$28,500 Awarded to Student Entrepreneurs at 9th Annual Fairfield StartUp Showcase

$28,500 Awarded to Student Entrepreneurs at 9th Annual Fairfield StartUp Showcase

Image of the teams and investors

The 2020 StartUp Showcase teams and investor panelists at the conclusion of the awards round.

This year’s five Showcase teams impressed the investor panel with both their pitches and their ability to pivot from an in-person event to an online format.

On April 29, 2020, Fairfield University released a new, seven-part video series: the online format of the ninth annual StartUp Showcase. The public was asked to watch the videos — documenting each team’s journey, pitch to investors, and investor feedback — and vote for the CTNext/CI Audience Favorite. This year’s new virtual format was received with tremendous excitement from the University community, garnering upwards of 2,600 views and reaching more than 50,000 people through social media channels.

Not only were the pitches impressive, but Showcase teams wowed the investor panel with their ability to prepare, in only a matter of weeks, to deliver their pitches through a new, online format. Returning to this year’s StartUp Showcase investor panel were Joseph Bronson ’70, principal and CEO of The Bronson Group, LLC; Michael Garvey ’89, P’23, an active angel investor and entrepreneur; and Mary Anne Rooke, P’20, president and managing director of Angel Investor Forum and managing partner in Mystic River Ventures.

The following is a recap of each team’s pitch and feedback from the investor panel:

Dayanna Mazo ’20 pitched her collection of handcrafted jewelry, Dayverse, designed to help women express and celebrate their unique identities. Self-described as a “creative, visionary, and hustler” Dayanna’s business model of collaborating with local and international artists to create jewelry collections drew attention from the investors.

Bronson encouraged Dayanna to consider ways to scale her business and suggested Asia as a market with tremendous opportunity. Rooke commended her for making such a strong local impact by collaborating with artists in her hometown of Bridgeport, Conn. as well as abroad, and offered to connect her with a leading impact investor in New York.

“You’ve turned your business into something that generates a profit — huge kudos to you,” said Garvey. “That takes tenacity, grit, and all the things we want to see in everybody around us, never mind our fellow Stags and future alumni.”

For Dayverse, Dayanna was awarded $10,000 and was invited to participate in the FUEL Summer Fellows program. She was also voted the CTNext/CI Audience Favorite by viewers for best pitch, earning her an additional $1,000 award.

John Cain ’22 pitched Estial, a payment app that uses cryptocurrency to make cash business transactions convenient and secure by allowing customers to pay with a credit card. John’s passion for trading bots and using algorithms for financial technology impressed the members of the investor panel; they agreed that he showed tremendous knowledge in this cutting-edge fintech space.

“You did a terrific job with the business model aspects of your idea,” said Bronson. “The amount of creativity and thought gone into this is quite substantial and we expect to see you back.”

Rooke emphasized that there are a lot of great opportunities for fintech entrepreneurs. Both Rooke and Garvey offered to put John in touch with contacts where he may find synergies.

John was awarded $3,000 for his Estial pitch, and was invited to participate in the FUEL Summer Fellows Program.

Winston Demartini ’20 pitched Hustlin’, a "smart weight" app for athletes and physical therapists that uses sensor-based smart weights, smart shirts, and interactive data-driven 3D models, to improve working out and to reduce the chance for injury. Winston’s passion for fitness and his enthusiasm for being part of the Showcase were evident as he delivered his pitch.

Bronson picked up right away that Winston’s value proposition is a technology solution.

“You are selling a solution to a physical therapist community and that’s the kind of technology that can lend itself to different applications,” he said. Bronson recommended that Winston focus on one industry that proves his tech solution and value potential, to be used as an example for future potential customers with whom he can license the technology.

Garvey said he liked what Winston had developed and sees great opportunity. He recognized that Winston has taken a niche focus in the physical therapy world, but cautioned him to watch out for competition from large players in the apparel and sports tech space. Rooke offered to put Winston in touch with a Connecticut-based company that sells its product to a large physical therapy client, as a way to learn more about the industry and potentially make connections in the market.

Winston was awarded $3,000 for Hustlin', and was invited to participate in the FUEL Summer Fellows Program.

Christian Hakim ’21 pitched for team Priority Route, a group of computer science, engineering, and business students who developed an interactive route optimization software. Designed for small and medium-sized companies in the waste management business, Priority Route gives drivers access to a mobile application with dynamic routing solutions to save time and resources when scheduling pick-ups for customers. The app functions by reading data that reports fill levels from hardware installed in trash receptacles.  

The investor panel agreed that Priority Route has an interesting concept and recommended that the team do more work to illustrate the cost savings for companies compared to the annual subscription fee.

“If you can show immediate payback to customers, this will serve your team very well as you work to scale the business,” said Bronson.

Rooke offered to put team Priority Route in contact with a route optimization company working in a different industry, to serve as a valuable resource to understand the challenges of the market and the pivots they have had to make to meet their customers’ needs.

Team Priority Route was awarded $1,500 and was invited to participate in the FUEL Summer Fellows Program.

Fairfield StartUp veteran Abigail Sakati ’20 returned to the Showcase, this time pitching her own business idea for Sharing the Barre, a dancewear social venture aimed at empowering dancers to love their bodies by offering them a collection of dancewear customized to them. Abigail explained that 5% of sales will go to dance organizations to give back to dance studio relief funds.            

Overall the investor panel was impressed with Abigail’s business plan and applauded her for the social venture aspect of her business. Bronson advised her to watch her cashflow and Rooke suggested looking into ways to keep inventory costs low. Garvey commented on how impressed he was by her presentation and offered to put her in touch with an apparel company as a potential contact. The investors also suggested Abigail look into online sizing tools that can help customers find the right fit.

“Over the last three years we have watched you grow and we are extremely proud of what a savvy young businesswoman you are becoming,” said Rooke. “Congratulations and thank you for sticking with it. You have great promise as an entrepreneur coming out of Fairfield.”

Abigail was awarded $10,000 and was invited to participate in the FUEL Summer Fellows program.

Garvey closed the Showcase by thanking this year’s sponsors and mentors, crediting them with making the continuation of the Fairfield University StartUp Showcase possible.

Interested in seeing all of the pitches and investor feedback? Visit fairfield.edu/startup to watch the Showcase video series.

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Last modified: 05-08-20 9:40 AM

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