Boston College Elevator Pitch Competition 2015
student ventures shine at shea center for entrepreneurship event
[Update: Overall winner MusicSplitter is now known as EchoMe. Learn more at the EchoMe website.]
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. (November 2015)—It’s well known that the entrepreneurial spirit at the Heights not only is strong, but impressive. This year’s Elevator Pitch Competition, the first major event of the Shea Center for Entrepreneurship at the Carroll School of Management, further confirmed what the business world already knows: Boston College students have the know-how to compete with the best college entrepreneurs in the country. Among this year’s competition winners is an app allowing multiple people to listen to the same song simultaneously; a website matching researchers with test subjects; a smart, wearable device that improves posture; and a service that allows students to rent or buy clothing from others and have it delivered to their dorm room door.
Now in its fifth year, the Elevator Pitch Competition consisted of 27 teams who created videos of their 60-second pitches; those entries were whittled down to 15 finalists who gathered in Gasson Hall to compete in the finals on October 27. With an enthusiastic crowd counting down, “3-2-1 PITCH,” the teams went before four judges—professional venture capitalists—for cash prizes ranging from $200 to $500.
Taking home 'Overall Winner' along with 'Crowd Favorite' honors, MusicSplitter is an iOS application that allows two or more users to listen to a song at the exact same time. The company says this first-of-its kind technology will allow it to scale to millions of users and that the launch of their beta application is close.“We function as a wireless headphone splitter but also have the ability to connect multiple Bluetooth and wired speakers, from any brand, to one another,” says Anders Bill ’17. “As a social media platform, we give you the ability to listen along live with your favorite artists, athletes, celebrities, or best friends. You can also stream your own music live and have your friends and followers collaborate on live playlists with you.”
The company was co-founded by Class of 2015 alumni Michael Gordon and Christian Nicholson during their senior year. This year, Anders Bill and Ryan Moore ’17 are working on the market management and product development. The website is up and running and the team says it’s now in the fine-tuning stages.
“Imagine,” says Anders Bill, “MusicSplitter will allow you to stream in live to Lebron James's music in the locker room before the NBA finals, listen live with your friends as you all ski down the mountain and collaborate together, stream real-time music to your family when you're halfway across the globe, the possibilities are endless.”
Another high-tech service, winner of the Social Impact award, is Xperii, a website service that hopes to revolutionize how researchers and test subjects are brought together. The company wants to help scientists come into contact with hard-to-find research subjects, while at the same time, allowing those subjects to make some extra money in their spare time.
“The problems that Xperii solves are felt across experimental subject research, from academic cognitive science studies, to clinical trials for drugs and medical devices, to focus groups testing product usability for consumer products,” says Daniel Williams ‘16, the company’s chief financial officer who is working on the company with a student at Brown University and another at MIT. “The feedback we’ve received from each of these communities has been overwhelmingly positive, and it is clear that the current offerings are insufficient to meet the needs of these valuable industries.”
Already working with investors, Xperii is developing a website and mobile application, recruiting subjects and researchers to test its beta product, and hoping to begin offering services soon in the Greater Boston and Providence areas. The company aims to revolutionize subject recruitment in academic research as well as the medical device, pharmaceutical, and focus group industries.
“Optimizing the process of subject-recruitment is not simply a factor of efficiency,” says Williams. “It can be a matter of life or death for the patients who are waiting for subject testing on the next medical breakthrough.”
Trying to break into the competitive world of the clothing business is ModilMe, which won Best Service. The brain-child of Elyse Bush ’16, ModilMe is a website that lets university students rent or buy clothing from their friends across campus, and have it delivered to their dorm room door. Students set their own prices.
“ModilMe reps personally pick up the items from the lender or seller and delivers it directly to the buyer or borrower's door,” says Bush, who is running the company with Daniel Lyle ’16 and a handful of other students. “We just launched the website a couple weeks ago and are seeking out campus talent for social media and marketing purposes for our small business.”
Billing its online store as Boston College’s one and only on-campus boutique, ModilMe is dependent on students uploading pictures to its website in order to enable a healthy selection. Bush hopes being an Elevator Pitch Competition winner will give her the publicity to spread the word on a service that helps some students make money and others in diversifying their clothing options.
“Because students can set their own prices for the items that they want to lend or sell, this puts the control in their own hands,” says Bush. “Lending can lead to easy and fast money and also gives students the opportunity to rent for cheap. For example a student may lend designer shoes for $10 for one weekend, while the retail price of those shoes might be $200. The selling portion of the site also offers discounted prices off of expensive designer clothing or shoes.”
This year's Best Product winner, Exo Wear, is a venture dedicated to developing smart medical devices while improving daily health habits and productivity. Exo Spine is the actual product—a smart, wearable device that will have a posture control and back support unit that can change based on one’s position, thereby maximizing comfort and effectiveness.
“By integrating hardware and predictive software Exo Spine will be dynamic, unobtrusive, and most importantly comfortable,” says Stephen Cheng ’16, in charge of the start-up’s business and research and George Acevedo ’16, who handles programming. Cheng’s twin brother, William, is working on the engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with another student.
The idea for Exo Spine came during last winter’s break when Cheng was shadowing a dentist who told him the most demanding part of the job was constantly hunching over to examine teeth. It made Cheng realize how the majority of Americans are sitting incorrectly and for too long.
“Exo Spine is aimed to correct, and as a result mitigate, the ill effects of poor sitting posture that plagues the average American as a result of a sedentary lifestyle," he said. "Our product will only provide support when needed and thus providing the user the mobility to freely move around when inactive. Our goal is to promote healthy posture by helping people sit and stand correctly without being restricted.”
That three of the winning teams are already in business is a testament to the quality coming out of competitions like this.
"We were thrilled with the success of the Elevator Pitch Competition, “ says Jere Doyle, executive director of the Shea Center and an entrepreneur himself. “The enthusiasm and energy in Gasson the night of the finals was incredible. And most impressive was the quality of the students pitching - well thought out business ideas that were presented clearly and concisely. I was also impressed with the student leaders from our Start@Shea group, who organized and ran our first major event flawlessly."
The Shea Center for Entrepreneurship will present the annual Boston College Venture Competition in the spring semester; its top prize is $20,000.
—Sean Hennessey, News & Public Affairs