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7 Things I’ve Learned About Student Entrepreneurs

People are often surprised at how many students are starting businesses. We see it everyday. From engineers, to journalists, to student athletes, a few things are common among young Terps who work with the Dingman Center. Here are seven things I’ve learned about today’s generation of entrepreneurs:

7. They can dream up a new startup idea every hour and get enthusiastic about it every time.
Justin Searles of VentureBoard has pitched 3 ideas during his time at Maryland; each one better than the last.

6. Student entrepreneurs are great multitaskers. They can work on several startups at a time, all the while managing coursework load and maintaining their grades. 
Ben Simon is putting an equal amount of energy into 2 startups: Food Recovery Network and MyMaryland.net

5. They prefer to work on their startups at night—that’s when Dingman shared work-space is buzzing with activity.
You can often find Cristina Huidobro and her twin sister Catalina working on Destinalo in the Dingman Center’s bullpen.

4. Student entrepreneurs don’t think they know it all. In fact, they prefer getting advice and coaching from seasoned entrepreneurs over figuring everything out on their own.
161 students pitched their business ideas to our entrepreneurs-in-residence this past year.

3. They aren’t afraid to share their ideas, offer advice and help each other, even if it means helping their competition.
Daniel Noskin of Parallel Tracks helped fellow Pitch Dingman Competition competitor Suyash Mehta of UPride to perfect his pitch and win 2nd place.

2. They prefer to work in a small startup space rather than in a nice corporate office.
Ben Solomon just completed his MBA, but instead of looking for a corporate job he plans on working on his startup The Hyperion Project from a local business incubator.

1. While they are risk-takers, they are not reckless and take calculated risks.
Eric Mintzer of imagine(x) lined up paying customers before quitting his job and working on his startup full-time.

The campus is mostly quiet during the summer so I can’t wait for the students to return in August full of fresh ideas and determination. Who knows? Maybe there will be even more to learn from a new class of student entrepreneurs.

ACheadshotSince joining the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship in 2008, Alla Corey has been managing the center’s service offerings for student entrepreneurs including Pitch Dingman, Dingman Jumpstart, EnTERPreneur Academy, Terp Marketplace, and Cupid’s Cup Business Competition. Prior to joining the Dingman Center, Alla spent 8 years in the publishing industry. Alla graduated from the part-time MBA program at the Robert H. Smith School of Business in May 2013 and is re-discovering TV, movies and books in her newly found leisure time.
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Alla Corey Recaps the 2013 Cupid’s Cup

By Alla Corey, Program Manager at the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship
Originally posted in the Smith School Part-Time MBA Blog.

Cupids Cup - pic 2While there are plenty of business plan competitions, the Cupid’s Cup Business Competition is the only one of its kind – students must be beyond writing a plan and have an operating business. This raises the bar significantly and makes the competition a lot more interesting.

Judged and sponsored by Kevin Plank’96, founder and CEO or Under Armour, Cupid’s Cup was launched in 2006 and has grown from a small event in Van Munching Hall to a national competition and showcase with 1,000 attendees.

This year the event was held April 5 at UMD’s College Park campus, hosted by the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship. Six finalist startups from across the nation had six minutes to deliver a business pitch to Plank and a panel of five other judges in front of 1,000 attendees at UMD’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. The audience also heard Plank’s words of inspiration on building a business as he rallied the entrepreneurs in attendance.

Cupids cup - pic 3The University of Maryland’s Earth Starter, maker of the Nourishmat modular garden kit, took home $52,500 as the Grand Prize Winner and Audience Choice Award Winner. Earth Starter will also benefit from exclusive access to Plank’s professional network, one of the added bonuses of winning this year’s expanded competition.

Here is the breakdown of all winners:

cupids cup - pic 5$50,000, 1st place: Earth Starter LLC, University of Maryland – maker of products to accelerate and simplify growth and yield for garden

$15,000, 2nd place: CoverPlay LLC, University of Virginia – maker of an ultra-thin Bluetooth speaker for mobile devices called the Mojo

$5,000, 3rd place: Diagnostic anSERS, University of Maryland – maker of ink-jet printed sensors for detecting trace amounts of chemicals, from explosives to narcotics

$2,500, Audience Choice Award, decided by text voting during the event – Earth Starter LLC (sponsored by Sam Medile ’80, a successful entrepreneur and former Terp student athlete)

Medile also sponsored a $5,000 prize for the University of Maryland company who best leveraged all of the university’s resources in launching their company, which went to Diagnostic anSERS. UMD applicants who made it to the semifinal round of Cupid’s Cup were eligible.

The day also included the Business & Innovation Showcase, sponsored by BB&T, highlighting more than 50 campus and regional startups and entrepreneurship organizations in a lively tradeshow format at the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center.

Cupid’s Cup is named for a Valentine’s Day rose delivery business Plank started as a student at the university. As an athlete, he wasn’t permitted to have an outside job, so he turned to entrepreneurship. Plank worked with the Dingman Center to start a business competition to foster similar student entrepreneurship.

The competition was open to undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at accredited U.S. colleges and universities who are running companies that have generated at least $5,000 in revenue or have a version 1.0 product with proof of traction. Entrepreneurs from 25 universities in 16 states entered the competition. The finalists received intensive coaching from successful entrepreneurs to prepare for the final competition.

Other Cupid’s Cup finalists were Hole Patch LLC from Case Western Reserve University, a developer of a new method for patching potholes; Moolaguides.com from Florida State University, provider of a service for college students to buy and sell class notes; and Neural Analytics from the University of California Los Angeles, a developer of a portable non-invasive medical device to diagnose traumatic brain injuries on the football field or the battlefield.

Interested in competing in next year’s Cupid’s Cup? Visit www.CupidsCup.com for updates about the application deadline and other details.

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Tips for pitching your business idea

A business pitch can make or break a startup. Delivering a successful pitch can grab the attention of potential investors, attract customers, and even win funding in a Pitch Dingman Competition! How can you tell if your pitch will be successful? Check out these tips from a few of our Dingman Center all-stars to get advice on pitching your new business idea.


Rudy Lamone, Dingman Center Founder

“Your opening statement must grab the attention of your listener or in most cases you have failed; so try again.”


Asher Epstein, Dingman Center Managing Director

“Focus first on what problem you are solving. Is this a vitamin or aspirin problem (must have vs. nice to have)? Second, concentrate on who specifically has this problem. The target market needs to be tight and focused. Finally, what is your solution and why is it better, faster or cheaper than current options?”


Elana Fine, Dingman Center Director of Venture Investments

“Know your customer. Pitching a business isn’t just about the product or technology you are creating, but about who you will sell it to, why they will buy it and how often/how much. Before you start a business, make sure you spend time talking to potential customers to confirm that you have identified a real market needs that people are willing to pay for versus other existing options.”


Alla Corey, Dingman Center Program Manager

“Show passion and commitment to your idea. Investors must believe that not only you possess skills necessary to carry out your plan, but are also dedicated and will not give up when challenges arise. “


Harry Geller, Dingman Center Entrepreneur-in-Residence

“Be brief. You should be able to clearly state your idea in two or three sentences. Practice this with some friends and see if they can comprehend the idea, if so then you are ready. Pitch Dingman sessions are limited to 10-15 minutes so you want to get the idea understood quickly so you have time to receive valuable feedback.”


Do you have a business idea still in the “back-of-the-napkin” stage? Come to a Pitch Dingman informal session held every Friday 11am-1pm in the Dingman Center for valuable feedback from one of our Entrepreneurs-in-Residence. Our team of veteran entrepreneurs are here to share their advice and expertise.

For more information, visit the Pitch Dingman Homepage

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