The two $1,000 first prizes for Princeton Pitch went to the creators of “splash,” a free application that allows users to share media based on location, and the developers of “Saheli,” a catering service that aims to help Indian women escape the sex trade.
Students dressed in business attire crowded into Dodds Auditorium for the annual competition hosted by the Entrepreneurship Club, which gives participants 60 seconds to pitch their startup ideas, in for-profit or social entrepreneurship tracks, to a panel of judges for cash prizes. These included $400 and $250 for second and third place, respectively, as well as $250 for an audience choice award.
“We pretty much doubled in everything this year. We have double the number of participants, we have double the amount of prizes,” Entrepreneurship Club co-director of competitionsShompa Choudhury '15said in her introductory speech. Increased support from the program's sponsors made possible the expansion of prizes.
splash creators Adam Suczewski ’15, Derrick Dominic ’15 and Darshan Desai ’16 gave a live demonstration of their product, originally developed as coursework for COS 333: Advanced Program Techniques, by filming their live pitch and asking audience members to open www.splashed.meon their smartphones. After the video was “splashed," anyone in the room could access it from the website without having to download any application.
“This is designed so the sender or the receiver has no extra step involved when broadcasting their content,” Suczewski explained. “The world doesn’t need another social network.”
Any data is deleted after 24 hours, a feature that allows the startup to operate with“much less [storage space] than a company like Google or Facebook is going to have to deal with,” Dominic said. “It’s also going to help ease users’ consternations with privacy policies,” he added.
The app is free on iTunes. It can “splash” users as far as 16 miles away and has an optional encryption feature. Although the group is currently more focused on growth than on monetization, the app could potentially generate revenue through targeted advertising, Desai said.
On the social entrepreneurship track, Aashna Mehra ’15, Prerna Ramachandra ’14 and Rachita Jain ’14 were motivated by the New Delhi rape case that made international headlines in 2012 to help break the cycle of sexual violence persisting in regions of India such as Bharatpur, where the caste system promulgates professional prostitution, according to Mehra.
Ramachandra is a former staff writer for The Daily Princetonian.
“They have no way to support themselves. They’re not educated, they have no marketable skills and they can’t find jobs,” Ramachandra said of current victims.
Saheli, which is Hindi for "friend," strives to generate salaries for these women by tapping into the market of young professionals who move to New Delhi and crave home-cooked meals. The group is discussing the venture, which originated through Ramachandra's project for COS 448: Innovating Across the Boundaries of Business and Technologywith Apne Aap, an Indian grassroots organization that empowers women to fight sex trafficking.
Second prize in for-profit enterprise went to Adcomm Mobile, an advertising-supported service designed for emerging marketsthat offers free text messages and minutes. It was entered by Ebhodaghe Osime '16and Columbia student Jimmy Toussaint.Third prize went toLifeArk, a digital watch entered by Zachary Mingthat monitors the vital signs of aging people. Ming, a visiting graduate student at the University, designed the watch to be used in China, where there is a large aging population that lacks health care.
In the social enterprise category, second prize went to Celeste, a social commerce platform and fashion brand that connects Western shoppers to textile artisans in remote countries, created by Marina Kaneko '15, Jenna Rodrigues '14 and Megan Partridge '14. Third prize went toPiCreate, which is partnering with Coursera to bring the benefits of online education to developing countriesby marketing a computer at less than $100. PiCreate was launched by Bode Abunbarin '16, Kasturi Shah '16 and Mark Pavlyukovskyy '13.
On a lighter note, Haven on Earth, a for-profit enterprise aimed at selling Hoagie Haven sandwiches to drunk college students on Prospect Avenue, won the audience choice award.
“My idea has a very low startup cost and a very high profit ceiling, especially when you consider the fact that many students can’t tell the difference between a $5 bill and a $50 bill [in their drunken state],” co-creator Tyler Servais ’15 said in his pitch. Servais created the idea with friend Ryan Albert '14, but pitched it alone.
“Because it’s only 60 seconds and it’s an informal pitch, since you’re not actually putting together a business plan, it’s very open to anyone who wants to do it,” competitions officer of the Entrepreneurship Club Sreya Basuroy ’16 said. “Sometimes it’s those very wacky ideas that really hit the mark."
"Just do it," judge and LivNow CEO Jeff Mitchell '81 said. "It's a good experience from any perspective to have to try to boil down your idea to 60 seconds and present it to people in a persuasive way."
A total of 45 teams participated in Princeton Pitch.
Bryan Gartner and John Monagle ’12 from Insight Venture Partners, Jalak Jobanputra from Techstars and Will Peng ’10 from Raptor Ventures judged the for-profit entrepreneurship track, while Mitchell, James Smits ’12 from TigerLabs, Douglas Rubin ’81 from Men's Divisions International and Jon Wonnell ’81 from AIG judged the social entrepreneurship track.
The event was sponsored by the Keller Center, Reach Out, the USG, ODUS, Insight Venture Partners, the Princeton Social Entrepreneurship Initiative and the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club.