Putting their ideas on the line and their entrepreneurial drive to the test, two individuals and two sets of partners have been selected to pitch their innovative startup proposals as the finalists of the 2017 Stu Lieblein ’90 Pitch Contest. The finalists will face off at the entrepreneurial competition on Thursday, March 2, in the Vandervort Room of the Scandling Campus Center.
This year’s finalists include Ato Bentsi-Enchill ’17, Gyuri Dragomir ’17, Dominique DeRubeis ’18, Angel Salas-Espana ’17, Sam Solomon ’17 and Maxim Zibitsker ’19.
The finalists will present their ideas in front of a panel of four judges made up of HWS alums and parents in pursuit of the top prize – a $10,000 grant to fund their proposal. The grant is funded by Entrepreneur Stu Lieblien ’90, who has supported funding for the competition since 2013.
The Pitch 2017 judges include: Sabrina Horn ’83, president and CEO of the Horn Group and this year’s Centennial Center for Leadership (CCL) Leader in Residence; Peter Luchetti ’77, managing partner of Table Rock Capital and vice chair of the California Infrastructure Bank; Steve Neimeth ‘90, senior vice president and portfolio manager at SunAmerica Asset Management, LLC; and Angelo Santinelli P’18, senior executive at Dakin Management and adjunct lecturer at Babson College.
Now in its sixth year, the Pitch has become one of the Colleges’ most popular events. This year, 20 project proposals – the most in the competition’s history – were submitted to the CCL, which organizes the competition. In December, 11 students representing seven proposals were selected as semi-finalists.
In the weeks leading up to the selection of the finalists, students were paired with alum mentors and also participated in a series of workshops facilitated by the CCL to refine their ideas and enhance their proposals. The finalists will continue working with their alum mentors as they prepare for the final competition.
The finalists and their proposals are as follows:
Bentsi-Enchill and Dragomir – “Deals en Route,” a coupon distribution application that uses geo-fencing to present real-time coupons offered by retailers to users in “confined” spaces, such as airports, colleges, stadiums, concert arenas and supermarkets. When a consumer enters into the “fenced” area, retailers can send a coupon to a potential customer’s smartphone using a push notification.
DeRubeis and Salas-España – “Rabit Microfinance Initiative (RMFI),” an organization that would provide microloans to refugees in Jordan’s Zaatari camp with the option of financing according to Islamic banking standards. Ultimately, RFMI’s goal is to provide refugees a more stable future by empowering them to pursue business opportunities and enabling them to develop key skills for the job market.
Solomon – “Pizza Posto,” a farm-to-table pizzeria located in Geneva serving artisanal, wood-fired pizza and panuozzo paired with local beers and wines. The restaurant is inspired by Solomon’s study abroad experience on the Colleges’ Rome, Italy program, where he completed an independent study on the sociology of pizza.
Zibitsker – “Aqua Salutem Technologies,” a software system deployed in buoys that assesses and pinpoints in real-time the depth and location of every swimmer in a body of water to help lifeguards identify drowning victims faster. The system minimizes rescue response times and human error in operations by accurately locating swimmers and quickly alerting lifeguards to danger.