Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

These high school startups reigned at Diamond Challenge 2021

In the annual international pitch competition, Delaware team Speak UP also took home the Horn Entrepreneurship Equity Thru Entrepreneurship Prize.

EVAC from Pennsylvania won the top prize in the Business Innovation Track.


The University of Delaware Horn Entrepreneurship’s annual Diamond Challenge draws scores of high school entrepreneurs from all over the world to compete in what, in many cases, is their very first funding opportunity.

This year’s challenge took place virtually over a week in April, with more than 75 semifinalist teams from 23 countries competing for cash prizes. Ten of the semifinalists are based in Delaware:

  • AHI — Affordable Housing for the ImpoverishedAlex Esenyan, John Qian, Jonas Ho, Taran Venkatesh and Christine Orzechowski (adult advisor)
  • BamnooNicholas Kulda, Owen Freeman, Walter Schroeder and Michael Kiersznowski (adult advisor)
  • Diamond Realty ServicesAxel Trejo-Ugalde, Juan Perez, Sarah Qasim andEdwin Smith (adult advisor)
  • E-TireAadi Varshney, Ishaan Tayal,  Neehal Pathak, Om Patel and Laxmikanth Pathak (adult advisor)
  • ExtinguishAlaina Mcgonigle, Claire Binkley, Madison Kerley and Erin McNichol (adult advisor)
  • First2College (with Uzbekistan) — Caelin Foley, Nazira Davroni and Jalin Carter (adult advisor)
  • High School Students for DiscussionKanmani Duraikkannan, Rushi Ketkar and Bruce Fox (adult advisor)
  • Slip Co. ReSlipKathy Lin, Marcela Lemos, Sreenidhi Banda and Michael Kiersznowski (adult advisor)
  • Speak UPKaitlin Burns, Makenna Mastrota, Maria Kennedy, Taylor Conkey and Erin McNichol (adult advisor)
  • VolunservBrendan Lewis, Charles Gordinier, William Bush and Taquil Foster-Lewis (adult advisor)

Speak UP, the Delaware-based public speaking app for high school students, was one of three startups awarded with a Topical Award, the Horn Entrepreneurship Equity Thru Entrepreneurship Prize for teams with the greatest potential to advance social justice and equal opportunity.


You can watch the Speak UP pitch here:

The main competition consisted of two tracks: Business Innovation and Social Innovation. First, second and third place winners in each category are awarded $8,000, $4,000 and $2,000, respectively.

The winners in the Business Innovation Track:

  • 3rd Place (Tie) — Innovative Solar (California)
  • 3rd Place (Tie) — Shift (California)
  • 2nd Place — ListenIn Inc. (Texas)
  • 1st Place — EVAC (Pennsylvania)

The winners of the Social Innovation Track:

  • 3rd place — Hello Oasis (Canada)
  • 2nd Place — Serene (India and Washington)
  • 1st Place — Intutorly (North Carolina and Virginia)

Among the activities at the event were social media challenges, including the Summit TikTok Challenge, won by Fátima Farela from Organic Sprout of Guatemala:


Check out our TikTok challenge winner, Fátima Farela from Organic Sprout. Congrats! #diamondchallenge #organic #planting #gardening #sustainable

♬ deja vu – Olivia Rodrigo

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