Category Archives: Fearless Founders

Terp Startup Aurora Tights Celebrates Diversity with Athletic Apparel

This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the ten student startups who are participating in the Terp Startup summer accelerator phase of our Fearless Founders program. Participating student entrepreneurs received a stipend up to $5,000 that would enable them to work exclusively on their startups over eight weeks in the summer.

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Sydney Parker and Jasmine Snead

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Aurora Tights

CMO: Sydney Parker ’18, Communication major
Co-Founder and CFO: Jasmine Snead ’18, Government and Politics major
Co-Founder and COO: Imani Rickerby ’17, Public Health major

DC: Tell us about your startup. What problem are you solving and for whom?

AT: Aurora Tights is an athletic brand that designs performance sports gear in an array of tones for all complexions and sizes. Currently, all performance athletes, especially those of darker skin tones, do not have appropriate gear to fit their tones and sizes.

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3 Key Lessons from the Inaugural Ladies First Founders Cohort

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From left: Fiona Whitefield, Jasmine Snead, Natalie Urban, Yinyin Liao, Jess Rosenthal, Sara Herald, Sydney Parker, Audrey Awasom, Megha Guggari, Maria Chen & Breonna Massey

Last week, the inaugural cohort of Ladies First Founders gave presentations on their entrepreneurial journeys. Each female student reflected not only on the growth of their business, but also on how they have personally grown since joining the class. Presentations were followed by feedback from the rest of the cohort, and for every young woman who presented, each of her peers had something uniquely positive to compliment about her confidence, delivery, style or attitude. Witnessing these women celebrate one another and show empathy for their shared struggles was a beautiful experience.

Throughout the presentations, it was evident that before Ladies First Founders, many of these women suffered in isolation from shared issues that, once together, they were able to properly identify and work to overcome. Here are some of the greatest outcomes of taking workshops and connecting with fellow female entrepreneurs in Ladies First Founders:

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Fearless Founder Ryan Pillai Attends MIT’s Sloan Investment Conference

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2016 Pitch Dingman Competition winner Ryan Pillai

Through a Dingman Center grant, last month, Fearless Founder Ryan Pillai `19 traveled to MIT for the Sloan Investment Conference which took place at the Sloan School of Business. Below is Ryan’s first-hand account of the experience.

The annual Sloan Investment Conference brings together investment professionals from different industries and fosters education and meaningful discussions on hot button topics in finance.  This year, the theme was “Value Creation and Shareholder Engagement” with a broad range of ideas from Big Data and AI in the quant investment space to a crypto investment debate. Panel speakers included well renowned speakers from MIT and large private funds, many of whom engaged the audience with a friendly light air, which was refreshing and kept the conference from feeling exhaustive.

There was a lot of technical information presented so having a background in finance was a prerequisite to attending (surprise!). Nevertheless, I was able to somewhat keep up with the jargon with the occasional Google search. Here are some of my key takeaways from the talks that I wanted to share.

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An Interview with Pitch Dingman Competition Finalist: Emprology

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.

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Emprology

Sydney Parker, Founder & CEO

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Senior communications major Sydney Parker is the founder, CEO and “Empress” of Emprology, an empowering influencer marketing consultancy that seeks to educate black female bloggers, vloggers, and podcasters on how to monetize their content. Sydney, who built her social media credentials through multiple Facebook internships, started Emprology as a service that provided her customers with one-on-one consultations, marketing plans and creative assets to enhance their brand presence. With some concerns about overtaxing her own bandwidth, she recently launched a school for aspiring influencers called #BrandBoss Academy. As part of this school model,  established macro-influencers teach classes and provide mentorship to aspiring influencers, who pay an appropriate fee for the privilege. Sydney has been developing Emprology since spring 2017, when she first entered the Dingman Center’s Fearless Founders Accelerator. Through grit and determination, Sydney has built Emprology into a one-stop-shop for black women who want to learn how to make a living off of their passions.

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An Interview with Pitch Dingman Competition Finalist: Flee

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.

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Flee

Didac Hormiga, Founder & CEO

bluepngflee.pngUniversity of Maryland junior Didac Hormiga is the founder of mobile app Flee, which stands for “Finding Local Events and Entertainment.” Didac is a marketing and information systems double-major with a minor in technology entrepreneurship, but is also a former YouTube content creator (with over 1,000,000 views) and current LinkedIn Campus Editor. Didac’s marketing and social media background is complemented by the app development skills of his CTO, Ian Sawyer, whom he met while interning at Talk Local. Together, they have successfully beta-tested an events app targeted to college students that has what it takes to compete with the limited events functionality pasted onto popular social media platforms. The app currently contains over 200,000 events from both local partners and larger event providers such as Eventbrite and Ticketmaster, with convenient options for discounts, on-site payment (through Venmo or Paypal) and transportation to venues. Between enrolling in the Terp Startup phase of the Dingman Center’s Fearless Founders Accelerator and pitching at Pitch Dingman Competition Finals, Didac and Ian have continued to develop their app based on customer feedback, and are poised to imminently launch a massive contender in the social events app space.

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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.

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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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An Interview with Pitch Dingman Competition Finalist: Dark Sonar Technologies

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.

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Dark Sonar Technologies

George Lee, Founder & CEO

DarkSonarLogoGeorge Lee, a senior finance major at University of Maryland, came up with the idea for Dark Sonar when he encountered synthetic identity fraud while trying to run his first business, an incentivized advertising website called rewardslive. When he realized that the only available cybersecurity services on the market were too expensive for the size of his business, he decided to develop his own solutions. This experience led to George launching Dark Sonar, a cybersecurity service that is both simple to integrate and affordable for small and medium-sized businesses. Since founding Dark Sonar, George Lee has been accepted into Startup Shell and has participated in the Hatch and Terp Startup phases of the Dingman Center’s Fearless Founders Accelerator. Dark Sonar has attracted customers across a variety of industries, and looks to continue to innovate by expanding to prevent theft and fraud in cryptocurrency and blockchain.

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Announcing the Fearless Founders: Hatch 2018 Cohort

Hatch 2018 Cohort

Hatch is a three-credit course within the Fearless Founders accelerator where students will build and test their business ideas using lean startup methodology. Each business is also assigned a venture mentor from the Dingman Center Mentor Network. Upon completion of the course, students will be eligible for up to $2,500 in seed funding.

Read on to learn more about this cohort’s exciting student founders and their businesses!

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Pitch Dingman Competition Semifinals Recap

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This past Thursday, we hosted our annual Pitch Dingman Competition Semifinals in the Frank Auditorium of Van Munching Hall. With the recent news that University of Maryland had risen to #8 in the country in undergraduate entrepreneurship education, it was no surprise to see the room filled with attendees enthusiastically cheering for this extraordinary group of student founders.

Chaired by generous donor and UMD alumnus Robert G. Hisaoka, this year’s Pitch Dingman Competition Semifinals was preceded by an announcement for the new Hisaoka Entrepreneurs program. As part of the program, each semifinalist team will receive mentoring, coaching and additional funding to accelerate their venture toward success.

With only 4 minutes to present and 2 minutes for Q&A from judges, the 10 semifinalists all pitched their businesses admirably, but in the end, the judges chose these six exemplary startups to advance to the Finals:

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Announcing the 2017 Pitch Dingman Competition Semifinalists

PDC Semifinalists

We are pleased to announce the 10 semifinalists of Pitch Dingman Competition, whose founders will make up the inaugural cohort of Hisaoka Entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs will receive mentoring and coaching to help them further accelerate their businesses, whether or not they make the cut for Pitch Dingman Competition Finals.

Register now to cheer these students on at the Pitch Dingman Competition Semifinals on November 16 at 6 p.m. in Frank Auditorium, VMH!

Here are the 10 semifinalist startups and their founders:

Basereach – Dan Bogachek
Basereach sends personalized handwritten cards in your own handwriting to better connect with and thank your customers.

BEEQBOX – Brianna Queen
BEEQBOX provides vegan and cruelty-free illuminating cosmetic products with a branded feminist twist.

Dark Sonar Technologies, LLC – George Lee, Simon Schlegel
Dark Sonar is a cybersecurity company that prevents synthetic identity fraud on websites and mobile apps for small and medium sized businesses.

Emprology – Sydney Parker
Emprology, LLC is a digital brand consultancy and content creation shop that works to build influential personal brands for black women.

Flee – Didac Hormiga
Flee is a location-based social media app that helps people find local events and entertainment.

Manta Technologies – Daniel Diazdelcastillo
The MANTA vessel efficiently eliminates water debris to save millions of sea life from water pollution.

MPLEX VR – Stephen Walsh, Mikhail Sorokin, Galen Stetsyuk
MPLEX is a virtual reality (VR) video game company creating a competitive, multiplayer game with the depth, variety, and personalization worth getting a VR headset for.

Ötzi – Shyon Parsadoust, Nick Sarfaraz
A Tinder-like platform for tattoo artists and their customers to better connect with one another before the inking process begins.

Senvision – Chris Look, Sanna Madan
Senvision’s algorithm performs global sentiment analysis on social media to predict stock market movement.

Symbiont Health – Erich Meissner, Maria Chen, Kyle Liu
Symbiont Health has developed wearable, automated fall detection devices for seniors.