Category Archives: Feature Friday

Feature Friday! Vitalize

Sanketh Andhavarapu ’23 pitching Vitalize at the 2022 Pitch Dingman Competition Finals.

DC: What is your name, major, and graduation year?
Andhavarapu: My name is Sanketh Andhavarapu, and I graduate in the spring of 2023 with a degree in Health Decision Sciences. [Vitalize was also co-founded by Veeraj Shah ’21.]

DC: Which Dingman Center programs have you been involved with?
Andhavarapu: We participated in the 2020 Terp Startup Accelerator, and the 2021-22 Terp Startup Fellows. We won the Quattrone Venture Track Grand Prize and Audience Choice Prize at the 2022 Pitch Dingman Competition.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?
Andhavarapu: Vitalize works with healthcare employers to improve the mental health of their staff. For individual healthcare workers, we offer a mobile app with healthcare-centric coaching, peer support and mindfulness content. For employers, we provide a web-based dashboard with robust data on staff well-being trends, app engagement, and drivers of burnout.

DC: At what point did you know you wanted to create your own startup?
Andhavarapu: In high school, I had the opportunity to be the Chief Human Resources Officer of a nonprofit organization. I learned that I really enjoyed leading and inspiring teams to collectively achieve social impact. This experience directly motivated me to found STEPS, a revenue-generating education nonprofit. In this role, I realized how important it was for me to take on an irreplaceable role in anything that I put time and effort into. I liked knowing that as a founder, there is no one more knowledgeable about your idea and innovation than yourself, and that you’re leaving a unique footprint on the world. I didn’t find this same sense of personal fulfillment when looking at the different clubs I could join when I first came to UMD. This is why, when I had the idea for Vitalize, I knew I had to take action and it was a no-brainer that I wanted to invest my time and effort into making it successful. Through Vitalize, I have the unique opportunity to transform healthcare through innovation and creativity.

DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months?
Andhavarapu: Last summer, Vitalize launched an unpaid pilot with Midland Health. We were able to convert this pilot into a paid annual contract with their entire system, where we’re now launching to 2000 staff members in January, 2023. Yes, this means we’re officially post-revenue! With this progress, we’ve also accepted investments from several VC funds and angels including Conscious Venture Partners, StartUp Health, and Dorm Room Fund.

DC: What’s the most important thing you are working on right now and how are you making it happen?
Andhavarapu: As the Chief Product Officer, I am currently working on ensuring that our product and coaching pipeline is ready for the upcoming health system launch. I currently manage a outsourced development team of 5 engineers and meet with them daily to ensure that we’re staying on timeline and building our product efficiently. I also coordinate all communications and onboarding of coaches to ensure the service-side of our product is ready-to-go. Finally, I work with our Director of Mindfulness to ensure that our library of on-demand content is also ready for launch.

DC: As a student business owner, how do you define success?
Andhavarapu: Success means answering the following three questions that must be answered with a resounding “yes”:

  1. Am I addressing a problem that I care deeply about with a solution that has potential for grand impact. In my opinion, poor mental health of healthcare workers is one of the largest problems in healthcare, and building Vitalize allows me to be a part of the solution.
  2. Am I continuously learning new skills, gaining knowledge, learning about myself, and growing my network. I have arguably learned more from building Vitalize than most of my classes, and I got to meet amazing founders, healthcare executives, and clinicians throughout my journey.
  3. Is my time and effort translating into meaningful traction milestones or learnings for the venture? With Vitalize, I have the opportunity to set new goals each month and work towards them.

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Andhavarapu: Customer discovery is one of the most important skills in your toolkit, and it remains on your to-do list regardless of the stage of your venture. If you have an idea that you are looking to pursue, it is important to conduct several unbiased interviews with all the potential stakeholders (customers, payers, partners, etc). Customer discovery is a great way to validate assumptions and de-risk your startup before investing too much money and time into a potentially flawed concept.

Also, don’t be afraid to talk about your idea! So many people are concerned about someone stealing their idea, but talking about it is the only way to get the feedback and advice you need to continue building the business.

Finally, don’t confuse funding for traction. Ultimately, what determines a success trajectory for a startup is proving value and willingness to pay for customers. Funding is amazing and can help you achieve these milestones, but funding alone does not progress the venture.

To learn more about Vitalize, please visit the website here.

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Feature Friday! Old Town, New Clothes

OTNC’s new clothing drop, “Old Town, In October”.

DC: What is your name, major, and graduation year?
Spinner: Brian Spinner my major is Environmental Science and Policy with a concentration in Environment and Agriculture and my graduation year is May 2023.

Old Town New Clothes’ September Pop-Up Event in College Park.

DC: Which Dingman Center programs have you been involved with?
Spinner: I am currently involved in the New Venture Practicum.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?
Spinner: My startup is my clothing brand “Old Town, New Clothes” which has created a circular economy for clothing in the College Park region. I take in students and members of the local communities Old clothing they no longer have a purpose for and put them on display at pop-up events all around campus and these donors get a portion of the profit once these items sell. I use the remaining revenue to invest back into my company to make custom clothing for my brand.

DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup?
Spinner: I have a couple of influences for my startup. My parents have always been very supportive of me and love what I’m doing and when they are impressed with how its going this keeps me going. I also would like to give a shoutout to two of my inspirations that have also been friends and mentors Carson Alford the founder of wiseandfoolish clothing co and Findcnt a local artist and musician and founder of NBCKWRLD. These two people are the ones who I talked to over the phone and they helped me early on with guiding my passions in the right direction. 

DC: How did you come up with the name of your venture?
Spinner: I came up with the name Old Town, New Clothes early fall semester of my Junior year. I had an idea of starting a produce stand in Old Town that would run weekly with the name “Old Town, Fresh Produce” in mind. When drawing up this name in my sketchbook I never even got to writing fresh produce I just added New Clothes instead and loved the way it looked and sounded.

DC: What’s the most important thing you are working on right now and how are you making it happen?
Spinner: The most important thing I am working on right now is my “Northeast Tour” I printed 100 shirts that have a roadmap graphic of my tour that will take place next weekend. I am selling 25 different shirts at 4 different colleges in the northeast region. I already have the shirts and now I am working on promoting and getting the word out to these other schools. By the end of this tour starting here at UMD I will have 100 other people from all over the country wearing my merchandise and supporting the business. I will use the revenues from this to launch my Fall Winter drop which is in the works right now.

DC: As a student business owner, what motivates you?
Spinner: The thing that motivates me most is creation. All my life I had a drive to create media for others to consume whether this was YouTube, Instagram, or TikTok, art or music. I always loved creating things that other people can enjoy. Old Town, New Clothes is the platform that I use to combine all of these things into one and continue to create never before seen ideas that came from my head. There has been days where I will walk around and see 10+ people wearing pieces of clothing I sold them and that alone is enough to motivate me to keep going.

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Spinner: My advice to young entrepreneurs is to take that risk and bet on yourself. Getting that prototype made, or making a post on your personal instagram about your business can be scary. But take the chance because college is the best time to do that and I wish I started earlier. Starting up that idea of yours is a lot easier when you have a student and university by your side helping you through the process and rooting for you.

To learn more about Old Town, New Clothes, please visit the website here.

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Feature Friday! UCleaner

This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the 11 student startups who are participating in our first in-person Terp Startup summer accelerator since 2020. Participating student entrepreneurs will receive a stipend up to $5,000 that will enable them to work exclusively on their startups over the next eight weeks.

Co-founders: Robert Choe PhD ’23, Bioengineering. Blake Kuzemchak ’23, Bioengineering. Erfan Jabari ’22, Bioengineering.

UCleaner’s co-founder, Robert Choe PhD ’23, pitching at Terp Startup Accelerator’s Demo Day.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?

Choe: Our startup revolves around the UCleaner device that is an all-in-one autoflosser for people undergoing dental braces treatment.

DC: At what point did you know you wanted to create your own startup?

Choe: As UMD has a great entrepreneurial community and resources, we all had a nascent desire to explore the startup scene on campus. However, the inception of this particular startup idea began in the fall of 2021. 

DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup?

Choe: We don’t have one specific big influence. Rather, being bioengineers, we are motivated by our desire to solve big problems in the healthcare space. We identified a problem area in the dental space and began working to make it a viable startup.

The UCleaner device prototype, designed for the full-mouth to receive automated water jet action.

DC: What makes your business unique?

Choe: We are the only product that aims to design a comprehensive full-mouth oral hygiene product specifically for dental braces wearers.

DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months?

Choe: We started this venture in January. So far, the biggest accomplishment for our team is that we have narrowed down our product-market fit. We have plenty of work to do so continue validating our product-market fit further and actually initiate product testing in the near future.

DC: When it comes to your startup, how do you define success?

Choe: We aim to make the UCleaner device a requisite oral hygiene product for dental braces wearers. 

DC: What do you feel that you have achieved from participating in Terp Startup Accelerator this summer?

Choe: We did the most significant customer discovery during the TSA. The TSA provided the framework, resources, and mentors to really execute the customer validation process. It was an invaluable experience and we would highly recommend any aspiring UMD student entrepreneur to participate in the TSA.

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?

Choe: Once you have an idea and form your initial product/customer hypotheses, stop thinking and start doing. Talk to people about your idea, go to start-up gatherings, etc. It may be daunting at first, but take baby steps and keep at it. Successful ventures do not take months but years to develop. The most important thing is that you need to start somewhere.

To learn more about UCleaner, please visit the website here.

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Feature Friday! WaveLi

This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the 11 student startups who are participating in our first in-person Terp Startup summer accelerator since 2020. Participating student entrepreneurs will receive a stipend up to $5,000 that will enable them to work exclusively on their startups over the next eight weeks.

Founders: Robert Castro ’24, CEO and co-founder, finance major. Samai Patel ’25, CSO and co-founder, computer science major. Zach Lefkovitz ’24, CTO and co-founder, computer science major. Corbin Voorhees ’25, graphic designer, aerospace engineering major. Matt Gashaw ’25, marketing lead, computer science major.

WaveLi’s co-founder Robert Castro ’24 (left) and graphic designer Corbin Voorhees ’25 (right) tabling at Terp Startup Accelerator’s 2022 Demo Day.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?

Castro: We’re a social media platform that connects users in real life through events tailored to their interests. Our app is the best way to find exciting events while meeting awesome people along the way.

DC: At what point did you know you wanted to create your own startup?

Castro: It was definitely after my freshman year of college when I had just finished my first internship at a local investment bank. Although I enjoyed the experience, I did some introspection and realized I had more passion for my work when I create my own things, especially those that help and inspire others. I’ve always enjoyed working on engineering projects, making art, and building things that had value, and I finally understood that building my own business, particularly one that solved a common problem, would give me great fulfillment. So, I reached out to some friends around campus with a similar vision and we started brainstorming to see if we could make it a reality.

DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup?

Castro: I would say my biggest influence was definitely my family. Both of my parents came from very humble backgrounds in a place where opportunities to make a living were very scarce. I’m very grateful for their dedication to their career as it allowed me to have the resources I have now, especially those here at the University of Maryland, and I feel it’s my obligation to take advantage of these opportunities and work on things I’m truly passionate about when my relatives never got that chance.

DC: How did you come up with the name of your venture?

Castro ’24 and Voorhees ’25 pitching at Demo Day.

Castro: We’ve had three names so far, but the first two didn’t last very long. We decided our new name needed to convey the essence of our users moving from place to place and being in communities of like minded people. Our team got to work and made a list of words and phrases that evoke these ideas, and one of the most popular words was “wave” as we liked the colors and imagery that could be used for our brand. We came up with many variations using “wave” but we ultimately chose “WaveLi” as it was short, sweet, and catchy.

DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months?

Castro: We’ve hit many major milestones on our journey towards launch. The first of which is the fact that our company was recently incorporated in the state of Delaware which gave us access to a company bank account and the Apple Developer program. In addition, we’ve also grown our waitlist and Instagram account substantially. This will give us a solid community of initial users for when our app launches in the fall. Furthermore, in the spring of 2022, we won the audience choice award during the Pitch Dingman Competition which gave us invaluable feedback for our startup and prize funds for our budget. Finally, we’ve just finished developing our first alpha test which will go live in a few days, so we’re making good progress towards our release on the App Store.

DC: When it comes to your startup, how do you define success?

Castro: We would consider ourselves successful when we have a growing platform full of users who have found exciting events and met great friends they may have never met otherwise. Once we’re at a point where we can confidently say we’ve helped our users consistently find events they’re looking for in a straightforward manner while integrating them in a new community, we will know WaveLi is succeeding.

DC: What were you hoping to achieve during the Terp Startup Accelerator this summer?

Castro: Our main goals were to build our network and gain knowledge for our company to grow to its potential. We were very excited to work with the professionals and coaches so we can learn from their experience and avoid common mistakes that startups tend to make. WaveLi will incorporate this knowledge into our growth plan and leverage the network at the Dingman Center to connect other professionals to our platform.

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?

Castro: I would make sure they understand that being an entrepreneur is a very bumpy road, it is not a straight line upwards at all. You’ll have wins and losses. You’ll feel triumphant and defeated. What matters is not the things that happen, but how you react and adapt to them. The two most important qualities an entrepreneur can have in my opinion are resilience and persistence. It’s a long journey, so don’t focus on the end goal. Focus on the small things, and don’t beat yourself if you make mistakes, because they will happen. You’ll learn so much in this process that even if things don’t work out exactly the way you wanted them to, you’ll be a stronger and more capable person by the end of it.

To learn more about WaveLi, please visit the website here.

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Feature Friday! ReGlass

This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the 11 student startups who are participating in our first in-person Terp Startup summer accelerator since 2020. Participating student entrepreneurs will receive a stipend up to $5,000 that will enable them to work exclusively on their startups over the next eight weeks.

Founders: Bennett Greenspun ’24, business management major, astronomy minor.

Bennett Greenspun ’24, founder of ReGlass, pitching his venture at Terp Startup Accelerator’s Demo Day 2022.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?

Greenspun: ReGlass is a company that makes glasses with interchangeable lenses so people can save money on frames and express themselves better through their eyewear.

DC: At what point did you know you wanted to create your own startup?

Greenspun: My father is an entrepreneur and has been running his company my whole life, so growing up entrepreneurship was all I saw in regards to what working was like. I liked the idea of freedom in decision-making and not having a boss so I decided early on that it was something I wanted to pursue.

DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup?

Greenspun: My father is the biggest influence in my startup because I always go to him for advice, and he has become such a valuable mentor to me while I’ve been building this company.

DC: Why did you decide to start a business in this industry?

Greenspun: I wanted to pursue this idea because it affected me personally. Having to buy new glasses every year or so when my prescription changes is not something I want to do. I wanted to solve this problem so that others didn’t have to go through it.

DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months?

Greenspun: Right after coming up with the idea in January I applied to the Pitch Dingman Competition for the Fearless Ideas track. I got to the finals where I could pitch in front of judges and won. I received $5,000 and admission to the Terp Startup Accelerator summer incubator, which gave another $5,000. I have made significant progress prototyping and am 1 to 2 months away from having physical glasses for people to try out.

DC: As a student business owner, what motivates you?

Greenspun: Having full control over my decisions is what motivates me. Throughout all of elementary, middle, and high school most of my big decisions were made for me, and to some extent, even in college, you are bound to your classes and degree requirements. Owning a business and being able to have full control gives me a sense of freedom that motivates me to keep going.

DC: What do you feel that you have achieved from participating in Terp Startup Accelerator this summer?

Greenspun: I have deeply learned about the many aspects of starting a business and know that even if this business fails, this information will stay with me and could be useful for starting a different business. I picked up information that I know will last.

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be??

Greenspun: My advice would be to just start. A lot of people spend time being dreamers, thinking about ideas or the best possible way to implement but are afraid to start. The best way to go about it is to just build. Your first version will suck, but that’s the first step to making something that people will eventually want.

To learn more about ReGlass, please contact Bennett Greenspun.

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Feature Friday! EMPIRE 242

This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the 11 student startups who are participating in our first in-person Terp Startup summer accelerator since 2020. Participating student entrepreneurs will receive a stipend up to $5,000 that will enable them to work exclusively on their startups over the next eight weeks.

Founders: Kang Ewimbi ’23, Entertainment Industry major.

Kang Ewimbi ’23 (second from the right) preforming live at the University of Maryland’s Next NOW Fest with his music group, 242.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?

Founder of EMPIRE 242, Kang Ewimbi ’23.

Ewimbi: Empire 242 is a record label ran by artists for artists looking for an alternative path from the major recording companies, as independence and transparency are paramount to creativity.

DC: At what point did you know you wanted to create your own startup?

Ewimbi: I decided to create my own startup as I was entering high school. My friends and I were in a band, and we knew that we wanted to be in the music industry. As I was doing research to figure out how to expand our careers as artists, it became apparent to me that the business practices used by major record labels were underhanded and overall detrimental to creators. Thus, I got to work creating an avenue for us and other artists to pursue viable, long-lasting careers within the music industry.

DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup?

Ewimbi: Artist-owned record labels like Death Row, Young Money, No Limit, Dreamville, OVO, etc.

DC: How did you come up with the name of your business?

Ewimbi: So back in middle school, my friends and I were in a program called Rock Band. In it, we were able to learn how to play non-traditional instruments in a classroom setting — like electric guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, etc. Simultaneously, we would learn about history in the 20th century through the lens of music and pop culture. This experience really resonated with us, and so we decided to start an out-of-school band. After going through a multitude of names, we landed on Room 242, named after the Rock Band classroom where we cultivated our love of music. Going into high school, we stopped being a band as our music taste shifted towards hip-hop and pop, which lead to us becoming a record label and adopting the name 242 to pay homage to our origins.

DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months?

Ewimbi: We have gotten our first record contracts drafted, released a constant portfolio of records across our artist roster, planned a series of underground concerts for the DMV music scene, and developed an efficient release checklist for our future drops.

DC: As a student business owner, what motivates you?

Ewimbi: I’m motivated by the change I want to see within the music industry, the drive of my friends as they grow artistically, and the general love of music I’ve had since birth.

DC: What are you hoping to achieve during the Terp Startup Accelerator this summer?

Ewimbi: I’m hoping to get our website designed, contracts signed, and business plan finalized by the end of the Terp Startup Accelerator.

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be??

Ewimbi: Develop a team and trust them as much as you’re comfortable with. Teamwork makes the dream work, as they say.

To learn more about EMPIRE 242, please visit the website here.

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Feature Friday! JuJu Food Delivery

This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the 11 student startups who are participating in our first in-person Terp Startup summer accelerator since 2020. Participating student entrepreneurs will receive a stipend up to $5,000 that will enable them to work exclusively on their startups over the next eight weeks.

Founders: Weixiang Wang ’22, Computer Science and Statistics minor. Liqianrui Yang ’22 Economics and Management major, Technology Entrepreneurship and Corporate Innovation minor. Shi Yingzhou ’23 Finance and Information systems major. Keying Sun ’23 Statistics major. Kaiwen Lu ’24 Mathematics major Science, technology, ethics, and policy minor. Rong Yan ’24 OMBA and Finance major. Zeyang Liu ’22 Economics major. Zijian Zhang ’22 Computer Science major Statistics minor. Ziqi Zhang ’22 Computer Science major. Nanxin Luo ’24 Finance; Information systems. Yiying Lu ’22 Information System and Supply Chain Management major. Yongqi Zheng ’24 Operations Management & Business Analytics and Marketing major.

Co-founder Weixiang Wang ’22 discussing JuJu Food Delivery with President Pines.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?

Wang: JuJu is a company that is doing pre-scheduled food delivery services and group food delivery services. We can provide consistent arrival time every day and save 40% on pre-ordered, scheduled food delivery from the best, local and distant restaurants. We have fixed pickup locations in complex scenarios such as campus.

DC: At what point did you know you wanted to create your own startup?

Wang: When I found I and my trusted partners are able to develop an App by ourselves, we think we have a unique way to think and analyze the market and users. We thought we might regret it in the future if we started a company now, but we would regret sure if we do not.

DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup?

Wang: When we get into the startup shell at UMD a startup student organization at UMD, many people are interested in what we are doing and like to talk with us about our venture and give us help. Ian, Ananum, Pranav, Franco, Kiy, Ben, Fady, and all the members of the startup shell gave us so much inspiration and encouragement.

DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months?

Wang: We have achieved 25% market penetration among the Chinese international students’ community at UMD. Accumulated 540 users, and achieved a 98% of retention rate of all users. During the last month we were running, we had 50+ orders for weekday lunches. We won second place on the Contrary Capital pitch competition. Accepted in the Terp Accelerator. And launched our website: jujufooddelivery.com

DC: As a student business owner, how do you define success?

Wang: We truly bring value to our customers as what we have planned.

DC: What are you hoping to achieve during the Terp Startup Accelerator this summer?

Wang: Improve our understanding of our target customers. Get a clear idea of what problems we are solving and what kinds of value we can bring to customer. Practicing personal skills such as pitching and doing user interviews. Get more advice from experienced people.

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be??

Wang: If you really believe in what you are doing right now, ignore all the noise around you whether it is positive or negative. A just cause attracts much support, an unjust one finds little.

To learn more about JuJu Food Delivery visit the website here. Additionally, help JuJu get a better understanding of customer needs by filling out the form here.

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Feature Friday! Sparza

This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the 11 student startups who are participating in our first in-person Terp Startup summer accelerator since 2020. Participating student entrepreneurs will receive a stipend up to $5,000 that will enable them to work exclusively on their startups over the next eight weeks.

Founders: Ryan Myer ’22, Finance major. Kyle Sznoluch, general education major.

Co-founder of Sparza, Ryan Myer ’22.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?

Sparza’s first interactive card game, A Balancing Act.

Myer: Our business name is Sparza and our goal is to spread fun, happiness, and bring balance to the world! We have created a card game called A Balancing Act that involves two teams who go head-to-head with one person on each team acting out a hilarious, goofy action card while their teammates balance cards on them. The team who balances and acts the best will win the most points and eventually win the game!

DC: At what point did you know you wanted to create your own startup?

Myer: I was in an entrepreneurship class, BMGT461M, with professor Le-Marie Thompson and I told her one day that I have always wanted to start a business. She said, “well, why haven’t you?,” “what is stopping you?” Later that day I went home, called my good friend, Kyle Sznoluch, and convinced him to join me on this wild entrepreneurship adventure. Ultimately, I have always wanted to start a business venture and am thankful for every opportunity I have received.

DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup?

Myer: I have always wanted to work for myself, make my own hours, and put in countless hours of work to escape the rat race that many people involve themselves in.

DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months?

Myer: In the last six months, we have conducted over 100 customer interviews, prototyped our game, ordered units, and sold the card game to the general public.

DC: As a student business owner, what motivates you?

Myer: The ability to learn more, hone my abilities, and the feeling of accomplishment as we progress through the entrepreneurial journey.

DC: What are you hoping to achieve during the Terp Startup Accelerator this summer?

Myer: We aim to sell through all of our current product inventory, improve our website, produce a professional commercial, gain advice, and grow our social media presence.

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be??

Myer: I would say to go for it! Take that initial step and you will be absolutely dumbfounded by what you can truly achieve when you set your mind to something. Find a driving motivation for why you want to start the business. Something that will continue to drive you through your best day, worst days, and days when you even feel like giving up. Never give up and you will see success! If starting a business was easy, everyone would do it.

To learn more about Sparza, please visit the website here.

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Feature Friday! Sustainabli

This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the 11 student startups who are participating in our first in-person Terp Startup summer accelerator since 2020. Participating student entrepreneurs will receive a stipend up to $5,000 that will enable them to work exclusively on their startups over the next eight weeks.

Founders: Alisha Pun ’23, Economics major, Statistics and Spanish minor. Kevin Tu ’23 Biology and Economics major, Nonprofit Leadership & Social Innovation minor.

Co-founders Kevin Tu ’23 and Alisha Pun ’23 on a company Zoom meeting.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?

Pun: Sustainabli works to reduce the high levels of energy consumption and chemical/plastic waste that is produced by labs. We create behavioral change amongst scientists through our cost-effective programs, with each program honing in on a specific source of environmental harm. Our mission is to make research sustainable while also cutting costs for research institutes.

DC: At what point did you know you wanted to create your own startup?

Tu: In 2021, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released their grimmest report yet on global warming, which galvanized me to do something to help our environment. Having been in research for 6 years, I had always noticed the staggering amount of waste that each scientist generates. As scientists, we tend to justify the amount of waste we produce with our data or discoveries, but I’ve realized that this is a fallacy. It’s perfectly possible to minimize the waste we produce while still producing excellent results. When I learned that there wasn’t much being done to address the waste produced by research, I decided that it was time to take matters into my own hands and build a startup committed to reducing research waste.

DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup?

Pun: Emery Wolf was a previous sustainability coordinator at UMD. We worked with him closely and his passion for the environment was inspiring to us. He generated initial data on the feasibility of our venture’s initial products. The data demonstrated a huge opportunity to transform the realm of hard-science research towards a more sustainable culture. We owe a lot to him for encouraging us to begin this startup journey.

DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last three months?

PunSustainabli was founded in March of this year. Over the past three months, our team has piloted a Shut the Sash competition between four chemistry labs at UMD. During this program, these labs have been competing against each other to see who can reduce the most amount of energy consumption by keeping their fume hood sashes closed. We’ve also created a website that uses real-time data to visualize the amount of CO2 emissions being released by each lab and fume hood. Our plan is to then expand this program to the rest of UMD’s research labs so that we can fully measure its impact on costs and carbon emissions.

DC: As a student business owner, how do you define success?

PunWe define success as fulfilling our purpose and being able to sustain ourselves so that we can further amplify our impact on the world. It means being on the track to reaching our next greatest potential.

DC: What are you hoping to achieve during the Terp Startup Accelerator this summer?

PunAside from further fostering an entrepreneurial outlook for our company, our main objective in this accelerator is to determine our go to market strategy; we hope to identify a detailed ideal customer profile and create the best pricing model that allows us to expand our programs and maximize our influence on the world of research.

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be??

PunFor primarily impact-driven startups like Sustainabli, there’s a tendency to prioritize our impact over our consumers’ needs. Our best piece of advice is to first delve deep into the individuals or entities that your business would be selling to; make sure your product or service is truly needed and that it will in fact survive in the market. Innovate a solution business model that will have both impact and longevity.

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Feature Friday! Stockadoo

Stockadoo is a platform that allows fans to trade shares of creators’ channels, which reduces creators’ reliance on ads and sponsors—while giving fans an opportunity to make money.
Justin Fenn ’22

DC: What’s your name, major, and graduation year?
Fenn: Justin Fenn, Computer Science Spring 2022.

DC: Which Dingman Center programs have you been involved with?
Fenn: I participated in and won the Hult Prize 2019 at UMD and was fortunate enough to be able to compete with my team in Boston at the regional finals. Also, I attend Dingman Fridays regularly for guidance on a range of questions. Additionally Stockadoo was worked on in New Venture Practicum, one of the Dingman Center’s signature courses.

DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?
Fenn: Stockadoo is a platform that allows fans to invest in their favorite creators by trading shares of creators’ channels, monetizing the creator in the process. Our goal is to reduce the reliance on the advertisement economy by allowing fans to support creators directly while also benefitting through trading on the Stockadoo exchange.

DC: What or who is your biggest influence for your startup? 
Fenn: It may sound silly, but Star Trek is a big influence on my startup and most startup ideas I’ve had. Specifically, the hopeful attitude that Star Trek takes on how the future could be and that we will find solutions to our human vices, such as greed. In the future given by Star Trek, money does not exist, freeing up most anyone to pursue the goals they’d like to in their life. I hope that even if it’s extremely minor, Stockadoo can make a step towards a future like that.

DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last five months?
Fenn: Since January, we went from an idea to a brand, website, prototype and spread the idea to many people through surveys and word of mouth. We have signed up multiple creators who are willing to beta test the app when it launches.

DC: What’s the most important thing you are working on right now, and how are you making it happen?
Fenn: We are finishing the beta version of the app and will be launching this summer. We are excited to get feedback from users and creators alike and hope we can provide a valuable product to both.

DC: As the founder of Stockadoo, how do you define success?
Fenn: I define success as the continual process of refining an idea to provide the most valuable solution while maintaining the integrity of the core goal of a business. In the case of Stockadoo, the app may change drastically, but the core goal of reducing the reliance of digital content on advertisements remains the same.

DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Fenn: The most important piece of advice I could give is simply to lean toward making any decision instead of making the best decision. Most startup decisions are situations where you can analyze the multiple options for an eternity and still not have enough information to make the best decision. If you make decisions sooner, you save a lot of time and make incremental progress to a larger goal.

To learn more about Stockadoo, please visit the website here.

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