Annual JagStart competition brings out the best in student entrepreneurs

  • April 14, 2016


INDIANAPOLIS -- Will people turn off their smartphones if it means more money for a favorite charity? And is a virtual reality game a better tool to assess aggression among children than a current method?

The answer is "yes" to both questions, say entrepreneurial-minded students at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, who competed to win part of the $5,500 purse at JagStart, the IUPUI student idea pitch competition.

A smartphone application to encourage people to moderate their phone usage as a way to give to charity won first place in the 2016 edition of the annual contest, which took place in March in the Lilly Auditorium at University Library on the IUPUI campus.

A service to better integrate people with disabilities into the workplace, particularly into higher-level positions, won both second place and the audience choice award, and a virtual reality program to treat aggression among children won third place.

JagStart rewards IUPUI students for their innovative ideas to solve challenges facing the nation and the world. The students present three-minute "elevator" pitches proposing original solutions to pressing social and economic issues. 

"Take a look at the winners," said JagStart judge Brian Gawor, vice president for research at Ruffalo Noel Levitz. "These pitches were not only great business ideas; they also do good in the world. We should be proud of these students."

This year, 11 teams made pitches during the competition. Gawor and other volunteers from the business community served as judges. 

"The pitches were excellent, and it was very difficult for us to choose the winners," Gawor said. "This competition truly showcases the incredible talent, passion and skill of IUPUI students -- and the world-class faculty who teach and mentor them every day. Entrepreneurism is changing the world, and these students are our future."

The 2016 winners and their creative solutions were:

LookUp: Away from mobile for good -- 1st place, $2,500
Team members: Preethi Srinivas and Yuan Jia, human-computer interaction majors, School of Informatics and Computing

Project description: "Look Up uses a business model where advertisers pay to display their company's advertisement after the completion of every smartphone-free period while charity organizations capitalize on the times when users decide to go smartphone free," according to the project's written abstract.

Distinctive Potential -- 2nd place, $1,500; Audience Choice winner, $1,000
Team members: Amna Sohail, chemistry major, Purdue School of Science

Project description: Distinctive Potential is a not-for-profit venture idea that seeks to make the inclusion of disabled populations through integrated workplaces a priority. In a 2014 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, only 17.1 percent of persons with a disability were employed compared to 64.6% of persons without disabilities. Distinctive Potential will provide recruiting services with its trained human resources staff to help local small businesses hire qualified and trained disabled clients served at state-funded vocational rehabilitation centers.

Virtual Reality to Treat Childhood Aggression -- 3rd place, $500
Team members: Riley Mineart, media arts and science major, School of Informatics and Computing

Project description: Virtual Reality to Treat Childhood Aggression takes existing paper forms of assessment for youth aggression and interprets them into an immersive 3-D experience using a medical device called the Oculus Rift.  The virtual reality assessment addresses two flaws of the paper tests: lack of consistency of execution between patients and lack of integrity in test results.

In addition to the new pitches, this year's presentations included an update from last year's winning pitch project, SafeBay, which provides a parking and storage solution for the motorcyclist and financial gains for owners by offering plenty of surface area for art/graphics/advertising.

The annual pitch competition "definitively helps young women and men in preparing themselves for the odds to be faced in the job market," said Rodrigo Cotelo Iriart, JagStart business mentor volunteer and business development manager at Cornerstone Information Systems in Bloomington. "Moving forward, they will have gained invaluable experience to pursue their ideas and the understanding that building a business case and defending it is part of the day-to-day of any entrepreneur. Hats off to IUPUI to care to develop its students in this fashion."

2016 JagStart Winners

2016 JagStart Winners

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Diane Brown