By: Justin Taubman ’16 MBA Candidate
On Thursday, April 7th, Kevin Plank ’96, Founder and CEO of Under Armour, returned to the University of Maryland to host the 11th annual Cupid’s Cup Entrepreneurship Competition. This was my second time attending the event and Mr. Plank continues to outdo himself by bringing in celebrity judges like Dan Gilbert, Wes Moore, and Arianna Huffington to evaluate the exceptional pitches of six finalists. The finalists emerged from a pool of over 500 applicants representing over 100 schools and made it through several rounds of screening to the main event where they competed for $100,000 in cash prizes.
The event started at 2:00 p.m. in the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center with a Startup Showcase of UMD’s top student entrepreneurs and their businesses. Among the startups in the showcase were many of the finalists from the Pitch Dingman Competition such as uBoard and WeCook as well as many other friends of the Dingman Center like Spot This and Meta Cartel.
After touring all the booths, I ended up throwing on a Spot This t-shirt and joining my classmates to help collect email addresses to invite users to join their beta. The crowd was very curious about their product and happy to get involved in the testing. The energy and excitement in the atmosphere was palpable, but this was just an appetizer leading up to the main event that would start at 4:00 p.m.
The show kicked off with the professional MC Christian Crosby, Live Events Manager of the Philadelphia 76ers who introduced Plank to the crowd of over a thousand. Mr. Plank recounted his days at the University of Maryland as a student athlete and his rose delivery business that helped him raise the seed money to start Under Armour after graduating. After introducing the judges, the competition began.
The competition was comprised of six finalists, all with incredibly unique businesses that were all generating substantial revenue. Headbands of Hope kicked things off by pitching their stylish headband company with a social angle to help children with cancer. Then the University of Maryland’s own Javazen got the hometown crowd fired up in their presentation. The unique box membership company MyBestBox did an impressive job explaining how their customized boxes can help customers live more healthy lives. The youngest entrepreneur in the finals was the founder of Plova Chewing Gum, who introduced us to the world’s first beneficial oral care product in the form of gum. The founder of Six Foods had an infectious energy that got Kevin Plank to eat her Chirp Chips, tortilla chips made with crickets. The last pitch was by Wolf & Shepherd the sleek dress shoe company with the technology of running shoes.
The judges certainly had their work cut out for them. Ultimately there could only be one winner of the Cup. After much deliberation the judges emerged from backstage and handed out some impressive $5,000 consolation prizes to Plova and MyBestBox. SixFoods was awarded $25,000 for second-place. The first-place prize of $75,000, their name on the Cup, and access to Kevin Plank’s network was awarded to our very own Javazen! We are all very proud of Ryan, Eric, and Aaron at the Dingman Center and hope that their success continues and also that it inspires other student entrepreneurs at University of Maryland.