Tag Archives: funding

Five Terp Startups Win $2,000 at the Cupid’s Cup Startup Showcase

The 10th Annual Cupid’s Cup Business Competition and Startup Showcase drew a sold-out crowd on April 22nd at the University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Performance Arts Center.
Before the finalists took the stage, more than a dozen Terp startups exhibited their ventures in the Startup Showcase where Cupid’s Cup attendees had a chance to check out some UMD’s most innovative companies. The Showcase was filled with live demos, customer interviews and even taste tests. Attendees had the chance to text-to-vote for the five coolest startups, who each won $2,000 from BB&T.
Congratulations to the following winners:
  • Vincent Bellitti, CareerPeer – CareerPeer is a career path selection and management tool for undergraduate students interested in a career in business.
  • Sanil Shah, Tabster – Tabster is a mobile application that allows customers to arrive at high-volume restaurants, check-in and pre-order their food while waiting.
  • Omar Goheer, K. Sultana – K. Sultana produces breathable scarves and creates entrepreneurship and skills development opportunities for women.
  • Zachary Matz, 417 App Studios LLC – Their social-gaming mobile application, Puzzable, allows users to send their photos to friends and family in the form of a jigsaw puzzle.
  • Tommy Johnson, VentureStorm – VentureStorm is an online platform that connects student entrepreneurs to student developers.

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Announcing the Spring 2015 Pitch Dingman Competition Winners

Last week’s snow storm couldn’t keep the Smith community from celebrating student entrepreneurship at the spring 2015 Pitch Dingman Competition. Held twice annually, the competition gives student entrepreneurs the opportunity to apply and compete for $3,500 in startup funding.

Five finalists were selected to pitch their businesses to a packed auditorium and all-star judges panel on Wednesday, March 4 at Van Munching Hall. The judging panel included Asher Epstein, COO of Access Health Group; Harry Geller, Entrepreneur in Residence at Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship; Liz Sara, CEO of Best Marketing LLC; Mark Walsh, Founder & CEO of Genius Rocket; and Tien Wong, CEO of Opus8, Inc. (pictured below with Elana Fine, Managing Director of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship).


Elana Fine, Asher Epstein, Mark Walsh, Harry Geller, Liz Sara and Tien Wong.

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Thinking about applying to a business competition? Five tips from Elana Fine

For b-schools, incubators and other organizations that support startups, business competitions are very hot right now. For entrepreneurs, they can be great opportunities to flex your entrepreneurial muscles and gain traction for your startup or business idea.

CC-04Apr14-635_hr However, with a seemingly endless list of competitions to choose from and limited time, how do you decide which competitions to enter?

Here are five things to consider from Dingman Center Managing Director, Elana Fine:

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Dingman Center Angels Named Top 5 Most Active Groups in the Country

The Dingman Center Angels has experienced its most active investment season to date with more than $3M in invested capital in 18 deals. Adding to an impressive year, the Angel Resource Institute’s Halo Report named the Dingman Center Angels among the top five most active angel groups in the country.

Joel Marquis (@jymarq), Assistant Director of Venture Programs, leads the Dingman Center Angels and has watched the group thrive over the past year. “What sets our group apart is not only that we funded new companies but also provided follow up funding to a number of existing portfolio companies which are experiencing significant growth,” said Marquis.

He is pleased that the Dingman Center Angels are recognized as one of the most active groups in the country and hopes to continue to make new investments and support existing portfolio of companies in the next 12 months.

Read here to see highlights of the full report and the list of the most active angel groups for Q2 2013. For more information on presenting to the group or joining as an investor, visit the Dingman Center Angels website.

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Worth Reading 10/25/13


This week we were busy receiving applications for our various programs. For Pitch Dingman Competition, it is still not too late to apply! Register here to win $2,000 seed funding for your business idea by October 27. For Cupid’s Cup,we received impressive applications from Michigan, Massachusetts, and many states in between. Do you have what it take to conquer the toughest business competition and win $75,000? Visit www.cupidscup.com for more detail information and get started!

Now, let’s check out this week’s Worth Reading.

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Startup Success: Social Tables

The Startup Success series features interviews with regional entrepreneurs who received funding from the Dingman Center Angels investor network. Click HERE to see all of the companies that presented and received funding from the Dingman Center Angels this past year.


Social Tables created a web-based event planning platform for large, seated events. About a month after closing their seed round, which was oversubscribed by $250K, Social Tables launched a new version of the platform that is a total rewrite of the previous one. Founder and CEO of one of the most elegant event management software platforms on the market, Dan Berger sat down with the Dingman Center to discuss his entrepreneurial experience with Social Tables. Keep reading for Q&A with Dan Berger.

How did you get the idea for your business? 
I was going to a destination wedding and thought to myself “wouldn’t it be amazing if I could see the seating chart before I got there?”  Since then, the idea has evolved to include a suite of event planning products, but the root of the idea is still always on my mind.

Why a startup?
I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. I love building teams, beautiful products, and winning.

As a startup, what are some of the greatest challenges you face? 
Letting someone go is probably the hardest thing I have to do but it’s part of building great teams.

What piece of advice/information have you received that has added the most value to your business?
“What you don’t know, you don’t know.” In other words, don’t be all-knowing because there are some things you haven’t experience.

What was the Dingman Center Angels review process like? 
It was exhilirating and seamless. The Dingman Center staff, especially Elana Fine, played a critical role in moving us through the process. She gave me pointed and actionable feedback that helped us tremendously.

Have you had to pivot with your current business plan?
We’re constantly pivoting to build features people want (not just what we think they want). Our biggest pivot, however, was moving away from a guest platform to a planning platform.

What do you think about the current state of the entrepreneurial community in Washington DC and Baltimore? 
I think it’s really exciting to be a part of. I see it as a second coming of sorts for the tech scene in the DC metro area. It’s so invigorating. I hope more startups continue to emerge and that new angels emerge as a result.

What advice would you give student entrepreneurs who want to start their own business? 
Just do it! Quit your job, energize people, and do it. That said, never lose sight of good customer development. Don’t just build something because you want it. Talk to as many potential customers as possible!

Dan Berger has planned and staffed hundreds of events. Prior to Social Tables, he worked for a Member of Congress. He has been building websites over 10 years and has an MBA from Georgetown and a BA from Hunter College. He loves languages and traveling (35 countries!). 
Connect with Social Tables on Facebook and Twitter
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Need money for your startup? Here are five sources.

Written by Elana Fine, originally published by the Washington Post‘s Capital Business column on September 11, 2011

Companies all experience growing pains, but for startups much of the early pain has to do with finding funding. After you’ve maxed out your personal credit cards to kickstart your great idea, now what? There are sources for funding out there — you just have to know who to turn to next.

1. Friends and family

This option is a critical first step for startups raising capital. If you can’t persuade your closest friends, family and colleagues to invest in your idea, it may be difficult to raise funding from strangers. But you don’t need a wealthy uncle ready to write blank checks. Funding from friends and family can come in small increments, even $1,000 or less, to fund your most immediate startup needs. Take Silver Spring-based Hook & Ladder Brewing Co., for example. When the business first started out (full disclosure: founder Matt Fleishman was a University of Maryland MBA student at the time), it initially needed just enough money to brew that first batch of beer.

When trying to raise money from friends and family:

·Formalize the process: Seek the advice of a lawyer to make sure you’re structuring the financing correctly.

·Don’t give away the pie: Make sure you don’t give away too much equity, especially at such an early stage. Maintain strong ownership. This will be important down the road — and could make you more attractive to venture capitalists.

·Think beyond your immediate circle: Tap into your professional network and those who know your business.

·Make it formal: Create a pitch presentation and prospectus for potential investors to show you are serious and your business is legitimate.

2. Grants

Find an organization that fits with the goals and mission of your venture and research available funding opportunities and grants.

·Plan your growth strategy: Tackle business applications that align with grant opportunities. For example, if your technology has applications that could be used by the military or in health care, pursue those verticals first. There are lots of grants available from the Defense Department, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, etc. to help develop new technologies with those types of applications.

·Find a mentor: Consult with a company that has similar qualities to yours and a founder that can shepherd you through the grant process.

·Don’t forget local organizations: Beyond national and federal grant opportunities, local and regional business and tech organizations may have money available. For example, Maryland’s Maryland Industrial Partnerships program accelerates tech commercialization by matching funding with research from University of Maryland System faculty.

3. Customers

Often overlooked as a funding source, your customers can be a great source of funding if they are willing to pay you to develop a custom solution or product that you can then use to fuel additional growth and sales. An added benefit: You won’t dilute your stake in the company.

4. Angel investors

When you are close to having a finished product ready for market and have some early customer traction, you may be ripe for an angel investment — usually seed funding between $150,000 to $1 million.

·Find an angel investor group and get involved: Start attending meetings to network with investors, even if you’re not ready to pitch.

·Be creative and entrepreneurial about how you raise money: Research the investors involved in various groups, know the types of companies they invest in, and figure how to best pitch them.

·Start early: You should always be raising money before you need it. Think at least six months ahead and plan.

·Don’t undervalue “smart capital”: Beyond dollars, investors have a lot of advice they can provide to your startup. Many are seasoned entrepreneurs and have been down your road before.

5. Venture capitalists

Venture capitalists and venture banks invest in companies that have a high potential for significant growth. VC investments are usually no less than $3 million. If you’re up to this point in the funding process, make sure the VC has a compatible approach to building a business and has a good network that will help you grow and realize your full potential.

Not all of these sources will be right for every company. As you grow, continue to refine your business plan. And don’t get discouraged: There is still funding out there — you just have to know where to turn.

Elana Fine

Elana Fine joined the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship in 2010 as the Director of Venture Investments. In this role, Elana manages the Dingman Center Angels, a network of active, accredited angel investors providing open and efficient access to early-stage capital for entrepreneurs in the Mid-Atlantic region. Her responsibilities include identifying quality start-ups, screening deal flow, conducting due diligence and providing coaching for companies presenting at monthly review days and investor meetings. In addition, Elana is responsible for program expansion including new investors, sponsors and forging regional partnerships with incubators and technology organizations. She has recently become the Associate Director of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship.

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