Student entrepreneurs at the University of Maryland began their entrepreneurial journey this past fall semester, entering the UMD Pitch Dingman Competition to vie for cash prizes to support their startups. This past week one team, Symbiont Health, emerged as winner, taking the $15k top prize.
The semi-finals were held in November reducing pitching competitors to the five finalists. All semifinalist teams were given support through participation in the inaugural cohort of the Hisaoka Entrepreneurs program. They received coaching and attended workshops to further their student ventures. Those semifinalists not making it to the final round exhibited in the Founders Showcase on the day of the finals, sharing their business models with 600 plus attending faculty and students.
The Competition was chaired by businessman and philanthropist Robert G. Hisaoka. Hisaoka, a 1979 accounting graduate, has generously donated funding for the Dingman Center to expand the competition. The approximate $30,000 in seed funding was a combined contribution of David Quattrone, a 2005 MBA graduate and co-founder and CTO of CVENT, and wife Robyn, along with the credit union SECU and a local law firm Venable.
The winners were selected in a "Shark Tank"-style pitch session with the following results:
- Symbiont Health, maker of innovative technology to detect falls for seniors and nursing home patients, $15,000 top prize
- $7,500 Second Prize: BEEQBOX, a vegan and cruelty-free cosmetics company featuring feminist branding
- $3,500 Third Prize: Dark Sonar Technologies, a cybersecurity company that prevents synthetic identity fraud on websites and mobile apps
- $1,000 Audience Choice: Flee, a mobile app that helps students discover events and entertainment around campus
- Emprology, a marketing consultancy working with minority female bloggers, vloggers and podcasters founded by Sydney Parker '18, was also a finalist
"Being able to pitch your business to an expert panel of judges and a crowd is a critical skill for entrepreneurs," said Elana Fine, executive director of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship in the Robert H. Smith School of Business."Successful entrepreneurs at any level have to show they can execute on their idea, iterate on their business model and deliver a compelling pitch."