Top US college digital media startup named at SXSW; ‘Entrepreneurial Eight’ teams win surprise money

Maidbot, a startup with students from three universities—Cornell, Georgia Tech and Carnegie Mellon—takes top prize in the Student Startup Madness tournament, while teams from Syracuse University and Washington University in St. Louis round out the top three finalists.

RELEASE Wednesday, March 16, 2016 – Austin, TX – As the South By Southwest (SXSW) festival shifts to the music portion this week, some of the hottest student startups are returning to classes after competing against each other on stage in front of a panel of investors, entrepreneurs, technologists and attendees at SXSW Interactive.

A robotics venture aimed at creating efficiencies and safety in the hospitality industry, Maidbot, was named National Champion in the Student Startup Madness (SSM) 2015-16 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.

MaidBot created an industrial-strength vacuum system for hotels and commercial properties, developed by a team of engineering and business students from Cornell University, the Georgia Institute of Technology and Carnegie Mellon University. In second place was ChaChing, from Syracuse University, which created a mobile keyboard-based money-transfer system, so money can be exchanged between two people via text, even if the receiving party does not have the app. Third place was FoodShare, from Washington University in St. Louis, with a mobile app that transforms partner restaurants into social enterprises, allowing users to donate a meal when buying a meal, via photos.

The SSM event on Monday, March 14, 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: $5,000 for first place, $3,000 for second, $2,000 for third and $1,000 to each of the other finalists.

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. “The Millers didn’t want any fanfare or pre-announcement of the prize. They just have a genuine and authentic interest in helping young entrepreneurs go out and change the world,” Branagan says. “In many ways, what Bryan and Heather Dawn are doing is a tribute to Larry’s legacy.”

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

  • Martin Babinec, entrepreneur, angel investor and chairman of the board and founder of TriNet
  • Laura Chau, associate, technology team, Canaan Partners
  • Sandy Khaund, entrepreneur, technologist and chief technology officer, InStadium

They were joined by emcee and tie-breaking judge, David Eilers, an entrepreneur, medical technology executive and director of strategic development of the Life Reimagined Institute.

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 $5,000 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—Maidbot—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 their three universities.

About the Entrepreneurial Eight 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,, or visit]

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,, or visit]

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,, or visit]

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,, or visit]

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,, or visit]

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,, or visit]

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,]

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,, or visit]

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 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), St. 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).

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, a platform used by angel investors around the world. The Entrepreneurial Eight were announced in late January and invited to come to SXSW in Austin, Texas.

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 (, see us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter: @StartupMad.