By Matthew Radman,
International Business Assistant Editor
On Friday April 7, five finalist teams gathered on stage in the Jubilee Hall auditorium to compete in the seventh annual Pirate’s Pitch competition. Seton Hall has hosted this competition since 2010 to provide its student entrepreneurs an opportunity to show-off their business ideas and for a chance to win a portion of $10,000 in capital to go towards making their dreams a reality.
Pirate’s Pitch has earned a reputation since its inception for being the initial driver behind the success of many of the companies presented. For many students, Pirate’s Pitch is the first time their business is examined publicly. However, after all of the hard work and nerves of getting up on stage, all participants walk away feeling enriched with what they learned along the way.
Before the teams presented, the crowd welcomed back Shaaliayah Lyons, one of the winners from last year’s Pirate’s Pitch. Last year, she presented her pitch on her idea for Together We Conquer Life Skills Basketball Camp, which aims to inspire young athletes in all aspects of their lives. Since Pirate’s Pitch, Lyons has partnered with local teams to do workshops and officially initiated her non-profit starting with a 1 week summer camp. Lyons mentioned that one of the important lessons that she learned from Pirate’s Pitch and from the judges was to take baby steps and not do too much at once.
The judges listened to this year’s five pitches before commending their merits, giving feedback, and providing mentoring to the students. The panel of judges included: partner at One-to-One Corporate Finance Patrick Cozza, founding and managing partner at Adison Partners Jim DiPietropolo, host of CEO Radio WCBS 880 AM Ray Hoffman, partner at Connell Foley Angela Iuso, staff accountant at MIU & Co. Erin Miu, and founder and CEO of Wolfe Roofing and Sheet Metal Gary Wolfe.
The event began with Sports Armor Innovations LLC, a sports equipment company that aims to make putting on protective gear easier. “Where safety meets efficiency” is founders’ Kyle Hilliard (Physics), and William Sayegh (Biology) tagline for the company.
Their flagship product is the Orion B1, a single piece body armor suit which is, for now, designed specifically for hockey. Hilliard is himself a hockey player and knows the market very well. The next company presented was Rephone, a cell phone repair company founded by Anthony Laverde (Marketing) that works directly with independent shops to provide a cheaper and faster solution as opposed to shipping phones out to China. Laverde aims to gain market share by providing a win-win-win situation with customers, shops, and himself. The company is already functioning and profitable, Laverde even plans to expand his visibility at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this January in Las Vegas. Laverde donates 10% of revenues to the Nellie Mae Education Foundation which aims to transform public education to teach the necessary skillset for the technology era.
The third company to present was CampusGo, founded by Ian Campbell (Mathematical Finance) and Thomas J. (TJ) Merighi (Management). The company is a bike rental service specifically aimed at college campuses. It provides students with alternative transportation to get around campus and it also may help alleviate parking congestion.
The company is targeting campuses with 15,000 plus students and is currently in talks with the large campuses in the south to get the company jump started. The company also plans to make use of smart locks that can be accessed by an app in lieu of a usual bike docking station which makes for an easier docking situation for students. The fourth pitch was for BUBLS LLC founded by Anthony Woodard, a company hoping to capitalize on the fast growing trend of bubble teas. Woodard’s product is unique in that it is pre-packaged and is able to be sold in stores as opposed to having to go to a bubble tea specialty shop. The fifth and final business presented was Divvi, a group messaging app founded by David Webster (Marketing). Webster aims to provide a service that targets productivity from a messaging app. The app has a shared calendar and many organizational features allowing groups or teams to get work done efficiently. The judges were moved by the incredible potential for Divvi, allowing the app to take first place and earn $6,000. Anthony Laverde and his company RePhone took second place and $3,500. Ian Campbell and TJ Merighi and their company CampusGo impressed the audience and took home the Audience Choice Award and $500. The judges stated that it was a difficult choice as every year, the students and companies presented get more and more impressive. For the seventh year straight, the Stillman School of Business put together an event that was as challenging as it was fun and enriching to presenters and judges. While not every company can be a winner at Pirate’s Pitch, all of the teams valued the experience and gained invaluable mentorship from judges throughout the experience.
As Pirate’s Pitch 2017 comes to a close, the real work began for the entrepreneurs. The students gained insights into how to take their innovative ideas to the next level and reach their full potential.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 25th, 2017 print edition.
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