Student Startup Madness announces finalists and judging panel for championship event at SXSW in Austin, Texas

RELEASE Thursday, Jan 28, 2016 — The Entrepreneurial Eight teams have been chosen for the finals of the Student Startup Madness (SSM) tournament, an official partner program of South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive. These elite college student startups will be in Austin, Texas, on March 14 to pitch before a judging panel of successful entrepreneurs and investors.

The SSM event will be held at SXSW’s Startup Village main venue in the downtown Hilton Austin. The winning team will take home a prize package of software and services (valued at more than $2,000) and bragging rights as the best student startup in America.

Student Startup Madness (SSM) is the only nationwide collegiate tournament focused on digital media startups. It affords college student startups the opportunity to compete against fellow student entrepreneurs, grab the attention of potential investors and supporters, and build an elite professional network.

The 2015-16 SSM Entrepreneurial Eight Finalists (in alphabetical order)

  • Blurr from Northeastern University
  • ChaChing from Syracuse University
  • FoodShare from Washington University in St. Louis
  • Fresh U from Syracuse University
  • Maidbot from Cornell University, Georgia Tech and Carnegie Mellon University
  • NativX from U.S. Air Force Academy and Harvard University
  • Roze Incorporated from Michigan State University
  • Trep-ology from Saint Louis University

“What a great lineup for the finals,” says Sean Branagan, creator of the SSM program. “It says a lot about the quality of ventures coming off America’s college campuses these days. We have a terrific array of technologies, business ideas and markets, so this will be a tough decision for the judges.”

The 2015-16 SSM Judges (in alphabetical order)

  • Martin Babinec, Founder/Director of TriNet, active early stage investor and startup ecosystem catalyst
  • Laura Chau, associate, Technology Team, Canaan Partners
  • Simon Small, international entrepreneur and executive director and co-founder, Arria NLG (UK)

EMCEE (and tie-breaking judge)

  • Tim Dickson, vice president of front office IT, Motorola

“We have a great tradition of attracting judges who are rising stars in the startup community,” Branagan says. Past panelists have included the co-founder of Square (Jim McKelvey), a Google executive and angel investor (Kristina Hahn), the managing director of TechStars (Nicole Glaros), the first investor in Pinterest (Brian Cohen), the director of engineering at Google and then later head of engineering at SnapChat (Peter Magnusson), and a leader in the B-Corporation movement (Elisa Miller-Out), along with various partners, founders and associates from venture capital firms.

“We are so grateful that these busy professionals give of their time to listen to and assess these talented college students as they pitch their ventures,” says Branagan. “The connections made at Student Startup Madness—between student entrepreneurs, between teams and judges—can last a lifetime.”

SSM Tournament Format

Each round of the nationwide tournament builds momentum, awareness and social media buzz, drawing attention to colleges and universities as sources for innovation, entrepreneurship and talent while showcasing university entrepreneurship and encouraging college students to start businesses.

More than 100 teams applied for the Student Startup Madness tournament online between August and early December 2015. The first two rounds of the SSM tournament were held online, with judging conducted via Gust.com, a platform used by angel investors around the world.

This year’s SSM teams came from 38 colleges and universities—from large state universities to small private colleges, from technical institutes to liberal arts schools. All are working on digital products and services in varied industries, including Consumer Services, Financial Services, Gaming & Entertainment, Medical Devices, Security, Sports, and Travel.

SSM is promoted and supported by anchor universities in regions across the country, including Arizona State University (Southwest), Cornell University (Northeast), Bucknell University (Mid-Atlantic), Georgia State University (Southeast), Michigan State University (Great Lakes), Saint Louis University (Midwest), Seton Hall University (Northeast), University of California Davis (West), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Midwest), University of Washington at Tacoma (Northwest), and Xavier University (Great Lakes).

About the finalists

Blurr: Connecting users at the same place and time, Blurr will revolutionize the way we share memories. Ever woke up longing for the pictures from the night before? With Blurr, this will never be an issue again. [Contact Daniel Arvidsson, daniel@yourblurr.com, or visit yourblurr.com.]

ChaChing: The first mobile payments application integrated within your keyboard, allowing users to send money using their iOS or Android device in all messaging applications without ever leaving their conversation. Money can be accepted from any device even if the receiving party does not have the app. [Contact Seth Samowitz, seth.samowitz@gmail.com, or visit ChaChing.io.]

FoodShare: A mobile app that transforms partner restaurants into social enterprises by donating a meal to someone in need each time a user dines. Users can also recommend restaurants to friends and share photos of their food. [Contact Andrew Glantz, andrewglantz@wustl.edu, or visit www.foodshareonline.com.]

Fresh U: An online publication for freshmen, by freshmen, providing students a platform to read and share relatable content about their first year of college—while also giving them the opportunity to be involved in the process of running their own publication. [Contact Kate Beckman, kate@freshu.io, or visit FreshU.io.]

Maidbot: A robotics company on a mission to revolutionize the hospitality industry by solving the two biggest issues in housekeeping: time and injuries. Maidbot transforms commercial cleaning; one bot at a time. [Contact Micah Green, micah@maidbot.co, or visit maidbot.co.]

NativX: A free travel platform geared towards millennials that learns a traveler’s personality and creates custom travel itinerary suggestions based on the specific traveler. These suggestions are uniquely procured using cognitive learning systems and content submitted by local experts. [Contact Brenden Coleman, bcole2433@gmail.com, or visit NativX.co.]

Roze Incorporated: An Internet-of-Things (IoT) mobile-app-enabled system for multiple markets, the Roze Dock is a smart sensor device that automatically logs the number of people in shared spaces. [Contact Oswald K. Chisala, II, chisalao@msu.edu.]

Trep-ology: A mobile app with online resources for middle-school educators that “gamifies” entrepreneurship as students take on dream personas in a virtual world. [Contact Lachlan Johnson, JohnsonLC@slu.edu, or visit trep-ology.com.]

About Student Startup Madness

The Student Startup Madness concept was developed by Sean Branagan, director of the Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, in conjunction with SXSW. Student Startup Madness, along with its partners and host universities, believes in American entrepreneurship and on-campus startups—and wants to help young student entrepreneurs succeed and become a part of the SXSW experience.

Student Startup Madness debuted in 2012 at SXSW Interactive with a launch event and kick-off pitchfest. In 2013, SSM became a SXSW Partner Program and was invited into the main venue of SXSW Startup Village. For more on Student Startup Madness, visit the website (http://studentstartupmadness.com), see us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter: @StartupMad.