It’s that time of year. The stream of talented student entrepreneurs we’ve seen come through our doors begins to thin out with the arrival of finals, commencement and (at last!) winter break. But in the quiet of their absence, we can fondly reminisce on the outstanding semester we’ve had at the Dingman Center. In the past couple of months, we’ve seen a record amount of energy and engagement from the community in our programs. Read on for some of our favorite highlights from the semester.
This semester we saw a wealth of new ideas come through the Center. Attendance at our Dingman Fridays walk-in advising hours skyrocketed. Check out the numbers, and if you haven’t come to see us yet, we hope you will join us next semester when Dingman Fridays resume on January 27.
- 289 advising sessions
- 199 students served
- 86% increase in female attendees
This surge in Dingman Fridays attendees, and particularly our record number of female attendees, can perhaps be contributed to the addition of two key programs at the Dingman Center this semester.
spark: Where Fearless Ideas Start
The first of these new programs is spark: Where Fearless Ideas Start, our two-day idea festival in partnership with Startup Shell on October 7-8. Looking to find an event to fill a gap for students interested in entrepreneurship but not yet committed to an idea, spark invited Terps from all across campus to brainstorm ideas for solutions to problems they care about. The event gave 75 students like Smith School freshman Lakshmi Shyamakrishnan a convenient platform to explore how they could make an impact on the world by launching a venture.
The second new program we were proud to launch this year was our Ladies First initiative, an effort to get more women involved in entrepreneurship at UMD. Kicking off on October 24, Ladies First looks to not only increase diversity in entrepreneurship but also to redefine what we mean by “entrepreneur.” By elevating support and awareness for social entrepreneurship, the Dingman Center is hoping to attract young women who want to take action on the problems they care about, such as climate change, poverty and inequality. The Ladies First Kickoff Dinner and corresponding panel of all-star female entrepreneurs saw a room brimming with impressive young women eager to forge their own path.
Board of Advisors
As a prelude to Ladies First, we kicked off this academic year by adding some new members to our board, including Liz Sara, our first female chairman of the board in the Center’s 30 year history. Liz seeks to expand the Dingman Center brand to the broader DMV community and has in her time as board chair written a number of articles for Smith Brain Trust on topics such as women in tech and the steps Trump should take to help entrepreneurs.
Dingman Center Angels
This semester the Dingman Center Angels held three pitch meetings featuring 12 startups from around the region, ranging from the tech industry to food to social good. Four deals were finalized, including one with social venture and female-founded food startup MISFIT Juicery. As one of six startups from around the country accepted into the prestigious Chobani Food Incubator, MISFIT Juicery is proving that being a social enterprise doesn’t have to mean missing out on profit. Learn about the other deals and our portfolio on our web site.
Pitch Dingman Competition Semifinals
As one of our signature events, we thought that this year’s Pitch Dingman Competition Semifinals would yield a similar turnout to we had seen in the past. But we were in for a surprise. A whopping 373 attendees crowded into Frank Auditorium and an annex classroom to watch 10 student entrepreneurs pitch their startups. We are looking forward to seeing the five finalists—CourseHunter, Curu, Gravity LLC, Grumpy Joes and POSH—take the stage at the Pitch Dingman Competition Finals on March 7, 2017 to compete for a pool of $30,000 in funding.
As this semester comes to a close, we are thankful for our community who showed overwhelming support for our programs. We are proud of the students who showed up, who balanced their academic studies with time and effort spent validating and growing their startups. We look forward to a promising new year for the Dingman Center, and can’t wait to see how our Fearless Founders and their ventures progress.