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The Pirates Pitch Startup Competition: An Incubator for Innovation and Entrepreneurship  

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Top student entrepreneurs compete for $16K in seed funding in the Pirates Pitch startup contest.

Pioneering entrepreneurs are hitting the streets on Wednesday, April 7th at 6 p.m. Four top student entrepreneurs will compete for over $16,000 in seed funding for their business ventures. They will present to a panel of investor-judges at the 11th annual Pirates Pitch Startup Competition. The 2021 Pirates Pitch contest is being hosted by the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Stillman School of Business.

We invite all students, faculty, alumni, parents, and members of the community to join us on this incredible night of new ideas. In addition, attendees at the event, to be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., can select their favorite business venture and vote for the $500 Audience Choice Award.

The contest kicked off in January when interested students attended a series of workshops and mentoring sessions. Of the twenty startup ideas submitted by students throughout the University, four student entrepreneurs were chosen to compete in the final round. Teams can consist of one to six SHU student entrepreneurs, although this year all four finalists are solopreneurs. The startup ideas were evaluated based on several criteria, including originality, viability, and growth potential.

This year's competition is full of diverse ideas as the aspiring entrepreneurs are from an array of academic disciplines. They include both undergraduate and graduate students.

Unlike many collegiate startup competitions, Pirates Pitch judges do not select first, second and third place awards. Instead, the judging panel of successful alumni entrepreneurs will act as investors and award varying amounts of the total $16,000 in venture seed funding to the four finalists after they complete their pitches and answer judges' questions. The judges will evaluate the finalists based on their perceived ability to execute their idea and turn it into a viable, profitable business.

Photo of speakers sitting at the Pirate's Pitch panel

All students, faculty, parents and administrators are invited! Vote for the Audience Choice Award!

"Pirate Pitch is one of the most exciting student entrepreneur events in the United States and I am honored to support this annual contest as a judge," said Abe Kasbo, CEO of Verasoni Worldwide and Chair of the Board of Advisors for the Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. "The combination of talent and ideas at Pirate Pitch is impressive and I am looking forward to meeting this year's participating class of student entrepreneurs." In addition to Kasbo, the judging panel is comprised of Pravina Raghavan, M.B.A. '01, Executive Vice President, Division of Small Business and Community Economic Development, Empire State Development, Bryan Jakovcic '09, President, CEO and Owner, Fusion Health, and Gabino Roche, '98, CEO & Founder, Saphyre.

George Balekji '16, will serve as emcee for the Pirates Pitch competition. Currently a sports anchor and reporter for NBC in Madison, Wisconsin, Balekji studied television communications at Seton Hall and also served as Assistant Sports Director for 89.5 FM, covering all Seton Hall athletics. As a professional sportscaster Balekji has covered the Rose Bowl to NCAA tournament runs to JUCO baseball world series and also the Green Bay Packers back-to-back NFC Championship game appearances.

"I'm looking forward to our 11th Pirates Pitch Startup competition," said Stillman School Dean Joyce Strawser. "We've got some terrific student finalists, and I know they will be bringing their best pitching skills to the contest. The competition, which has become a signature event for Stillman, is a wonderful learning experience - not just for the contestants, but also for aspiring entrepreneurs who join us to watch the pitches. I encourage everyone in our community to join the fun and root for your favorite startup!"

Meet the competing student entrepreneurs:

Action Hearth

  • The Business Idea: Action Hearth is a virtual reality arcade. It exists to provide virtual reality entertainment to inspire confidence and promote optimism in people's everyday lives.
  • The Entrepreneur: David Farrelly is a senior focused on earning a degree in business administration and business law. He has operated his own disc jockey business for six years. David has also expanded into other events production since his internship at the Times Square Alliance. In addition, he is working on immersive production mediums using virtual reality and podcasting by drafting development codecs to enhance digital surround.
  • Quote: "I am a big fan of virtual reality gaming but the expense of VR headsets and related equipment is out of the reach of most teens and young adults in my target market. Action Hearth is reinventing the gaming arcade with pop up storefronts and mobile models that can reach a wide array of consumers at a lower cost and with social distancing."


  • The Business Idea: Annabellacures is a custom press-on nail business that offers trending nail designs, character nails, and even portrait nails. The business was launched in September of 2020 offering luxury hand-painted designs without the high price.
  • The Entrepreneur: Annabella Robb is a junior from Maywood, NJ. She is majoring in graphic design and minoring in art history.
  • Quote: "This experience has really pushed me to look at the logistics behind my business and I'm really grateful for that. It is a fast paced program that has been both challenging and rewarding. I can't wait to hopefully receive funding to pursue this business full time after graduation."

Extra Time Training

  • The Business Idea: The Extra Time Training App allows soccer players to train smarter, harder, and more efficiently on a cutting-edge platform that tracks their tactical and fundamental performances. Players are able to unlock their true potential and hone their athletic abilities.
  • The Entrepreneur: Nicholas Marinelli is a senior from Staten Island, NY. He is pursuing a dual degree in finance and information technology, along with certificates in market research, data analytics, entrepreneurship, and leadership. Marinelli is a member of the Gerald P. Buccino '63 Center for Leadership Development.
  • Quote: "When I was a freshman, I made it a personal goal to create a startup before I graduated. Fast forward four years, Pirates Pitch has given me that opportunity. The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and alumni have been incredibly helpful in being mentors for this program and is truly setting me up on the path to success. I look forward to showcasing what I have done so far and hopefully get one step closer to completing my goal!"

Kevin Alexander Company

  • The Business Idea: Kevin Alexander Company designs and sells male cosmetic tools that help men with skin imperfections, blemishes, and unwanted tattoos feel more confident.
  • The Entrepreneur: Christian Patlan is from Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico, and has lived in California and Utah since immigrating to the United States. Christian will receive a Master of Arts in diplomacy and international relations as well as a Master of Business Administration with specializations in Latin America and the Caribbean and management when he graduates in May.
  • Quote: "Our mission is to break the taboo of cosmetics for men by offering discreet and innovative male cosmetic tools designed to help men feel comfortable in who they are and what they look like."

Additional Entrepreneurial Opportunities
The opportunity for SHU students to build their own businesses does not end with Pirates Pitch. The finalists have been invited to continue to develop their business models in the Pirates Launch Pad summer accelerator program. Pirates Launch Pad is a competitive program open to all SHU students who apply with a proposal for a startup business that they are developing, or have already launched. The accelerator will meet weekly for eight weeks starting in June. Students who successfully complete Pirates Launch Pad will receive $1,500 in seed funding for their ventures. The Center will also run an entrepreneurship boot camp in August geared toward incoming Freshmen as well as other undergraduates. For more information contact Center Director Susan Scherreik at

"The goal of Pirates Pitch and our other entrepreneurial events is to cultivate the ambitious drive of student entrepreneurs and assist those young professionals in making their ideas a reality," Scherreik said. "Each year, our collegiate entrepreneurial ecosystem continues to grow and develop. That growth is a reflection of both the limitless creativity and ingenuity of our students and the planning and support of all those involved."

Interested in attending this event? Link to Livestream of Pirates Pitch
Please click here to join the live event

Categories: Business

For more information, please contact:

  • Susan Scherreik
  • (201) 294-3807