Category Archives: Do Good Challenge

An Interview with Pitch Dingman Competition Finalist: Symbiont Health

In anticipation of the final round of the 2018 Pitch Dingman Competition, the Dingman Center is interviewing each of the five startup finalists about their progress and upcoming challenges as they prepare to compete for the $15,000 Grand Prize on March 6 in the Grand Ballroom of Stamp Student Union. Learn more and register to attend the competition here.


Erich Meissner, CEO; Maria Chen, CMO; Kyle Liu, CTO

Symbiont Health

Erich Meissner, CEO
Maria Chen, CMO
Kyle Liu, CTO

Logo&Slogan.pngSenior electrical engineering major Erich Meissner came up with the idea for a new kind of wearable fall detection device after his grandmother experienced a fall. He learned from her doctor that over 40% of senior falls are due to syncopy, a sudden loss of consciousness, which isn’t solved by common fall notification systems like Life Alert that require users to press a button. Furthermore, his grandmother had a Life Alert but wasn’t wearing it at the time—many seniors feel these devices carry an unwanted stigma advertising their loss of independence. Teaming up with junior pre-med student Maria Chen and sophomore computer science major Kyle Liu, Erich launched Symbiont Health to tackle the issue of unconscious elderly falls. In 2017, they competed in the Do Good Challenge and took second place in the Ventures track, then participated in the Terp Startup summer incubator phase of our Fearless Founders Accelerator. Leading up to Pitch Dingman Competition Finals, Symbiont Health has tested more subtle wearable devices as well as WiFi Mesh Networking solutions to detect falls.

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Do Good Challenge Finalist Accepted to Terp Startup Incubator

Each year, the Dingman Center provides coaching to teams competing on the venture track of the Do Good Challenge. This year, one of the ventures who made it to the Do Good Challenge Finals, Symbiont Health, later applied and was accepted into this year’s Terp Startup summer incubator. In the video above, CEO Erich Meissner discusses the positive relationship his team was able to build with the Dingman Center.

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Ladies First Spotlight: The Story Behind Cocoa Queens

This story is part of a blog series for the launch of Ladies First, the Dingman Center’s commitment to increase the number of women involved in entrepreneurship at UMD.

by: Nadia Laniyan


Nadia Laniyan ’16

During the fall semester of my senior year at University of Maryland I was taking an English course titled “Writing for Social Entrepreneurship.” This was the second professional writing course I took during undergrad, because unlike most seniors, as a part of my Individual Studies Program requirements I had to take two of these courses instead of one. Needless to say, I was not excited about having to take this extra English class, but it quickly became one of my favorite classes. Social entrepreneurship became this new and intriguing world that opened up an innovative side of me that I did not know existed.

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6 things we learned at Do Good Challenge Finals

By: Megan McPherson

The positive energy at last night’s Do Good Challenge was palpable. From the showcase to the finalist pitches to the panel of past Do Good competitors, it was clear that every person  there was united by a passion for driving social change. Do Good delivered not only excellent pitches but also an informative platform for discussing the unique challenges and rewards of social entrepreneurship. Here are some takeaways:

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6 finalists remain after the Do Good Challenge Semifinals

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By: Megan McPherson

The small classroom setting of the Do Good Challenge Semifinals felt intimate and understated, but the passion of each student shined just as brightly in that classroom as it may have on some grand stage. As each team pitched their eight weeks of social impact to the judges panel, I tried in vain to capture the morning’s energy with numerous photographs and tweets.

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Female Fearless Founders Featurette

In honor of Smith Women’s Week, we would like to highlight some recent past and present female participants of our Fearless Founders student accelerator program. We are immensely proud to have worked with these young women and to have been given the opportunity to help them grow their startups.


East Habesha – Saron Asfaw

Saron Asfaw ’18 started East Habesha in our Idea Shell stage, where she won a $500 MVP grant from Capital One to build her startup. She is currently working on further improving her business as a member of the Spring 2016 Hatch cohort. East Habesha is a website that sells custom Ethiopian dresses and food spices to customers in the DC metropolitan area. There is a large population of Ethiopians in the DC metropolitan area and there are many vendors that supply these necessities. What differentiates East Habesha from its competitors is that the prices are low but the quality is high. We look forward to seeing East Habesha grow as it continues to gain traction in the community.

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Do Good Challenge and the Millennial Social Entrepreneur

By: Megan McPherson

For those of you who don’t know me, I am the Dingman Center’s new Events and Marketing Coordinator. While I’m confident in my events and marketing cred, the complex and challenging world of entrepreneurship is something I am only just dipping my toes into. When I started I was aware of two major and very different events on the horizon: the Pitch Dingman Competition Finals and the Do Good Challenge. Pitch Dingman Competition seemed fairly straightforward to me: five student finalists go head-to-head to win funding for their startups. The Do Good Challenge, on the other hand, is a grand collaboration: founded by the School of Public Policy Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership, the Challenge is now run in partnership with the Robert H. Smith School of Business’s Center for Social Value Creation and the Dingman Center, and sponsored by Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management. Students are given an eight-week period to “do good”, meaning, in the words of the Do Good Challenge website, “Volunteering, raising money and in-kind donations, starting or advancing a social enterprise, or generating buzz for their cause through social media.” Judges measure the resulting social impact generated by a team’s Do Good campaign and the best teams are rewarded with monetary prizes toward their cause. So what is the Dingman Center’s role in all this?

I sat down with Sara Herald, Associate Director for Social Entrepreneurship at the Dingman Center and former Center for Social Value Creation member, and asked her to unpack the history behind the Dingman Center’s involvement with the Do Good Challenge. “After the Do Good Challenge began in 2012, it became clear that there were two tracks forming: one for students who started a project as part of a larger organization or movement that ended with the challenge, and one for students who founded their own social enterprises to use those ventures for social impact beyond the scope of the Do Good Challenge,” explained Herald. In response to this growing trend, in 2014 the Do Good Projects and Do Good Ventures tracks were created to distinguish these types of entries, and the Do Good Challenge became a partnership between the School of Public Policy and the Robert H. Smith School of Business. Within the Smith School, both the Center for Social Value Creation and the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship support the Do Good Challenge.

A big part of the the Dingman Center’s role is to provide seed funds as well as support and advising services for the many social ventures that sprout in the wake of the Do Good Challenge, including two recent successes Hungry Harvest and Press Uncuffed. But when did social entrepreneurship, or using the tools of business to solve a social problem, become such an attractive concept, particularly to millennials? As to the rise of social impact business models in general, Herald proposed, “There is a macro factor in that we as a society cannot continue to do business in the way that we have.” Resources like water are not infinite, as we had previously thought, but finite. Even traditional corporations such as Coca-Cola are incorporating social impact into their business model as a way to make sure that they are replenishing their resources and ensuring their future availability. She clarified that this trend is not just about the environment, but about “promoting a long-term viable business.” And as to why are millennials are focusing on social ventures, Herald provided this insight:

“The millennial generation cares a great deal about social impact. They reflect on their place in the world and want to become part of a business that shares their values and strives to do more than just make a profit. Not only do they want to work for these types of businesses, they want to buy from them, and they also want to create them.”

As an established millennial myself, my heart swelled to hear such an unusually positive description of my generation. Reflecting on my own experiences and those of my peers, I considered how millennials grew up at the start of a greater trend toward global awareness via the internet and social media. Millennial newsfeeds are filled with articles about global climate change, world hunger, poverty, and the plight of marginalized groups whose voices are only just beginning to be heard. In the midst of this, we see friends posting statuses about issues they are passionate about, sharing articles and contributing to a discussion, or uploading photos of themselves volunteering or at charity events. While popular sentiment is that prolonged exposure to the internet and social media has made millennials too image-conscious, there is a flip-side to this coin: when you see so many of your peers doing good and becoming part of movements toward bettering the world, it’s hard not to want to fit in.

mcphersondingmanheadshotMegan McPherson joined the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship in 2016 as its Events and Marketing Coordinator, supporting Associate Director Holly DeArmond. She assists in developing marketing strategies for the center, promoting events, and managing the Dingman Center’s growing social media presence. She has a B.A. in Japanese and Film from Vassar College and is currently working on a Masters in Cats as mother to two domestic shorthairs at her home in Gaithersburg, MD.

For those of you who want to learn more about the role of millennials in social entrepreneurship, here are two events you should check out this week:

What You Didn’t See on Shark Tank: Evan Lutz’s Journey to Investment
Thursday, March 3 – 12-1 p.m. in 2333 Van Munching Hall
A lunch talk with Evan Lutz, founder of Hungry Harvest and a Do Good Challenge contender in 2014. Sign up now.

Social Entrepreneur Millennial Mash-up Panel at Social Enterprise Symposium
Friday, March 4 – 1-5 p.m. in Stamp Student Union
This interactive panel features a Millennial mash-up of real-world social entrepreneurs taking action to address the problems they’re most passionate about, while disrupting the industries where they work. This session will explore how social entrepreneurship helps to drive positive change, and how the growing influence of social enterprises is redefining business as usual.