Seven teams of student entrepreneurs will face off May 1 for their share of $25,000 in the 2021 edition of the Wolverine Venture Battle (WVB).
For students seeking a piece of the prize pool, the final round of the annual venture business model competition often marks the culmination of their journey through an entrepreneurial ecosystem. Building on the skills they have acquired along the way, the competition, presented by the Center for Entrepreneurship + Innovation (E+I) at Grove City College, allows teams to compete for prize money and in-kind services that will help them fuel their commercial or social venture.
Each team advancing to the finals on Saturday has made it through a rigorous evaluation by 46 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.
In the world-wide broadcast on Saturday, teams will have eight minutes to make their pitches to a panel of Judges who possess wide and diverse business experience. 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 $25,000 WVB pot to “invest” in the teams’ ideas. Each Judge has the ability to award his/her share of the prize pool to the team(s) of his/her own choosing.
This is the premier of the WVB as an online event. Although COVID-19 restrictions caused the cancellation of last year’s competition and forced the event to take a virtual format this year, there have been surprising benefits to the changes.
Both reviewers and judges are now able to participate remotely and there are no limits on the number of audience members. Online viewers will also have a say, with a $1,000 Fan Favorite award going to the pitch that’s most popular in an online vote.
“As you can imagine, this year’s teams faced more challenges than those from previous years. Despite those challenges, several of these teams actually made the final rounds of national competitions. Our students are resilient and continue to fight to build their ideas to have a positive impact on the world. We are all incredibly proud of them,” Yvonne J. English ’97, E+I executive director and professor of Entrepreneurship, said.
The finalists are:
- G.I. Fido, a venture dedicated to creating fashionable, patriotic dog accessories benefitting the Veteran community. Founded by Olivia Whiteman '23 and her sister Sophia Whiteman.
- sidekickk, a podcast management platform that streamlines workflow and helps podcasters meet their goals. Founded by Cameron Suorsa '21 and Eric Dudgeon '21.
- Resense, a customized box of products designed specifically to bring comfort and ease of transition to patients going through the early stages of Alzheimer's and dementia. Founded by Lydia Young '22, Luke Gilligan '24, and Ethan David '24.
- BlockShare, a community-based mobile platform that facilitates the renting of assets between neighbors. Founded by Fisher Koons '22 and Ethan Raynaud '22.
- Habitat, a company that provides habit-building cleaning tools for kids to elementary school/special ed teachers. Founded by Aby Griffith '21, Patty Jo Nickoloff '21, and Juliana Smith '22.
- Decipher, an online platform combatting the misconstrued perception of dyslexia and late diagnosis. Founded by Sarah Smith '22 and Lillian Jeynes '22.
- Embark Health, an app that empowers and equips patients (and their caregivers) with educational resources and disease management tools and support. Founded by Lizzy Higgins '21 and Elizabeth Finnegan '21.
For more on the teams and the competition, visit the Wolverine Venture Battle online at gccentrepreneurship.com/wolverine-venture-battle/. The WVB will be carried live online at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 1 via the website. Viewers can register there in advance to receive a reminder.
“We obviously couldn’t have this competition without the time, treasure, and talent given generously by our judges, sponsors, and reviewers. It is so wonderful to see our community rally together to support our young entrepreneurs. It gives me hope for the future,” English said.
Judges are John Baun ’68, Todd Brice ’84, Mark Brody ’83, Hannah (Vaccaro) Collier ’18, Dan Creston ’81, Pete Durfee ’80, R.J. Fryan ’08, Dr. Deanna (Layman) Kiska ’87, Jeff Moxie ’80, Elisabeth O’Brien ’16, Mark Pentz ’81, Michael Pentz ’06, Bill Smith ’69, Tom Streiff and Brian Young ’92. Learn more about them here.
Wolverine Venture Battle sponsors include: Davevic Benefit Consultants; Wesley Family Services; S&T Bank; Laura (Koller ’11) and R.J. Fryan ’08; The Pentz Family: Mark ‘81, Cheri ‘79, Michael ’06 and Yvonne ’06; June (Hart ‘83) and Mark Brody ’83; The Streiff Family: Robert ’15, Joan ’81 and Tom; Skip Hauser ’68; The Habbershon Family: Tim ’81, Grant ’06, Meredith ’07, Jonathan ’09 and Natalie ’11; Elizabeth (Smith ’81) and Peter Hanley; Dan Creston ’81; John & Betsy Baun Charitable Foundation (Pittsburgh Foundation); Susan (Peshek ’81) and Peter Durfee ’80; Kitty (Henneman ’92) and Brian Young ’92; Bill Smith ’69; The Kiska Family: Stan ’85, Deanna ’87, Evan ’20 and Lauren; Sisterson CPAs; Pittsburgh Web Design; and Cedric E. Lewis, JD/MBA, guest lecturer in Entrepreneurship.
For more about The Center for E+I, visit gccentrepreneurship.com.