Ato Bentsi-Enchill ’17 and Gheorghe “Gyuri” Dragomir ’17 have advanced to the finals of the New York Business Plan Competition(NYBPC), where they have the potential to win up to $100,000 for their app start-up, “Deals en Route.” “Deals en Route” has one mission: To become the most convenient and personalized app, offering students in college towns relevant coupons for deals at their preferred price point. The business partners aim to build a platform that creates an efficient relationship between local retailers and students by connecting them through targeted, customized deals powered by geo-fencing. They impressed 19 judges at the Finger Lakes Regional Semi-Finals in Rochester earlier this month. The final round of the competition will be held on Friday, April 28 at SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Albany.
“We’re very excited but there is still extra work we can do to make our proposal perfect,” says Bentsi-Enchill. “We’ve been preparing for six months but talking to more people and getting validation from alums about the idea puts us into a better position for any questions that we might get from the judges at the finals.”
Through the Salisbury Center for Career, Professional and Experiential Education, Bentsi-Enchill and Dragomir connected with HWS alums — including Jarvis Coffin ’79, P’05, owner of the historic Hancock Inn; Javier Saralegui ’80, president of DangerTV; and Matthew Simpson ’04, an associate at the law firm Mintz Levin — for help fine-tuning their business plan.
Bentsi-Enchill and Dragomir are the third team from HWS to compete in the state finals during the competition’s eight-year run. In addition to the grand prize, they could are eligible for other substantial prizes in the category of information technology and software. The prize money would support completing the beta programs for Deals en Route development and a provisional patent.
But “even if the cash prize doesn’t present itself,” Dragomir says, “we can gain so much from the connections we can make with the people and judges. We’re very interested and looking forward to the opportunity.”
Both members of Sigma Chi fraternity, Bentsi-Enchill and Dragomir met during International Student Orientation at HWS just prior to their first-year. “Four years ago, I wasn’t expecting to do this. I knew I wanted to start my own business one day, but I wasn’t sure if I had the courage to do it because of the risk involved,” says Dragomir. But together, with their proposal for Deals en Route, he and Bentsi-Enchill also made the finals of this year’s Stu Lieblein ’90 Pitch Contest, which Bentsi-Enchill won in 2014 for his other venture, RevisionPrep.
Members of the HWS community can help Deals en Route succeed in the finals by downloading the NYBPC app and voting for the business in the information technology and software category on April 28. Updates on the team’s journey can be found on the Deals en Route Facebook page.