On Sunday, March 19th, HC Launch hosted its first in-person Innovation Challenge event since the pandemic. It was also Launch’s first event in the newly-built Prior Performing Arts Center. The challenge was coordinated with a local business, Giesel Software Inc. (GSI), and some of the real-world problems they are facing. Students pitched in response to one of two challenges; 1) to develop a product or 2) propose a real-estate solution for a rapidly growing business.
HC Launch held its bi-annual Innovation Challenge in partnership with the Office of the President, Environmental Studies Department, Political Science Department, Ciocca Center, Office of Sustainability, Green Fund, and Eco-Action. The challenge tasked Holy Cross students with developing and presenting creative ways to advance sustainability on our campus. With 8 teams pitching their ideas to a panel of 3 judges, students developed detailed applications of sustainable practices in an effort to lower the college’s ecological footprint and to inspire green-thinking on campus. Nick Bettenhauser ‘24, Sasha Paradise ‘24 & Eileen Evans ‘24 ultimately won first place with their innovative and feasible pathway towards the installation of solar carports. Eco Saders and Green Addition placed 2nd and 3rd respectively. HC Launch and other organizations are now collaborating with these teams to implement their ideas.
Throughout the fall 2021 semester, the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program has been in full swing moving student engagement from virtual offerings to in-person ones. The following is a list of opportunities that nearly 100 students had this past semester to engage with the E&I program, led by Ja-Nae Duane.
Entrepreneurship Class: This semester, the entrepreneurship class saw its largest registration ever with 56 students. The class created 15 business ideas with the intent of five of them to continue on after the semester. Additionally, the students engaged with three alumni during the semester to hear their insights about entrepreneurship.
HC Launch: This semester, the student-led incubator supported three business ideas and two businesses with a total of 19 students involved. The students also continued their successful virtual alumni mentor meets and had 13 alumni meet with the students throughout the semester.
Innovation Challenge: This falls the theme of the Innovation Challenge was “Systems of the Future” with a focus on the systems here on campus. The event was co-sponsored by the Information Technology Services Department at Holy Cross and had 14 students participate from across campus with eight concepts pitched. Currently, three of the eight are moving forward into the conceptual and prototyping stages.
Business Strategy, and Innovation Workshop: This fall, the Business Strategy and Innovation workshop was offered again for students in all of the Business Certificate Programs. This workshop ran virtually in October for students and will be held in-person during January break for another ten students.
Venture Hill: This semester was the inaugural semester for Venture Hill, the student-led venture fund. During the semesters, nine students learned some of the fundamentals of venture capital with the intent to begin investing in student ventures (no equity taken) in the spring.
Watch for more opportunities to get involved in the new year! Keep an eye out for Entrepreneurship Week in March 2022 and get involved in the clubs.
Kicking off the week, HC Launch held its bi-annual Innovation Challenge in partnership with CodeSaders and the Green Fund. The challenge required Holy Cross students to come up with creative ways to build community and connect students during the COVID-19 pandemic. With 11 teams pitching their ideas to a panel of six judges, two being our very own co-presidents of the Student Government Association, students managed to develop and create detailed plans and events that centered around the theme of community. The winning idea of this competition will be immediately implemented with the help and mentorship of Dean Murray.
Normally, the Innovation Challenge would have been held in person, but due to COVID precautions was held virtually this year. The Ciocca Center’s Head of Entrepreneurship & Innovation Program, Ja-Nae Duane, kicked off the event by informing the teams and 70+ audience members of the ground rules, prizes and goals. Tom Cremins ’21 and Mary Anne Wiley ’22, HC Launch’s Managing Directors, led intermission and gave out raffle prizes to audience members while the judges deliberated.
Congratulations to the 2021 Innovation Challenge winners:
1st Prize: $1,000 for Fresh Fest: an outdoor festival to help freshmen to connect by Nick Bettenhauser ‘24 & Sasha Paradise ‘24
* Watch for this inaugural event scheduled for Friday, May 1, 2021!
2nd Prize: $750 for HC Jumpstart, a social connection to meet others on campus by Britt Axelson ‘21, Raphaella Mascia ‘21 & Connor McNerney ‘22
3rd Prize: $500 and “Most Creative Award” for Sader Sips: a senior-focused beer garden by Katelyn Cody ‘22, Julia Covelle ‘22, Allie Russo ‘22 & Karter Seitz ‘22
4th Place: ‘Special JudgesAward’ received for their outdoor movie night on the freshman field by Fabiola Trejo ‘22 and Victoria Covarrubias ‘22
Special thanks to our judges: James Keyes ‘77, Cheryl Martin ’84, Dean Michele Murrary, William Turtone, and co-presidents of the SGA, Noah Sisk ’21 and Victoria Tara ’21.
The next two events were casual pitch nights for students with early stage projects or ideas. These events are designed to helps students identify next steps, stress test an idea and find team members to help build it out. The first event was an opportunity for students to pitch to their peers and the second gave students pitch practice pitching their idea to an alum, Catherine Wilcox ’80.
To finish off Entrepreneurship Week, HC Launch held its eighth annual Shark Tank Competition. The event allows Holy Cross students to pitch their business ideas to a group of judges for five mins each, followed by three minutes of Q&A. Ten teams (five teams in the seed stage category and five teams in the early-stages category) competed for a combined total of $10,000 in prize money.
Congratulations to the Seed Stage Shark Tank Winners: a category focused on the market opportunity and concept validation of the business idea.
$500 to Greenlist: a browser extension for identifying environmental product info Nathan Lewis ‘22
$500 to That’s Yo Body: A motivation/fitness brand
Josh Azor ‘24
$500 to Chering: A web-app that helps thrift stores resell their clothing.
Jacob Azzi ‘23, Dana Dinardo ‘21, Raphaella Mascia ‘21, Genevieve Wagner ‘21 of Ohio State & Molly Zachlin ‘21of Notre Dame
Congratulations to the Early Stage Shark Tank Winners: a category for students with more developed business models.
$3,000 to SaderSleeps: a mattress rental service for college students by Louie Fiacco ‘22 & Will Spangenberg ‘22
$2,000 to PakChat: a mobile app that allows different friend groups to meet other friend groups within their own community by Peter Blunt ‘21 & Chad Arle ‘21
$1,000 to FUD: an app using algorithms to identify common restaurant preferences by Chris Herndon ‘22 & Jean Baptiste “JB” Goriou ‘22
Congratulations to the Ignite Fund Winner: a category for students to work with funding and guidance through the JD Power Center.
$2,000 to SynchRUNous: an app for coaches to live track their runners by Meg Gerety
Special thanks to our Shark Tank Competition judges:
Matt Drinkwater ‘95: Former General Manager, Buzzfeed
The Ciocca Center for Business, Ethics, and Society has been an important partner in helping students to stay ahead of the consequences caused by the pandemic. There have been many unexpected twists and turns leaving students unsure of Certificate Program progress, summer internship plans and what to expect this fall when classes resume. The Ciocca Center has partnered with various Holy Cross offices to try to mitigate some of these new realities with additional funding and new opportunities.
HC Launch, the student incubator through theCiocca Center, hosted the fall Innovation Challenge on Saturday, November 9, 2019. Building off of last spring’s Innovation Challenge, this event brought students together to brainstorm problems centered around issues on campus at Holy Cross stemming from the Engage Summit and to ideate potential solutions to these problems. Continue reading “Annual Innovation Challenge Solves Campus Problems”
Wilox, a student startup focused on making the world a cleaner place, is part of the Holy Cross student-run incubator. Earlier this month (11/13/18) they competed at the Beantown Throwdown (part of Global Entrepreneurship week) pitch contest hosted at LogMeIn, sponsored by Nutter/John Loughnane ’87 P19. The student team placed second, beating teams from MIT, Harvard, BC, BU, Tufts, McGill, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health, Wentworth, Brandeis, and Berklee.
Congratulations to the Wilox team!
Pictured from left to right: Joe Egan ’19: Business Development, Mike Brown ’19: Director of Sales, Luke Knox ’22: Co-Founder/CEO, Mary Anne Wiley ’22: COO, Paul Wiley ’20: President/Founder, Eric Lane ’21: Product Manager, John Bowen ’22: User Research, and Nolan Howard ’19: Market Research
“Tremendous job by the student team in competing so effectively! Congratulations to all involved! Great job too by the entire team from the Ciocca center for Business, Ethics, and Society at the College including Director David Chu and Entrepreneur-in-Residence Ja-Naé Duane.” – John Loughnane ’87 P19: Partner, Nutter
The Entrepreneurship & Innovation Program,led by Ja-Nae Duane, provides students the opportunity to utilize and build upon their liberal arts education while learning the fundamentals of starting a venture and keeping a company relevant in this fast-changing world. The new Certificate of Entrepreneurship offered through the Ciocca Center for Business, Ethics, and Society provides students with comprehensive and structured programming to acquire technical business skills and experiences.
The Incubator started in 2018 with two student entrepreneurs, Paul Wiley ’20 and Joe Egan ’19. They currently have over 40 members and work with 4 different student ventures. Their goal is to teach the entrepreneurial method across campus which in turn will allow students to make their business dreams a reality as a part of the E&I programming.
Thanks for reading! Cassie
Cassie Gevry, Associate Director of Student Engagement
Ciocca Center for Business, Ethics, and Society
Have an idea for a business? Interested in working with cool ideas? Get involved with entrepreneurship and innovation this fall!
“The extracurricular entrepreneurial opportunities offered outside of the classroom such as the Ignite Incubator, the Fullbridge Program, the Shark Tank Competition, visits to start-ups, and networking events have all furthered my desire to pursue a career in business.”
– Paul Wiley ’20, chemistry major
2017 Shark Tank Competition Winner
>> Join the new Holy Cross student run Ignite Incubator! The Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program is excited to launch the College’s new student run incubator. The Ignite Incubator enables students from all class years to learn what it takes to bring a business to market through hands on experience. Students can either:
have their idea or business incubated in the program
work on other students business ideas
The incubator is now accepting applications for both business ideas and for associate positions on the management team. Apply NOW! Deadline: September 10, 2018
>> Fall Course: Entrepreneurship 101
Tue. & Thu. from 12:30-1:45pm
Prof. Ja-Naé Duane
Entrepreneurship begins with a vision. This course focuses on the foundations of entrepreneurship and is appropriate for students from any major. It is designed to introduce students to the entrepreneurial process so that they may begin to shape their own entrepreneurial vision. Course objectives include an introduction to the challenges of entrepreneurship, an understanding of the ethical environment in which entrepreneurs operate, the skills to think critically and work toward the ability to evaluate opportunities in the business. This is a course that includes project-based entrepreneurial activities where students work to test and validate ideas.
Who should take this course?
Students who have a business idea
Students who want to work on existing business idea
Students who want to explore the field of entrepreneurship and innovation
Space is limited. Seats available for second, third and fourth year students.
>> Have questions? Reach out to Ja-Naé Duane, Entrepreneur-in-Residence, for more program details!
Four judges, three innovative ideas, two hours, but only one grand prize. With that much on the line you’d think the room would be tense in Smith Labs 155 for Holy Cross’ annual Shark Tank competition. Instead, it was welcoming and as Professor Chu put it, this was a space to “let our entrepreneurial juices flow.” The five judges stood to introduce themselves as Tom Flynn ‘87, managing partner at SV Life Sciences, Ed Mclaughlin ’78 founder of Blue Sunsets LLC and author of The Purpose is Profit, Bryan Sparkes ‘04, EVP and National Director at JLL and last but certainly not least, April Lukasik, parent of 2016 Holy Cross grad Sydney Zeferina-Pugliares, Founder & President of Bright & Early Children’s Learning Centers.
Dylan Olivera ’17, started the evening with a ride-sharing idea initiative called Splitrips, offering a fun, friendly and affordable alternative way to travel by introducing carpooling to college campuses. He tested the market by creating carpooling Facebook groups at various campuses and received many positive reactions.
Paul Wiley ‘20 then pitched his startup, PW Industries, specializing in custom handcrafted executive products and jewelry for the promotional product industry. PW Industries has been running for three years and has clients like Lamborghini and Holy Cross, with hopes to expand this year to more corporations and test other college campus bookstores. These pens are handcrafted and can be personalized according to the client.
Mary Kate Vanecko ’17 introduced her idea, Ella, a jewelry company that empowers girls to find their strengths. Ella was inspired by Mary Kate’s goddaughter, Ella, who at the age of four spreads positivity to everyone around her. Unfortunately, girls can begin to have a negative body image earlier than becoming a teenager. Her jewelry and message resonated with the judges, which they believe could connect with many young girls around the world.
The presentations ended and it was decision time. The judges left the room to pick a winner. After a very long 45 minutes, Professor Chu and the four judges re-entered the room. Now the room was tense. Everyone did so well, there was no clear winner. Professor Chu then announced Paul Wiley ‘20 as the winner of the Entrepreneurship Deep Dive! Paul received $12,000, an alumni mentor, membership to the Worcester Chamber of Commerce, The Worcester Clean Tech Incubator and the Venture Forum. The night ended and everyone left with their entrepreneurial juices flowing for next year’s Shark Tank.
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Thank you to Rosangel Cruz Cabrera ’18 for her recap of this year’s exciting Shark Tank competition. Congratulations to Paul Wiley ’20 and thank you to our judges – Tom Flynn ’87, April Lukasik P16, Ed McLaughlin ’78 and Bryan Sparkes ’04. See you next year!
Associate Director, COES & Prebusiness Program
College of the Holy Cross