Carnegie Mellon University


April 03, 2019

McGinnis Venture Competition Funds Winning Student Startups

The graduate student team behind Delta Band and the undergraduate team behind Ecotone Renewables took home the top prizes at the annual McGinnis Venture Competition held Tuesday, March 26, 2019. 

Presented by the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship, the McGinnis Venture Competition invites student entrepreneurs from across the Carnegie Mellon University campus to compete for a total of $60,000 in investment funds to support their startup ventures. The competition begins with two virtual rounds in which teams have the opportunity to work with alumni entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to develop their ideas and business plans.

“The McGinnis Venture Competition is a significant opportunity for our student entrepreneurs to bring together everything they have learned in their experiential training, coursework, and workshops throughout their time at Carnegie Mellon University and the Swartz Center,” said Dave Mawhinney, Executive Director of the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship and Associate Teaching Professor of Entrepreneurship. “The competition really tests the gamut of their skills in pitching their ideas and networking with potential funding partners and mentors." 

In the third and final round, a handful of select student teams are invited to the Swartz Center at the Tepper Quad to pitch their startup ideas to a team of faculty and entrepreneurs. Six undergraduate teams and eight graduate teams competed during the 2019 finals.

Graduate Track Winners

Delta Band, developed by CMU engineering student and Innovation Scholar Matt Spettel and MIT graduate Gabriel Madonna, produces software for wearable smart devices that help weight trainers to manage their workouts and track their goals. Their first-place win in the graduate track secured them $25,000 to continue to develop their company. 

LittleMoochi, a venture focused on encouraging children toward healthier eating habits through interactions with a virtual pet, earned second place in the graduate track and $15,000 in investment funds. Little Moochi was created by MBA student and Swartz Fellow Summer Xia and MBA student Yi Xu, Language Technologies Institute student Zhuyun Dai, and Human-Computer Interaction Institute student Molly Vierhile and Doris Byeon.

The third place graduate prize, including $10,000 in investment funds, was awarded to a glaucoma monitoring device called Tarseer, created by robotics student and Swartz Fellow Jorge Antón Garcia and robotics student Michael Tatum.

Undergraduate Track Winners

Teams in the undergraduate track who place first or second in the McGinnis Venture Competition are entered in the CMU Venture Challenge hosted in April by the Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Association. Undergraduate students from across the U.S. participate in CMUVC to compete for seed funding, legal services, and mentorship. 

A seven-member team including Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences student Sasha Cohen Ioannides, Mellon College of Science student Alexis Hoane, and College of Engineering student Dylan Lew earned the top undergraduate prize of $4,000 for Ecotone Renewables. The startup built a prototype sustainable food and agricultural system called the SeaHorse in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and is committed to reinventing the food cycle to help small businesses to individually profit from their own sustainable food practices. 

Glow Up earned the second place prize in the undergraduate track, receiving $2,500 in funding. This platform was created by economics student Mayowa Osinowo, Dietrich College student Obed Appiah-Agyeman, and engineering student Mecca Parker to provide a community and marketplace focused exclusively on black hair care. 

The McGinnis Venture Competition was established in 2004 with an endowment from Gerald McGinnis, founder of Respironics, Inc., a medical supply company based in Murrysville, Pennsylvania, that was acquired by Philips in 2008. This year’s competition was sponsored by — co-founded by Ari Rabban (MSIA 1997) — and Choolaah — co-founded by Raji Sankar (MSIA 2000).