Two different University of Delaware student teams placed in the top five of last weekend’s College Pitch Philly competition. Amira Idris took first place with her Vibrating Therapeutic Apparel (VTA), following up a win at the Emerging Enterprise Center’s “Swim With the Sharks” contest last fall. Jason Bamford, Jordan Gonzalez and Keith Dogget took fourth place with their platform, Geoswap.
The competition was organized by the government-backed Philadelphia Region Entrepreneurship Educators Consortium and hosted by the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE) during their annual conference, and it’s where 18 teams of students from across the region invited from 12 local colleges pitch their entrepreneurial ideas. (Read about the Philly winners of the 2016 competition here.)
Both teams from UD feature students who were a part of the institution’s Horn Program in Entrepreneurship. The Horn Program is where UD students can engage in entrepreneurial education by taking part experiential learning.
We spoke with the Horn Program’s Vincent DiFelice, an entrepreneur of nearly 30 years himself. DiFelice is an instructor in the program, and he served as the coach for both teams from the University of Delaware. He was thrilled with the wins as he talked to me about each team’s pitch.
VTA, founded by Idris who was nominated for Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2016 Delaware Innovation Awards, was created to help amputees deal with constant phantom pain. We profiled her last summer. DeFelice explained that Idris’ presentation was exceptionally impactful as she asked users of VTA to tell the roomful of judges about the pain relief her pitch brought them. Idris took home first place and the $5,000 grand prize for her work. DeFelice told us that the results had Idris “orders of magnitude” beyond the second place winners.
The other student team from UD, featuring students Bamford, Gonzalez and Dogget, nabbed fourth place in the contest. They founded Geoswap, an app and platform that lets users visit a physical location and tap into digital information provided by business owners, convention runners and other users. We wrote about them last fall. Geoswap already exists and works (they encouraged users to try the platform during Delaware Innovation Week 2016), so this proof of concept won as a functioning winner among the top five teams.
When we asked DeFelice about the impact this win has on Delaware and entrepreneurship education, he offered up the word “validation.” It demonstrates that their education is working, and it tells students and startups in the area that Delaware’s a great place to do this kind of work.
Delaware, DeFelice offered in what he said was opinion, is sort of a one of a kind location for entrepreneurship education. “It’s the nature of people in Delaware to stick together,” he told us. “Folks seem to know one another, they want to help each other and that’s unique to our community.” DeFelice told us that this even extends to existing businesses and leaders in the state. He offered that Delaware’s great for entrepreneurship because leaders are willing to take their own time to come and work with and teach students.
“Where the students go from here is up to them,” DeFelice told me. They may actually keep their ideas going, or they may not.
As for the future students in the Horn Program? DeFelice said that “the only way to learn entrepreneurship is to do it, and that’s what they’re doing.” Based on these wins, it sounds like it’s working.
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