A Carnegie Mellon University startup that helps students learn science wins top prize, while two teams from Case Western Reserve University take second and third place.

RELEASE Tuesday March, 14, 2017 — Austin, TX – The South By Southwest (SXSW) festival shifts to the music portion this week as the weather turns warmer and seems more like spring break. But for a group of talented student startups spring break meant getting their startups ready to pitch on stage in front of a panel of investors, entrepreneurs, technologists and attendees at SXSW Interactive.

A science learning app for college students, 101, was named National Champion in the Student Startup Madness (SSM) 2016-17 National Championship Finals, held at the SXSW Interactive conference in Austin, Texas. There, eight top teams of students—The Entrepreneurial Eight—from universities across the country pitched their ventures to a world-class judging panel, as a partner program of SXSW’s Startup Village.

101 is a startup company founded by Justin Weinberg, a PhD student at Carnegie Mellon University. The company builds classroom engagement tools to promote active learning in college STEM courses, making it easy for professors to integrate problem solving exercises into lectures by allowing students to solve and submit answers right on their personal devices.

In second place was Parihug, a connected toy company co-founded by Xyla Foxlin, an engineering student at Case Western University. Parihug creates internet-connected pairable plush pals that allow you to hug loved ones from anywhere in the world, creating virtual connections, backed by science. In third place was Reflexion Interactive Technologies, founded by a team from Case Western, Pennsylvania State University and Cornell University. The company has created a ultra-fast, portable, and affordable concussion monitoring systems to amateur athletic organizations to improve athlete safety and reduce liability.

The SSM event on Monday, March 13, included a surprise announcement from Sean Branagan, creator and commissioner of the Student Startup Madness tournament, that Heather Dawn and Bryan Miller of August|Endeavor of Salt Lake City wanted to award unexpected monetary prizes to all of the SSM Entrepreneurial Eight teams: $4,000 for first place, $3,000 for second, $2,000 for third and $1,000 to each of the other finalists, including the official alternate team.

Bryan Miller is son of the late Larry H. Miller, a successful Utah businessman and philanthropist who was perhaps best known as the owner of the NBA’s Utah Jazz. “Bryan and Heather Dawn are such good people. They have done this now for the last three years. They don’t ever want any big attention. They just want to help and encourage these entrepreneurial students to go out and change the world,” Branagan says.

Members of the judging panel for SSM’s “Entrepreneurial Eight” Finals, held in the Hilton Hotel in downtown Austin, were:

Ron Faris – Founder of Virgin Mega (acquired by Nike), now GM of Nike Digital Innovation Studio
Jeremy King – Executive VP & CTO, Walmart – @WalmartLabs & Jet Technology
Christopher James – Senior Managing Director of The Blackstone Group and COO of Blackstone Tactical Opportunities
Rei Wang – Director, First Round Capital’s Dorm Room Fund (which invests in college student startups)

They were joined by emcee and tie-breaking judge, Melanie Deziel, national speaker, social media and branded content strategist, and founder & president of Mdeziel Media.

The Finals

Each of the top three teams received subscriptions to Mattermark, Yesware and FounderSuite, as well as cloud hosting services from Rackspace (with a total value to each team of approximately $2,000-$3,000).

In addition:

  • The first place winner received a $4,000 award from August|Endeavor.
  • The second place winner received a $3,000 award from August|Endeavor.
  • The third place winner received a $2,000 award from August|Endeavor.

The top vote-getter—101—was named the Student Startup Madness 2015-16 National Champion and was awarded the SSM Rocket Trophy with all the bragging rights for the team and university.

About the Entrepreneurial Eight Finalists

101: Reimagining the college STEM classroom with student engagement tools for active learning. [Contact Justin Weinberg, jb@101edu.co, or visit 101edu.co.]

Dycap Media Solutions: Dycap develops software to automate filming using recognition (edge, motion, facial) connects to any pan tilt zoom camera, removing the need for an operator. [Contact Armand Sepulveda, asepulveda@dycap.co, or visit dycap.co.]

Find Your Ditto: A mobile platform that connects individuals living with the same chronic illness locally for on-demand, in-person support. [Contact Parisa Soraya, parisa@findyourditto.com, or visit findyourditto.com.]

Omnipointment: Helps students find time for group meetings and helps teachers understand how their student teams are working together. [Contact Vinesh Kannan, vinesh@omnipointment.com, or visit omnipointment.com.]

Parihug: Wifi-enabled teddy bears that allow loved ones to hug each other from all over the world. [Contact Xyla Foxlin, xyla@parihug.com, or visit parihug.com.]

Reflexion Interactive Technologies: By screening for concussions more often, we can reduce the risk for neurological damage and decrease the liability of athletic organization. [Contact Matthew Campagna, matt.c@reflexioninteractive.com, or visit reflexioninteractive.com.]

Swifte: Transforming the way university students and community carpools by creating a social platform for users to SHARE the ride, SPLIT the cost, and SAVE the environment. [Contact Justine Avoudikpon, justinea@uga.edu, or visit getswifte.com.]

Theatre Galleria: Online marketplace that connects and facilitates exchanges between theaters, theater professionals, prop houses, and costume houses. [Contact Jacquelyn Kroeger, jackie@theatregalleria.com, or visit theatregalleria.com.]


Converse VR: This startup develops educational VR and AR games and experiences to enhance engagement through experiential learning. [Contact Ashton Kennedy, ashtonnkennedy@gmail.com, or visit conversevr.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 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 2016-17 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).

Along with these universities, the SSM tournament is promoted and supported by Walmart Technology and The Blackstone Charitable Foundation. SSM also cross-promotes the tournament with Blackstone LaunchPad, a global campus based entrepreneurship program, with Women 2.0, the leading media brand for the next generation of technology leaders, and with 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.

This year, 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. The first two rounds of competition were held online, with judging conducted via Gust.com, a platform used by angel investors around the world. From the starting field of 64 of the best college startups in America, 32 semi-finalists were chosen in mid-January.

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 the main venue of SXSW Startup Village. For more on Student Startup Madness, visit the website ( https://studentstartupmadness.com ), see us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter: @StartupMad.