The best college digital startups in America are set to meet for Student Startup Madness championship event at SXSW in Austin, TX.

The Entrepreneurial Eight teams have been chosen for the finals of the Student Startup Madness (SSM) tournament, an official session at South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive. These elite college student startups will be in Austin, Texas, on March 13 to pitch before a judging panel of successful entrepreneurs and investors, emcee’d by Jesse Draper, talk show host, investor and founder of Halogen Ventures.

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 over $2,000) and bragging rights as the best student digital 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. At the SSM finals at SXSW, eight elite college student startups will pitch their business to well-known investors and entrepreneurs who can help them transform their idea into success.

The 2016-17 SSM Entrepreneurial Eight Finalists (in alphabetical order)

  • 101 from Carnegie Mellon University
  • Dycap Media Solutions from University of Florida
  • Find Your Ditto from University of Michigan
  • Omnipointment from Illinois Institute of Technology and University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Parihug from Case Western Reserve University
  • Reflexion Interactive Technologies from Case Western Reserve University, Pennsylvania State University and Cornell University
  • Swifte from University of Georgia and University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA)
  • Theatre Galleria from New York University


  • Converse VR from University of Texas at Dallas

“This is our sixth year and every year the competition gets tougher,” says Sean Branagan, creator of the SSM program. “This year, we noticed two trends: more startups — especially the top performing ones — consisted of founders and members from different schools, and more of the founders are women. We have seen both these trends before, but it has noticeably increased this year.”

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 media 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, with judging conducted via, 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. All these student startups are working on digital products and services in dozens of industries, as varied as Business-to-Business Services, Consumer Products, Fashion, Financial Services, Healthcare, Education, Entertainment, Retail, Sports and Travel.

The SSM tournament is promoted by anchor universities in regions across the country 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.

About the Finalists

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

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,, or visit]

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,, or visit]

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

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

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,, or visit]

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,, or visit]

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


Converse VR: This startup develops educational VR and AR games and experiences to enhance engagement through experiential learning. [Contact Ashton Kennedy,, 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 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).

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