Students pitch startups at ‘Duck Pond Challenge’

Teams of Richland students got their shot at a campus version of ABC’s “Shark Tank” Nov. 30 in the Chronicle TV Studio. Like the reality TV show, students presented business plans for new products or ideas in front of a panel of judges.

Richland Entrepreneurship Club participants were divided into four teams. The panel consisted of five judges who questioned and critiqued each team after their presentation. The judges included Maggie Barton and Jon Schick, co-founders from Spur Startup, a local software company. Richland professors Gil Castillo and Randy Waterman were also judges as well as Richland advisory board member Gary Klembara.

Top-prize winners with the best idea were given an all-expense-paid trip to the “Alley Scholar’s Shark Tank” competition at the University of Arkansas to grow their business model and earn a grand prize of up to $25,000.

(Left to right) Alexander Myers - Huston, Dee Dee Herrerra, Gregg Soloman, Tsion Zenabu,Brianna Brody, Shanthi Shyamsunder and professor Kevin Wortley at Duck Pond challenge.

(Left to right) Alexander Myers - Huston, Dee Dee Herrerra, Gregg Soloman, Tsion Zenabu,Brianna Brody, Shanthi Shyamsunder and professor Kevin Wortley at Duck Pond challenge.

First up were Alexander Myers- Huston and DeeDee Herrerra with their concept of an app called Busy Bee.

“We can provide social and networking events for the busy professional” said Herrerra. The Busy Bee app would help professionals in new cities network and make friends with people in similar careers. They also argued competitive advantage for their service including a selection of membership options.

The next presentation was from Gregg Soloman with Phoebe Mobility, L.L.C. Named after his grandmother, Phoebe, who passed away due to a faulty walker, Soloman’s company would improve the safety of mobility aids.

“I never want poorly designed products to injure anyone else,” he said.

Soloman presented the patented medical devices and explained how they would improve current products on the market.

The third presenter was Tsion Zenabu from Utopia, a social networking site to connect people with possible team members interested in launching products.

“As a young person, there are a lot of obstacles you can have on a worldwide scale,” Zenabu argued. It is difficult for entrepreneurs to draw talent from the marketplace for their businesses. Her product would solve that problem. Zenabu’s company would also provide economic data depending on the customer’s location.

The final presenter was Brianna Brody with Academic Intellectual Minds (AIM) who presented an idea for an educational program to help foster and low-income kids become college ready.

“We don’t just want our students to be college ready. We also want to enrich the lives of our students and put them on the path to a better future,” Brody said. Her market summary research revealed that youth in low income and foster care situations drop out of high school at higher rates. She hoped to end that problem by focusing specifically on underprivileged students.

At the end of the program, Greg Soloman with Phoebe Mobility L.L.C. was the first-place winner. Alexander Myers and DeeDee Herrerra with Busy Bee were runners-up. Brianna Brody with Academic Intellectual Minds took third and Tsion Zenabu from Utopia received an honorable mention.

The Entrepreneurship Club, Richland’s School of Business and Richland Student Media plan to produce another the “Duck Pond Challenge” for TV next year.