Tag Archives: startup success

Worth Reading 8/30/13

It was an exciting week for The Dingman Center. We are thrilled to see MBA students coming back to campus for the start of another great academic year. A highlight from the week was Wednesday when the first year MBA students hosted MBA Marketplace, a fundraising competition to test out students’ creativity. Staff had fun using monopoly money to shop at the Marketplace. We also welcomed a new Dingman team member, Adam Van Wagner. Adam is our Community and Venture Programs Coordinator so many of you hear from him via email. When you’re in the office stop by and say hello.

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Let’s check out what’s worth reading for this week:

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Dingman Center Summer Preview

The Dingman Center is gearing up for a productive yet fun summer. While many students in our community will be away at exciting internships and visits home, the Dingman Center will offer a range of activities for those still in the area. Entrepreneurs-in-Residence will be here to advise students on their business ideas. A group of Chinese MBA students will visit to experience how we practice entrepreneurship. Finally, we’ll host Jumpstart, a bootcamp where budding entrepreneurs will learn and apply the principles of the lean startup methodology. Take a deeper look into our summer plans.


Pitch Dingman doesn’t stop for the summer. While sessions will not be held every Friday as they are during the academic year there are still opportunities to receive feedback and advising from Entrepreneurs-in-Residence. Go to ter.ps/EIR2013 to view available appointment times and sign-up.

Jumpstart-24Aug12-1In July, the Dingman Center along with the Office of Global Programs will host a group of MBA students from Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management with an interest in entrepreneurship. This visit reflects the ongoing relationship between the Dingman Center and Peking University, located in Beijing, China, as they host the Center’s annual China Business Plan Competition. The visit includes lectures from distinguished faculty and workshops focused on venture creation. The group will spend time off campus visiting local startups and institutions such as the World Bank, George Washington University and the Maryland Capital State House.

dingmanjumpstartAs is our tradition, we will close the summer with Dingman Jumpstart, an intensive five-day boot camp where University of Maryland students and alumni can learn to build and refine their own businesses. Jumpstart will take place August 19-23 at Van Munching Hall, home of the Robert H. Smith School of Business. Here’s a preview of what to expect at Jumpstart!

554602_10151141596321692_1878693767_nLearn from the best through hands-on workshops and interactive advising sessions led by successful entrepreneurs, business executives, and investors.

523084_10151120817821692_1570764542_nMeet like-minded entrepreneurs in your own community and start building your network of mentors and peers.

Jumpstart-24Aug12-8End the week by pitching your business idea to a panel of expert entrepreneurs. Following program completion, apply to the Dingman Center’s EnTERPreneur Academy where you can have access to a wide variety of workshops and the option to compete in Pitch Dingman Competitions held throughout the school year.

So what are you waiting for? End your summer by starting your business at Dingman Jumpstart!  Details and registration information can be found at ter.ps/jumpstart

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Worth Reading 5/10/13

Things are quietly winding down here at Van Munching Hall as the students prepare for their last finals of the year.  The Dingman Center has also been quietly rumbling along, preparing for our last batch of Pitch Dingman Sessions and our upcoming summer programs. How’re you all preparing for the summer?  Whether it’s taking a vacation, or finally putting together that business you’ve been meaning to start, the Dingman Center will be here to support you.

So let’s move on to what’s worth reading.

Let’s start by taking a look at the Dingman Center’s week in the news.  In case you missed it, this week’s Business RX column in the Washington Post featured Elana Fine giving advice to TouchdownSpace, a startup looking to enter the virtual office industry.  In addition, Terpiture, one the finalists from last Friday’s Pitch Dingman Competition was featured on the University of Maryland school newspapaer, the Diamondback.

Often times, entrepreneurs have brainstorms for a business, but can’t articulate the actual business problem that their business idea will solve.  Well never fear, this inc.com piece gives you 4 steps to approach understanding your business problem.

Many of you may know that Israel is also known as start-up nation. In fact the center has been building a relationship with the Israel Institute of Technology (Technion) for years now, even sending MBA students to Technion over the summer for an immersive entrepreneurial fellowship.  This latest inc.com article articulates just some of the lessons we can learn from the entrepreneurial culture in Israel.

As we’ve often seen, many of the technological innovations in the past few decades have come from military and government research, but did you also know that a lot of what we see as everyday items now actually originated from space?  Tested.com takes a look at a few surprising inventions that were actually developed by NASA for use in space!

And finally, in the debate for the importance of higher education in entrepreneurship and career success, the side of education finds a champion in a local VC. In this Huffington Post editorial, Jonathan Aberman, venture capitalist and lecturer at the Smith School of Business, gives his impassioned take on the importance of education to entrepreneurship and our society as a whole.

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Meet the 5 Startups Competing in Friday’s Pitch Dingman Competition

The last Pitch Dingman Competition of the school year will take place this Friday, May 3 at 11 a.m. in Tyser Auditorium, Van Munching Hall.  Five ambitious student startups from the University of Maryland will compete for the chance to win $2,500 in startup funding. After the pitches, attendees will vote to award their favorite startup $500 for the Audience Choice Award. After the competition, students can stay for an entrepreneurial mixer where we will celebrate another successful year of Pitch Dingman. Lunch will be provided!  You can RSVP to attend Pitch Dingman here.

To get you ready for Friday, here’s a little preview of our finalists:

Cart Noodlescart noodles logoTeam: Hon laam Fung

Our mission is to provide affordable and authentic Hong Kong styled cuisine served in a fast and convenient manner tailored towards college students. With all ingredients ready and cooked, customers only need to specify what they want in their order, and the time they spend waiting is however long it takes to move through line. In less than three minutes, the transaction is complete and the consumers enjoy gourmet soup noodles with a price lower than anywhere on campus.

Sweet Buds

Team: David Kravitz, Ningwei Li, Allan Nicholas, Peter Weng and Erica Yingling

Imagine a future where all you have to do to smell great is put on your earrings. Sweet Buds allows for a functional and worry free way to smell great throughout the day. Our innovative idea revolutionizes the way you wear perfume by conveniently placing it in your earring backing. The perfume releases when our customer puts on the earring and punctures the plastic backing. The perfume then diffuses slowly from the opening allowing the user to smell great all day. This will change the way people wear perfume.

Ethan Grundleger, Mohammad Zia, Hafie Yillah and Saheed Badmus

BOVER is an E-commerce platform that connects small-scale farmers with large scale retailers. Our system uses SMS technology paired with a web-based marketplace to enable small scale and low yielding farmers to aggregate their yields, and sell at a fair market price to small and large buyers. The mobile application and website will work in tandem to streamline agricultural value chains around the world. The project’s innovation lies in its ability to move the agriculture value chain towards the 21st Century by increasing transparency and promoting modernization


Team: Mark Olcott, Kalpesh Raval, Aman Sharma, Greg Rea and Kristina Bailey

As a practicing veterinarian, I can say with complete confidence that the way we share medical information in the pet industry is broken and outdated. At Vitus, we will use modern IT to create innovative, web-based personal health records for pets that will help veterinarians grow their practice, improve hospital efficiency, and save lives.


Terpeture logo NEWTeam:
Johnny Dubbaneh, Ronnie Dubbaneh, Danny Dubbaneh, Alacendro Paratore and Shahzad

Terpiture is a furniture rental business created to help make the move-in and move-out process smooth for both students and their parents. Having Terpiture on campus will be an asset exclusive to the Maryland community, making students’ time here more enjoyable.The great thing about Terpiture is that it’s very simple and easily accessible. It will be available via social networking, texting, and email, which will make the students’ experience even more personal than having to deal with a large corporation.

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Business Rx Entrepreneur Q&A with Elana Fine – Part 8

Elana Fine, Managing Director of the Dingman Center recently participated in a live chat on Tuesday April 23 with the Washington Post’s Capital Business magazine for their Business Rx column answering questions from regional entrepreneurs on improving or starting a business. This post features some of the questions from the live chat. Follow the Dingman Center’s Facebook Page and Twitter Page for information on the next live chat and other Dingman Center news and events.

Q. What kind of return do investors like to see within 1 year – 18 months of Series A funding? For example, if a start-up raises $3 million in Series A, at the end of 18 months, what’s the minimum profit margin the company should aim to achieve?

Elana Fine: Investors (meaning VC/angel in this case) actually don’t expect a return at all in 12-18 months. They are investing for the longer term – and understand that you will likely need additional investment before you exit (usually via acquisition or IPO). They invest in companies in big markets that might generate a 3x-10x return.  The investments are illiquid compared to the stock market and therefore riskier.  In exchange for this risk and longer holding period — the cost of venture capital is high.  Most venture investors don’t expect there to be profit margins right away because they understand the money it takes to scale a company.

Q. I have my own consulting business focused on data analysis, research, writing, and project management. I had started consulting when I lost my job a few months ago and found great success right away leading to a full-time offer that was too good to refuse. I want to continue consulting through my own business and have the time to pursue them, but I am wondering about the ethics of doing so.

Elana Fine: We work with a lot of companies who “moonstrap” their startups – working on them after normal work hours. I think the big question is whether you are competing with your employer — that would certainly cross the ethical lines.  I’d always go with the tenet of “honesty is the best policy.” If you are concerned, have an honest conversation with your employer. If you are running the business on your own time and it doesn’t conflict, shouldn’t be a problem.  They might be excited and impressed by your entrepreneurship!

Q. I have been following the Boston marathon bombings and think I have some good ideas for facial recognition software. I have a few friends that are coders and could help. Would a VC invest in this kind of business?

Elana Fine: I think VCs would (and have) invested in facial recognition and other security/identification/verification software.  However, they won’t invest until you have something up and running and have some initial customer traction.  I’d start by doing a competitive analysis. There were a lot of companies started in this space after 9/11. Would be interesting to see where they are now and how far the technology has come.

Q. I have been a nonprofit management generalist for 5-6 years and I recently started a consulting firm working for myself. I have been lucky and have gotten several contracts in the first few months. So far I’ve been marketing pretty broadly and while that has been successful, would it be wise to hone in on a certain expertise, or is it better to remain a generalist? Also, at what point is it recommended to work with sub-contractors? Is it ethical not to tell clients when I choose to work with a sub-contractor? Thank you!

Elana Fine: Hmmm… two questions on ethics in a row. Happy to be a moral compass 🙂  I’m actually not sure on the ethics relating to sub-contractors. I will take part one though. As a consultant I think you do benefit by becoming a specialist, as long as it is in a large enough market where you can build a strong business. You need to start with a market-sizing analysis around your expertise and broaden or narrow based on your skill set and potential demand.  This area has A LOT of consultants, so you’ll really need to focus on refining your marketing message. I think your expertise also drives the price you can charge.  Think of a handyman as an example — most often a generalist that can do a lot of different things in your house will have a lower price point.  However, when you really want to redo your bathroom, you call in specialists who will be more expensive but will know how to do the job.

Q. What trends are you seeing in angel financing? Do you think we’ll see more funding this year?

Elana Fine: Honestly, I think angels are having an identity crisis.  Angel activity across the country increased significantly in the past two years. Now they are facing a Series A crunch – not enough early stage VC capital to fund all the companies that have raised money.  This wave of investments also differs greatly from 5-10 years ago because the companies looking for Series A are at later stages now that software development costs have come down. Angels acted like Series A investors — so are they now looking for Series B investments? And if that is the case, what does that mean for valuation and their equity positions? Will their holding period be shorter? I’m hopeful, but I don’t think we’ll see as much funding this year until we start seeing the companies that were funded in last 24 months receive follow-on capital.

Q. I’m a student startup and am in the finals of a business competition. Obviously, I’m in it to win it. When I do, what are the first steps I should take in evaluating where to allocate the prize package?

Elana Fine: Great attitude – you have to always compete to win!  Be very thoughtful about where to allocate your winnings and don’t necessarily assume you need to spend the money all at once.  Make sure to include your use of funds in your application/presentation — usually judges focus not just on the company, but the ability of the team to use the prize package to take business to next level.  If you think you’ll need additional investment, use the money to get customer or user traction that will prove demand for your product and validate your business model.  If this is a business plan competition and you haven’t already built something — use the funding to get a minimally viable product out to market to start getting feedback.  As a student you need to be careful – winning a large prize package can also create a lot of temptation.  Be smart, responsible and resourceful.

Q. As a successful woman in the finance and entrepreneurial worlds, what advice do you have for other women looking to start businesses or work in investment banking? Have you read “Lean In?” Is Sheryl Sandberg the Gloria Steinem of our time?

Elana Fine: My advice — DO IT!! I haven’t read “Lean In” yet, but it is next on my list. I’ll report back next month.  Women have so many of the necessary skills to start and grow businesses (drive, persistence, charisma, multi-tasking, delegation, etc.), but we just don’t see enough women entrepreneurs. I think the one ingredient we might be missing is appetite for risk and potentially over analysis.  We have great intuition and we need to apply it to starting more companies.  I don’t have the solutions, but it is really an issue I’d like to personally spend more time on.

cupidscup-033012-185_hr1Elana Fine was appointed Managing Director of the Dingman Center in July 2012, after joining the team in 2010 as Director of Venture Investments. As Managing Director, Elana’s primary focus is leading the Dingman Center in support of its mission and strategic plan. Key responsibilities include oversight of our student venture incubator, Dingman Center Angels investor network, business competitions, and technology commercialization efforts.

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Meet Live Unchained and Support their Indiegogo Campaign!

Meet Live Unchained, an EnTERPreneur Academy company in the Hatch stage that is in the midst of a major crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo.  We caught up with Kathryn Buford, the founder of Live Unchained, to chat about her organization and her latest efforts.

Tell us about yourself and your company.

A: I am Kathryn Buford, a PhD student in sociology at UMD, an artist, journalist and digital media consultant.

My organization is Live Unchained, an international arts media and events organization featuring works by female artists across the African diaspora. Our media offerings include a growing online magazine at www.liveunchained.com where we’ve interviewed over 100 female artists from over 16 countries. We also offer a variety of events such as art exhibits, festivals, film screenings, concerts and now, with the help of our Indiegogo supporters, we’d like to add an awards ceremony to our offerings as well.

How did you come up with the idea?

A: I started Live Unchained with my college roommate, Miriam Moore. She majored in Graphic Design and I studied Sociology and African American studies. A lot of our classes overlapped and led us to discuss topics like art, social justice and black identity. In our eyes we had pretty radical ideologies. Negative and limited representations of black women in popular culture really upset us and learning more about the history behind those images added fuel to the fire. When it comes to arts media and venues, women of African descent are still under-represented, with not enough done to reflect the diversity of our perspectives and experiences.

At the start, we wanted to create a cultural project that would critique the misrepresentation and under-representation of black women, by satirizing the absurdity of it all. But, as we grew – putting others first and developing a global conscience – the project changed. We didn’t want it to only be about what was wrong, but also celebrating what black female artists were creating. We grew to see it as a platform and community to unite black women across the diaspora.

How has the Dingman Center and the EnTERPreneur Academy helped you and your startup?

A: I am so grateful for all the wonderful entrepreneurs the EnTERPreneur Academy has allowed us to meet. It’s amazing to not only learn about business marketing and strategy from some of the leaders in the industry, but to also see their human side. These accomplished business executives have been so humble and down-to-earth; I really respect their approachability because they model for me the type of entrepreneurial leader I want to be. I also love seeing my colleagues in the program and learning about their businesses.

Tell us about your Indiegogo campaign.

A: The campaign is called “Terrifying, Strange & Beautiful.” The name comes from a line from the poem, For Women Who Are Difficult to Love by London-based Somali poet, Warsan Shire: “You are terrifying and strange and beautiful, something, not everyone, knows how to love.”

After I heard these words I shared the poem with everyone I could. Later, I had a vision for an awards ceremony titled, “Terrifying, Strange & Beautiful,” The goal of this ceremony would be to recognize the many amazing artists that we’ve interviewed during the last 4 years on Live Unchained for their layers, fire, and vulnerability, both as individual women, and as part of an international community.  The ultimate message being that, like in Warsan’s poem, these are qualities meant to be celebrated.

With Warsan’s blessing, we’re raising funds for an awards the ceremony to honor artists across the African diaspora. The funds will also cover the costs of Warsan’s travel and accommodations so she can attend the ceremony. In conjunction with the awards ceremony, Warsan will host a workshop on healing through narrative and participate on a panel on cultural activism.

Why did you decide to utilize crowdfunding and what have you learned about running a crowdfunding campaign so far?

A: Being very resourceful, we’ve been able to put on some really great Live Unchained events and share some great magazine features. However, to make “Terrifying, Strange & Beautiful” a reality, we need money.. For this campaign, I decided we’d raise our own funds instead of waiting on someone else’s grant or competition time-table.

I did a lot of research on crowdfunding platforms and learned some are better suited for different type of initiatives. We’re raising funds for an arts initiative and  want to avoid the risk losing all the funds if we don’t reach our goal soIndiegogo is the best choice for us. I’ve also learned the importance of having a strong start, affiliate networking plan and fundraising milestones. We kicked off “Terrifying, Strange & Beautiful” at our anniversary party and it brought a lot of awareness and positive energy to the campaign.

With an online campaign, social media has been important for spreading the word. We created a lot of visuals that people can share on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. For example, with the help of the Chair of the Graphic Design Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign we created a digital postcard campaign (http://www.liveunchained.com/inspired-by-the-poetry-of-warsan-shire-design-students-launch-terrifying-strange-beautiful-postcard-campaign/) .

What are your next steps with your business?

A: I’m really excited about adding people to our advisory board. We’re also adding a non-profit component to the business so we’ll by established as a hybrid for-profit/non-profit entity.

Additionally, we’ll share more regular video features and new content at www.liveunchained.com.

Do you have any advice for fellow aspiring entrepreneurs?

A: When it came to spreading the word about the “Terrifying, Strange & Beautiful” campaign, I had some reservations about asking people for money. One of my mentors told me, simply, if you want people to give you something, you have to ask for it directly. So, I’d say, once you are clear about what you want and why, there’s no need to be self-conscious about asking for the help you need in making it happen.. Make your requests professional, but also personal; whenever appropriate, include a visual component that humanizes your work.

And, most importantly, Live Unchained.

Watch the video below to find out more about Live Unchained’s Indiegogo campaign. Help support Live Unchained by contributing to their Indiegogo campaign at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/270627!

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EnTERPreneur Academy Profile – Triple Impact

To celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week, the Dingman Center is featuring a series of blog posts about our EnTERPreneur Acadmey, a program to help guide student ventures from idea to launch. The Academy provides members with a variety of resources including startup fundamentals workshops, advising, office space, selling opportunities and seed funding. The Academy’s three stages Idea Shell, Hatch and Terp Startup provide students with specific resources and requirements that suit the level of progress for their ventures.

Our last featured startup is Triple Impact, founded by EnTERPreneur Academy member Abby Murray and her co-founders. Abby is a senior at the University of Maryland who came up with Triple Impact as part of the Smith School’s Social Innovation Fellows Program. Triple Impact won the Audience Choice Award for the Pitch Dingman Competition at last year’s Social Enterprise Symposium (hosted by the Smith School’s Center for Social Value Creation) and is poised to do great things in the Corporate Social Responsibility space.  Read the Q&A to find out more about Triple Impact!

Q: Please describe your business.

A: Triple Impact works closely with a company’s Corporate Social Responsibility department or leadership development team to provide the corporation’s employees a system where they can leverage their skills to support underdeveloped communities. We coordinate meaningful corporate service projects both domestically and abroad that provide benefits the company, the employees and the community. Through these meaningful projects, we strive to transform communities and enrich companies through developing employee leadership, world awareness and motivation.

Q: How did you get the idea for your business?

A: In the fall of 2011, my partners and I were brought together by the Robert H. Smith School of Business’ Social Innovation Fellows program where we were given the assignment of developing a business plan for a non-profit or social enterprise. We soon realized that we all had a similar view: one should not have to choose between conventional and altruistic career paths. Triple Impact was created to be a solution for having to choose between going into a corporate setting or the field of development/non-profits after graduation.

Q: What phase is your venture in and what are your next steps?

A: We recently presented to our first potential client, the R.H. Smith School of Business, which is developing a leadership institute for its top-performing faculty and staff.  We are also registered as a Benefit L.L.C. in Maryland. From a marketing perspective, we have created a website and set up various forms of social media.  We are currently in the process of scaling our business plan to a more manageable size and setting realistic goals for the next year. Additionally, we are working to form strong partnerships with both local and global non-profits as well as organizations in the development field. This will not only be very helpful to us from an informational perspective but it will give us access to communities worldwide.

Q: What drew you to become entrepreneurs?

A: We are all business students with entrepreneurial mindsets as well as a passion for service. As a result of our involvement in the Social Innovation Fellows Program, we saw that it was possible to combine these two passions. Triple Impact is a company that we all truly believe in and we can all see ourselves spending the rest of our careers working towards our ultimate goal: to live in a world where all corporations enrich the world we live in as part of their normal operations.

Q: As a student startup, what are some of the challenges that you face?

A: Like many startup companies, Triple Impact faces challenges in obtaining customers. While we have done extensive research, built our networks, and honed our leadership skills with service projects abroad, we face challenges in identifying ways to convey our value to potential clients. To address these challenges, we have been proactive in seeking advice from investors, professors and mentors to build a plan to not only boost our experience but also our confidence. We are also focusing on understanding our market, clearly identifying our unique value proposition and establishing an experienced set of advisors who can offer advice while lending credibility to our venture.

Q: How did the Dingman Center contribute to the development of your start up?

A: The Dingman Center has always been a great resource and has truly been the differentiator in the development of our company. We participated in the Pitch Dingman Competition this past March and received $250 in seed funding by winning the audience choice award. With this money, we were able to advance our business by printing business cards and hiring a web designer. Through working with the Dingman Center and the momentum we gained from Pitch Dingman, we were able to reach out to our first investor who contributed $1,000 to help kick start our business.

Q: What about being a part of the EnTERPreneur Academy excites you the most?

A: We are all incredibly excited about being a part of the EnTERPreneur Academy. When building a venture from scratch, it is always great to be surrounded by like-minded individuals who share the same passion for entrepreneurship. The idea of collaborating with other student entrepreneurs who can also make an impact on the development of our business is really exciting. In addition, having a designated office space where all four of our founders can meet is also a great help given our busy schedules.

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EnTERPreneur Academy Profile – Comrade Brewing Company

To celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week, the Dingman Center is featuring a series of blog posts about our EnTERPreneur Acadmey, a program to help guide student ventures from idea to launch. The Academy provides members with a variety of resources including startup fundamentals workshops, advising, office space, selling opportunities and seed funding. The Academy’s three stages Idea Shell, Hatch and Terp Startup provide students with specific resources and requirements that suit the level of progress for their ventures.

Today’s featured startup is Comrade Brewing Company, the dream company of EnTERPreneur Academy member, David Lin. David is a Full Time MBA student at the University of Maryland who can frequently be found in the halls of the Dingman Center volunteering with programs and absorbing everything he can about entrepreneurship. David’s company, Comrade Brewing, was an honorable mention at the 2012 China Business Plan Competition and also an audience choice award winner at Pitch Dingman.  Read the Q&A to find out more about David and his business, Comrade Brewing Company!

Q: Please describe your business.

A: Comrade Brewing Company will be a Denver, CO based business that will brew and serve hand crafted beer, free of corn syrup and chemically modified hop extract. Customers will be able to visit and drink beer by the glass on the brewery premises.  The brewery will follow a tasting room model, where no food and only beer is served.  I’m planning to head back to Denver after finishing up my MBA this semester and I hope to open sometime in 2013.

Q: How did you get the idea for your business?

A: Ever since I started brewing professionally in 2005, I have known that I eventually wanted to work in the craft beer industry full time.  I saw the success of other breweries and thought to myself, hat a great way to make a living, doing what I love and what I would normally be doing anyways. After two years of brainstorming, the name of Comrade Brewing came to me one day while I was on vacation.  In the brewing industry, there is a lot of camaraderie between small breweries who often help each other out. I want to showcase this “brotherhood” as well as provide the foundation for some funny “tongue in cheek” beer names.  The idea for a tasting room model was something that always intrigued me as I visited breweries across the country.
Q: What phase is your venture in and what are your next steps?

A: We’re on our way to becoming operational.  I have already taken on a talented brewmaster as a partner, contracted my raw materials, talked with equipment manufacturers, met with cities, and looked at zoning.  I also have nearly all the funding I need as well as the domains, social media handles, and incorporation needed to start my business.  My next step is to sign a lease on a building, place the down payment on the brewhouse, apply for federal and state licensing and permits, and begin construction.

Q: As a student start up, what are some of the challenges that you face?

A: This is a brick-and-mortar business, and because my business is located in Denver, being 1,500 miles away makes it difficult for me to do things like overseeing construction.  There’s only so much I can do electronically or via paper.  While I’m enjoying my time as a student here at Smith, I am eager to head back to Denver once I graduate to oversee the remaining steps to opening the brewery.

Q: How did the Dingman Center contribute to the development of your startup?

A: The Entrepreneurs in Residence have been an incredible resource. Some of them have had relevant experience on starting a food service company and have advised me on the common pitfalls of the industry. Being part of the Dingman Center’s active entrepreneurial community has also given me the opportunity to listen to a variety of business ideas and taught me how to look at them from a more critical business standpoint giving me a framework that I would use while running the brewery.

Q: What about being a part of the EnTERPreneur Academy excites you the most?

A: Meeting all the other students who are as passionate and driven as I am. There are so many people out there that say that they have a passion for something, but in reality I believe they just like the idea of that something.  My fellow Academy members are people with the initiative to actually pursue their passions.  The networking with these passionate people, as well as sharing feedback on our ideas, has been incredibly helpful and rewarding.

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EnTERPreneur Academy Profile – AquaSwitch

To celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week, the Dingman Center is featuring a series of blog posts about our EnTERPreneur Acadmey, a program to help guide student ventures from idea to launch. The Academy provides members with a variety of resources including startup fundamentals workshops, advising, office space, selling opportunities and seed funding. The Academy’s three stages Idea Shell, Hatch and Terp Startup provide students with specific resources and requirements that suit the level of progress for their ventures.

Today’s feature is AquaSwitch, a product created by EnTERPreneur Academy member, Aashay Doshi. Aashay is an undergraduate student at the University of Maryland who has taken advantage of several of programs offered by the Dingman Center, including an entrepreneurial class and JumpStart. Aashay’s current entrepreneurial venture is AquaSwitch, a bottle that allows a user to carry two different liquids at the same time. Read the Q&A to find out more about Aashay and his business, AquaSwitch!

Q: Please describe your business.

A: AquaSwitch is a unique dual compartment bottle that facilitates the portability and storage of two different liquids at the same time. Our intricate engineering and detailed design ensures no mixing of liquids and no change in temperature. Water and Gatorade, water and juice, water and protein shake–whatever the combination may be, AquaSwitch provides a convenient solution to do so. We aim to provide a convenient, cost effective and stylish solution to diverse hydration requirements.

Q: How did you get the idea for your business?

A: My business idea stemmed out of a class project at UMD. Our assignment was to think of business ideas and form teams to draft papers for the class. However, I decided to take this process to the next level and work on actually launching a product.

Q: In what phase is your venture and what are your next steps?

A: We are in the test marketing phase. We have our preliminary designs and we need to test a sample market to see if we need to make changes to the bottle. Our next step is to get a production run going so we have enough bottles to test with a representative sample.

Q: As a student start-up, what are some of the challenges you face?

A: The biggest challenge as a student entrepreneur is to gather funds. Because college students like us are poor, it is hard to get investments for our passions. In addition, the deteriorating economy pushes us to look for jobs thereby diverting our attention from our  passion. Money is by far the biggest problem.

Q: What part of being in the EnTERPreneur Academy excites you most?

A: The EnTERPreneur Academy provides an extremely exciting and conducive environment for budding entrepreneurs to connect and develop together. What excites me most is the networking and professional development potential the Academy provides. It is an absolute pleasure to brainstorm with fellow innovators.

Stay tuned for the next EA company!

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Startup Success: SpydrSafe

The Startup Success series features interviews with regional entrepreneurs who received funding from the Dingman Center Angels investor network. Click HERE to see a full list of companies that presented and received funding from the Dingman Center Angels during the 2011-2012 year.

SpydrSafe’s mobile security platform, SpydrSafe Mobile DLP™, prevents corporate data breaches from employee-owned devices (BYOD) by providing enterprise IT departments with the tools necessary to safeguard corporate data. SpydrSafe Mobile DLP™  delivers app-level protection for all data on Android smartphones or tablets. Keep reading for an interview with SpydrSafe CEO Michael Pratt.

How did you get the idea for your business?
Myself and my co-founder, Kevin Sapp, both worked in the mobile security/mobility space for 6 years or so before founding SpydrSafe. We kept abreast of how the market was developing and the needs that were unmet and SpydrSafe’s genesis came out of that process.

Why a startup?
Why not?  We’re addressing a “new market” with unmet needs – startups are a natural way to do this.

What phase is the company in?
We’re still early and pre-revenue, albeit we plan to “cure” that by releasing our first product in the market on October 1, 2012.

As a startup, what are some of the greatest challenges you face?
If you’ve been in the startup world as long as Kevin and I have been, the over-riding challenge is always funding. It’s a long, continuous process for a startup. The other challenge is “biting your tongue” when an energetic, but not-so-knowledgeable VC who doesn’t understand the space, or have portfolio companies in the space, and in many cases doesn’t do early stage deals (why are we having this meeting again?) spends most of their time telling me all the reasons why what I’m doing won’t work.

What was the Dingman Center Angels review process like?
To be brutally honest it was a bit tedious – and I still don’t understand why startup companies have to pay to present at these various venues. But at the end of the day, it’s just part of how the game is played. As someone once told me, you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find the prince.

What do you think about the current state of the entrepreneurial community in Washington DC and Baltimore?
As someone who has visited both coasts and spoken to VC’s in both locations, I’d say that DC/Baltimore is trying very hard to become known as “Silicon Valley East” but they have a very long way to go to get there. It’s more than just one or two “homeruns” that make a region (e.g., AOL – too many years ago now; and Living Social). It’s an attitude and an understanding that what’s important in an entrepreneurial endeavor is the idea (it has to be large enough to be interesting to them) and the team (seasoned, enthusiastic, focused).  What is NOT important is ARPU (average revenue per user), but it’s almost always the first question we hear. So, the “entrepreneurial community” in this region is really a “later stage” environment. I guess it’s less risky than startups/early stage companies but as long as the collective mindset in this region is “we like to see traction before we invest”, it will never be Silicon Valley East.

What advice would you give student entrepreneurs who want to start their own business?
Focus, focus, focus.

Michael Pratt has sixteen years of startup experience with six years in the mobility field. He has held C-level positions with companies including CardStar (acquired by Constant Contact in 2012), Trust Digital (acquired by McAfee in 2010) and Galt Associates (acquired by Cerner Corporation in 2006)

Connect with SpydrSafe on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn

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