Matthew Benton ’18, Almamy Conde ’18, Jeff Rizza ’16 and Elizabeth Weingast ’18 will bring their entrepreneurial ideas to the ultimate test as the finalists of the 2016 Stu Lieblein ’90 Pitch Contest. The competition, celebrating its fifth year, is scheduled for Thursday, March 3 at 7 p.m. in the Vandervort Room of the Scandling Campus Center.
Bringing a diverse set of ideas, the finalists will faceoff before a panel of four alum judges. The top prize is a $10,000 grant to fund their proposal. Entrepreneur Stu Lieblein ’90, who is funding the first-place grant, has supported funding for the competition since 2013 and will do so over the next three years. The 2016 contest will be streamed live online.
This year’s Pitch judges are: Christopher J. Desino ’94, co-owner of Ocala Horse Properties in Ocala, Fla.; Daniel J. Chessin ’84, co-president and CEO of Hahn Automotive Warehouse in Rochester, N.Y.; Sabrina Horn ’83, president and CEO of the Horn Group; and Amy L. Ziff ’92, CEO and founder of Nontoxic Certified.
The Pitch is an entrepreneurial leadership contest organized by the Centennial Center for Leadership (CCL), designed to draw out entrepreneurial ingenuity and creativity. Chosen from the largest pool of applicants in the contest’s history, this year’s eight semi-finalist proposals have been narrowed down to the following four finalists:
Benton, an environmental studies major, will pitch “EfficienAuto,” an automobile statistics tool, universal app, website and service devoted to bettering drivers and their skills, generating consumer savings, and increasing automotive efficiency. Using behavioral science, “EfficienAuto” will create competitive communities where individuals can compare their driving habits with others who have the same make and model car. Benton is the recipient of a James F. ’56 and Cynthia L. Caird Endowed Scholarship.
Conde, an economics major, will present “SmartHunter,” a free real estate app that would allow people to list, find and rent apartments in urban areas. Consumers will have the ability to view apartments, and submit required documents as well as deposits online. The app would connect owners and consumers using virtual reality to save time during the apartment hunting process. Conde is the recipient of a Jewett Family Scholarship.
Rizza, a physics and environmental studies double major, will present “Future Farms,” a localized greenhouse that would produce healthy and sustainable food at affordable prices by combining vertical farming and aquaponic techniques in climate controlled greenhouses to provide fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and fish year-round to local communities.
Weingast, an economics and math double major, will pitch “Band Together,” an athletic headband business that would connect athletes to charities in order to encourage them to play for someone or a special cause. The individual’s name would be printed on the headband and 10 percent of the final sale will go to the charity of the athlete’s choice.
The finalists have worked on refining and revamping their proposals since being chosen as semi-finalists in December. Each student has been paired with an alum mentor who guided and strengthened their proposals throughout the revision process.
This year’s alum mentors include: Rich Barlette ’01, senior manager of external affairs at the New York Independent System Operator; Adam Chaput ’07, director of product management at Wayfair; Joe DeSimone, Jr. ’89, broker and owner of First Federal Realty; Bill Glaab ’06, founder of Hand in Hand Soap; Tim Heekin ’78, former co-director of trading at Thomas Weisel Partners; Jim Mastrianni ’94, creator of the Lake George Boater’s Directory; J.D. Sawyer ’92, founder of Colorado Aquaponics; and Jeff Werner ’91, general manager of international and public policy for Daimler Automotive.