The Pitt News

Students to compete in startup competition

By Harrison Kaminsky and Abbey Reighard / The Pitt News Staff

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Andrew Buchmann wants more people to save their money. 

One day, while he was eating lunch at Hemingway’s Cafe, Buchmann — a senior majoring in finance and supply chain management — learned that the restaurant offers half-off meals from 2 to 4 p.m. each day. In the three years Buchmann’s been at Pitt, he said he never knew about the special, even though the restaurant is less than half a block from campus.  

“We realized that there are all kinds of deals like that at a lot of places in Oakland, and most people only know a handful of those deals at most,” Buchmann said. “So why not provide an interactive way for people to find out about all of them in one central place?”

To solve this problem, Buchmann and a team of three other Pitt students developed Boon, a mobile app concept designed to help students find daily deals. The team is so confident in the success of their app that they’ve decided to enter their proposal in this year’s seventh annual Randall Family Big Idea Competition. The registration period for teams participating in the competition ends Feb. 15. 

The Big Idea Competition awards cash — totalling $100,000 — to student entrepreneurs who want to market their ideas. This year’s competition will award $25,000 to the team whose idea has most commercialization promise. In addition to the grand prize, the competition will also award three first-place teams $15,000 each, four second-place teams $5,000 each, two third-place teams $3,000 each and two video submission winners $2,000 each. 

Pitt’s Innovation Institute— a collaboration formed in 2014 between the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence, Office of Technology Management and Office of Enterprise Development — hosted the competition for the first time last year. 

Teams, which must be made up of at least two members and students from at least two of Pitt’s schools, can apply on the Innovation Institute’s website. 

After student groups register, the competition will have three elimination periods, leading up to the final round on April 2.  

Students who participate get more than just competition experience by stepping up to the challenge, according to one organizer Babs Carryer.

“Students will have the opportunity to network within Pitt and the community, to gain mentorship and advice from seasoned entrepreneurs who have been there before and to have the kind of guidance rare within a University to advance their big ideas to the next level towards startup creation and market adoption,” Carryer, director of innovation and outreach at the Innovation Institute, said. 

Participants will experience outside-of-the-classroom seminars and coaching on every aspect of startups, Carryer said, including customer discovery, business models, elevator pitches, the art of pitching, legal challenges and more. 

As the competition approaches, Buchmann is confident in his team’s abilities. 

“As a team mostly made up of business majors, we play to win. While we aren’t necessarily expecting to come in first place, it is certainly our goal to develop our idea and final product to a point that they are the best presented at the Big Idea Competition,” he said.

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Students to compete in startup competition