Student Teams Compete in Idea Olympics for Venture Funding

Six Kent State University student teams competed in the third annual LaunchNET Idea Olympics in the University Library. The event is a lead-in to the regional ideaLabs business idea competition, sponsored by the Northeast Ohio Entrepreneurship Education Consortium (EEC). Eleven colleges and universities will compete in the seventh annual event, which will be hosted this year at John Carroll University.

The first-place winner of the Kent State competition, “Vegiversity” pitched by junior integrative studies major Julia Kelley, won $1,500 and will go on to compete at the regional level, where she could win up to $3,000 for her lifestyle-diet community locator app idea.

Other Kent State winners included:

  • Michael George (junior environmental conservation-biology major), who won $500 for the Social Enterprise Award, generously provided by the Business of Good Foundation, for his land-sharing idea, “Growing for Good.”
  • The team in second place for “CaseMD,” a medical device smartphone case: Sam Graska (junior, biology major), Ariella Yager (junior entrepreneurship major), Brian Cannon (senior entrepreneurship major) and Justin Gleason (senior architecture major).
  • Michael Frindt (senior business management major) and Zach Eckert (senior finance major) in third place for their contact-swapping app, “Swap.”

Other finalists who competed in the Shark Tank-style event included sophomore journalism major Bruno Beidacki for “mindset University” and a team of visual communication design majors for their app idea, “Troubadour,” including senior Tyler Powell and graduate students Kathryn Voith and Cassandra Reese.

Zach Mikrut, program manager for LaunchNET Kent State, lauded the variety in the students’ backgrounds and majors in the competition.

“This year, we had a great group of applicants from a variety of disciplines including visual communication design, business, hospitality management, biology and many more,” Mikrut says.

The competition is open to any Kent State student or team with a new venture idea.

Finalists had to complete a two- to three-page executive summary and submit a video pitch to be considered.

“The passion and effort really showed through in their presentations, demonstrating that these are entrepreneurs ready to compete and take their ideas to the next level," Mikrut says.

Judges for the event were from the Northeast Ohio entrepreneurship community and generously gave their time to not only decide the winners, but provide constructive feedback and networking opportunities to the competitors. They were Patrycja Ajdukiewicz, relationship manager at the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI) in Cleveland; Tobin Buckner, Akron Entrepreneur community manager at Jumpstart; Jim Cossler, CEO of the Youngstown Business Incubator; and Courtney Gras, founder/COO of Design Flux Technologies, who was recently named one of Forbes’ “30 Under 30.”

Learn more about LaunchNET Kent State.