March 25, 2021
McGinnis Venture Competition Brings Together CMU’s Best and Brightest Student Entrepreneurs
The graduate student team behind Mach9 Robotics and the undergraduate team behind Moonpy took home the top prizes at the annual McGinnis Venture Competition held Tuesday, March 23, 2021.
Presented by the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship, the McGinnis Venture Competition invites student entrepreneurs from across Carnegie Mellon University 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.
In the third and final round, also held virtually this year, finalist teams had the opportunity to pitch their startup ideas to a team of faculty and entrepreneurs. Four undergraduate teams and eleven graduate teams competed in the 2021 finals.
Graduate Track Winners
Mach9 Robotics, which included School of Computer Science student and Swartz Fellow, Alexander Baikovitz, and Master of Science in Robotics student, Joshua Spisak, as team members, is a remote sensing startup creating Google Maps for subsurface utilities. Their first-place win in the graduate track secured them $25,000 to continue to develop their company.
Clean Sea Robotics took second place in the competition. Clean Sea Robotics will transform the modern shipping industry by offering an on-demand, disruption-free, robotic hull cleaning and inspection service to ship owners and operators. Team members include Daniel Vedova, Stefan Zhu, and Evan Myers. They were awarded $15,000 for finishing in second place.
For their third-place finish, $10,000 in investment funds were awarded to Savor Robotics. Savor Robotics is making multipurpose robots to bring freedom and flexibility to food production. Team members include Swartz Fellows Connor Colombo and Emily Ellis.
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.
Moonpy, which includes team member Benjamin Graham, earned the top undergraduate prize of $4,000. This first-place startup is a Python distribution that allows for rapid code development without sacrificing team performance.
Receiving $2,500 in funding and taking home the second-place prize is The Student Community. This app’s goal is to help colleges and corporations create a community where their students and new hires, respectively, feel professionally and personally supported during and after the pandemic. Snehita Sana, Nina Zanarelli, and Sarayu Namineni were part of the team that created the app.
The McGinnis Venture Competition was established in 2004 with an endowment from Gerald E. McGinnis, founder of Respironics, Inc., a medical supply company based in Murrysville, PA, that was acquired by Philips in 2008. This year’s competition was sponsored by Phone.com — co-founded by Ari Rabban (MSIA 1997) — and Choolaah Indian BBQ — co-founded by Raji Sankar (MSIA 2000).
Congratulations to all of this year’s winners!