Nine teams of student entrepreneurs will face off for their share of a prize package of over $25,000 in cash plus in-kind services in the 2023 Wolverine Venture Battle (WVB).
The business pitch contest is one of Grove City College’s tentpole entrepreneurship events. Open to students from all majors, the WVB provides invaluable experience for aspiring entrepreneurs and a crucial test for their ideas.
The final round of the battle is set for 12:45 p.m. Friday, April 28 in Sticht Lecture Hall of the Staley Hall of Arts and Letters on campus. The event, presented by the College’s Center for Entrepreneurship + Innovation, is free and open to the public. A live stream will be available on E+I’s website.
Each team advancing to the finals made it through a rigorous evaluation by 56 independent reviewers, who scored the teams’ pitches based on criteria such as their solution to a real problem, their forecasted costs and revenue, and their competitive advantage.
“The teams scored so closely in the second round this year that we decided to expand the number of finalists from seven to nine,” said Yvonne J. English, Executive Director of the Center for E+I. “This, coupled with the fact that we have a record number of junior judges from high schools joining us, will make for an even more exciting final round!”
The finalists are:
- Athletes After – Justin DeMild ’24 and Max Muncy ’24 – A sports recruitment platform designed to help give high school athletes the power and information they need.
- Bridge – Elliot Eyre ’24, Maura Donatelli ’24, and Caleb Warrick ’24 – A creative media and networking platform for those in the music industry.
- Cliqz – Joe Gray ’24 – A social network designed to take people from bored in their apartments to out and doing things in as few clicks as possible.
- Folded Hands – Dillon Werstiuk ’23, David Kraus ’23, and Avalon Parsons ’23 – An application that allows members of a congregation to connect with their pastor and other members of their church to engage in prayer.
- Just Pause – Luke Gilligan ’24 and Mark Wilhelm ’23 – An accountability and companion app for individuals living with bipolar disorder.
- PrayReal – Grace Anne Shaw ’24, Cade Voller ’26, Jack Bowery ’26, Ally Gaines ’25, and Sarah Anderson ’25 – A faith-based social media platform that connects you with your Christian friends when you respond to a daily, spontaneous notification to pray.
- Sabbatica – Jake Botkin ’23, Grant Baierl ’23, and Rachel Goetz ’24 – Provides a three- to five-day micro-sabbatical program that aims to rest, refresh, and rejuvenate burnt out employees and pastors.
- Songbird – Jenna Knepper ’25, Zach Warrick ’26, Rachel Petschke ’26, Aliyah Shelatz ’25, and Addison Byers ’24 – A gamified education app that teaches music to students with special needs.
- Virtual Clarity – Anna Ortiz ’24 and Emma Ruby Whiteford ’24 – Virtual reality technology for behavioral health units and those experiencing depression.
Teams have eight minutes to make their pitches to a panel of judges with wide and diverse business experience. To mimic real-world investment scenarios, the finalist teams will pitch to a panel of judges in front of a live audience in the WVB.
Based on the case the students have made and a brief question and answer session, the judges will decide how much, if any, of the prize pool to “invest” in the teams’ ideas. Each judge can award their share of the prize pool to the team or teams of their own choosing.
“This competition has been designed to simulate the real world of investment,” said Logan Hammerschmitt ‘16, campus director for the Center for E+I. “In the real world, both businesses and non-profits compete for an investor’s money, and those investors can choose to distribute their funds however they see fit. This creates a highly competitive atmosphere where every team has a chance to win the whole prize pool. It’s our cornerstone event at E+I each year.”
High school groups have been invited to participate in the competition as Jr. Judges/Investors. Each Jr. Judge will have an allotted amount of money to “invest” in the team of their choice. There are 14 school/programs coming to campus for the Jr. Judge program and they will play a vital role in the competition.
The WVB will be livestreamed on E+I’s website and online viewers will also have a chance to vote for the winner of a $500 Fan Favorite award.
Judges are Dan Creston ’81, Pete Durfee ’80, RJ Fryan ’08, Matthew W. Gordon, Connor Grieb ’18, Grace Hovis ’19, Josh Newton ’09, Paul Passaro, Mark Pentz ’81, Michael Pentz ’06, and Brad Schake.
Sponsors include: Davevic Benefit Consultants; Wesley Family Services; Armstrong; the Habbershon Family: Tim ’81, Grant ’06, Meredith ’07, Jonathan ’09 and Natalie ’11; John & Betsy Baun Charitable Foundation (Pittsburgh Foundation); Dan Creston ’81; Susan (Peshek ’81) and Peter Durfee ’80; Laura (Koller ’11) and RJ Fryan ’08; Connor Grieb ’18, the Kiska Family: Stan ’85, Deanna ’87, Evan ’20 and Lauren; The Newton Family: Rick '86, Terrie ’85, Josh ’09, Anna ’17, Jesse ’19, Josiah ’24, and Abigail; Elisabeth O’Brien ’16, Paul Passaro; The Pentz Family: Mark ‘81, Cheri ‘79, Michael ‘06, Yvonne ‘06; Peter and Elizabeth (Smith ’81) Hanley; Cedric E. Lewis, JD/MBA, Pittsburgh Web Design; and Sisterson & Co.
For more about The Center for E+I, visit gccentrepreneurship.com.