Over 30 students from area universities settled into Cintrifuse on Saturday for the second University Startup Slam! sponsored by Taft – a 12-hour mashup of smart, young brains from the University of Cincinnati, Xavier University, Miami University, Northern Kentucky University, and Mount St. Joseph, solving the real-world issues of two Cincinnati startups – Kapture and 3DLT.
The goals of University Startup Slam! are simple:
- Teach students about the entrepreneurship model compared to traditional established companies.
- Expose them to a medley of major players in the space.
- Motivate them to work on a collaborative level with teams of diverse academic backgrounds.
“I’m confident that we accomplished all of these goals on Saturday,” offers Tom Stasi from Taft, a long-time supporter of Cintrifuse and the Slam! “As active members in this space, we have a responsibility to incorporate the talent of young professionals in order to cultivate sustainable, organic growth for Cincinnati startups.”
The students were led throughout the day by professors and mentors who provided advice and guidance as they were trying to solve the problems presented by: Kapture, who needed help with the distribution network for its audio recording wristband; and 3DLT, who was looking for a way to build a community of 3D-printing designers that use its software.
Each team was cross-discipline in concentration and cross-institutional in setup: there were law students mixed with entrepreneurial students, MBAs with undergrads. The only rule was that you couldn’t be on the same team as someone from your own school. This collaboration mimics the world students will discover upon graduation and is one of the highlights of the competition.
The groups could utilize Cintrifuse working space taking over conference rooms, whiteboards and easels. They were encouraged to tap into the brains of the startup founders themselves who dedicated themselves to sticking around all day and were extremely accessible.
A highlight was lunch where Mike LaRosa delivered more than just LaRosa’s pizza. Mike talked to the group about the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur, about the additive learning experiences you get from having a successful family business for decades. The students got to hear firsthand accounts of how innovation drives the company’s second 25 years, which in and of itself is a milestone when you consider the unrelenting competition from national pizza brands with much deeper resources.
After lunch it was back to work and all team efforts were focused on their presentations. Each team elected a spokesperson who would deliver a 10-minute summation of their solution in front of the entire group. Judging was based on teamwork, the uniqueness of their approach, presentation cohesiveness, and how implementable the solution was.
Overall, participation was spectacular and all teams were given high marks by their respective startups. “We heard the students loud and clear,” remarked Mike Sarow, co-founder of Kapture. “Growing too fast is a risk and we should consider business model solutions to limit the exposure – batch selling vs. every day available.”
“It was an awesome experience to have so many talented problem-solvers from outside of our company help us design our entire supply chain,” said Matthew Dooley, co-founder of Kapture. “It’s no small feat, but they rose to the challenge and came up with multiple solutions that we’ll actually implement over the next few months.”
“This was a wonderful and unique learning experience for our students,” said Lew Goldfarb, University of Cincinnati College of Law. “Having them be able to work with students from other disciplines and actual start-up entrepreneurs to solve real world problems was invaluable. The students utilized their strong analytical skills to come up with innovative solutions, helping them realize their skills and talents as business counselors. It was an experience they won’t soon forget.”
1. Oliver Coffey, Miami University
2. Jason Hulett, Northern Kentucky University
3. Stephanie Franxman, University of Cincinnati
4. Ryan Henry, Xavier University
1. Brett Watson, Miami University
2. Jorvell Swain, Mount St. Joseph
3. Cyle Tipton, Northern Kentucky University
4. Lindsay Upton, University of Cincinnati
5. Stefan Modic, Xavier University
Cintrifuse and Taft plan on holding the University Startup Slam! again in the Spring for a new batch of students eager to jump into the shoes of more Cincinnati startups.