalists have the opportunity to participate in the Pirates LaunchPad summer Accelerator, a competitive program in which advanced student entrepreneurs can receive an additional $2,000 in seed funding as they continue to develop their business models assisted by faculty and mentors.
The student finalists are:
- Elias Burgos, a sophomore studying sports management. Elias recently launched EB Sports Management, a sports agency representing athletes.
- Lauren Huff, a graduate student pursuing a M.S. degree in business analytics. Her business idea, Entice Engine, is a software application for retailers to more efficiently run sales promotions.
- Alvin Mitchell, a senior majoring in economics. His business idea, Jiffy Technologies, is a local shipping service that will be quicker and cheaper than alternatives.
- Jae Morris, a senior double majoring in Biology and Social & Behavioral Sciences. She recently launched Back 2 Roots LLC, an assortment of natural hair products that promote overall hair health and length retention for the Black community.
- Henrik Pettersson, a sophomore majoring in Biology and Philosophy and who is enrolled in the Joint Bachelor’s/MD program with Hackensack Meridian Medical School. His business idea, Shōbai Global (“Show & Buy”) is an internet marketplace for the fashion industry based on blockchain technologies.
- Jonathan Soyka, a graduate student pursuing a M.B.A., graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. in Economics from the Stillman School in 2020. He founded Air Garden Inc., which employs vertical high pressure aeroponics, to grow healthy food that is more sustainable and affordable than conventional agriculture.