Best College Startups in America Chosen; Teams to Pitch & Compete Live at SXSW Interactive

The best eight college digital startups in America are set to pitch at the Student Startup Madness championship event at SXSW in Austin, TX this March.

Thursday, February 1, 2018 — Eight student startup teams have been chosen for the National Championship finals of the Student Startup Madness (SSM) tournament, an official session at South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive held at SXSW’s Startup Village main venue in the downtown Hilton Austin. These “Entrepreneurial Eight” college student startups will be in Austin, Texas, on March 12 to pitch before a judging panel of successful entrepreneurs and investors. The winning team will take home a prize package of software and services (valued at over $2,500), an elite network of VCs and entrepreneurs, 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 2017-18 SSM Entrepreneurial Eight Finalists (in alphabetical order)

“This is our seventh year and this year the judging was tougher than ever,” says Sean Branagan, creator of the SSM program. “This year’s finalists include companies with innovative uses of machine learning, creative travel influencer marketing, software to optimize in-home healthcare staffing, sensor-based clothing, online legal services to help juvenile immigrants, and a cool new way for kids to learn code… plus a crazy ‘augmented taste’ device to replace sugar. Wild!”

About the Finalists

Codemoji has helped 160,000+ grade-school students get started in learning to code. [Contact Livio Bolzon,, or visit]

GAIA produces innovative solutions to athletic and therapeutic problems through the use of smart apparel technology. [Contact Brent Chase,, or visit]

Geopipe uses machine learning to automatically generate virtual models of the real world for architects, real estate developers, game developers, and beyond. [Contact Thomas Dickerson,, or visit]

Impowerus connects juvenile immigrants in need of legal aid with attorneys performing pro bono immigration work; through Impowerus, juveniles can speak with attorneys working remotely and attorneys at firms can utilize the Impowerus dashboard to track hours, conversations, and goals. [Contact Katelyn Ringrose,, or visit]

Librarian AI has produced a knowledge management AI chatbot that helps companies train talent and retain knowledge. [Contact Holden Gibbons,, or visit]

Ravle is a travel company that allows travel filmmakers to turn their videos into bookable travel experiences. [Contact Tay Lotte,, or visit]

Smart Staffing is a map-based software that makes staffing for private duty home care companies simpler, saving owners $45,000-$90,000 a year in direct overhead while maximizing revenue, minimizing scheduling errors, and improving caregiver retention and customer satisfaction. [Contact Bailey Paxton,, or visit]

Sweetbud is an “augmented taste” coffee cup lid that simulates the taste of sweetness; with Sweetbud, users can taste sweetness without adding any sugar to their coffee. [Contact Sara Du,, or visit]

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 200 teams applied for the Student Startup Madness tournament online between August and early December. Applications came from more than 60 different colleges and universities across the country: from large state universities to small private colleges, from technical institutes to liberal arts schools. All SSM teams are digital startups, and all hope to follow in the footsteps of famous college student founders of companies like Facebook, Google, Dell, Microsoft, Reddit, WordPress and SnapChat.

The first two rounds of competition are held online. From the starting field of 64 of the best college startups in America, 32 semi-finalists were chosen in mid-January. All these student startups are working on digital and technology-based products and services in dozens of industries, as varied as education, clothing and sensor technology, real estate , as well as never-before-seen industries such as augmented taste.

The SSM tournament is promoted by anchor universities in regions across the country. SSM also partners with StageXchange, an institutional deal management and marketing platform, and cross-promotes the tournament with Women 2.0, the leading media brand for the next generation of technology leaders, and Student Veterans of America, a coalition of student-veteran groups on more than 1,300 college campuses across the globe. All these organizations believe in the power of American entrepreneurship and innovation on our college campuses.

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 believes in American entrepreneurship and on-campus startups—and wants to help young student entrepreneurs succeed and become a part of the SXSW experience.

The 2017-18 SSM tournament has been promoted and supported by 13 anchor universities in eight regions across the country: Arizona State University (Southwest), Cornell University (Northeast), Bucknell University (Mid-Atlantic), Georgia State University (Southeast), Michigan State University (Great Lakes), St. Louis University (Midwest), Seton Hall University (Northeast), University of Florida (Southeast), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Midwest), University of Maryland (Mid-Atlantic), University of Southern California (West), University of Washington at Tacoma (Northwest) and Xavier University (Great Lakes).

Student Startup Madness debuted in 2012 at SXSW Interactive with a launch event and kick-off pitchfest, where five student startup teams representing eight colleges and universities pitched their ventures and won prizes. Today it is a national tournament in one of the main venues of SXSW. For more on Student Startup Madness, visit the website (, see us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter: @StartupMad

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