UChicago Students Host First Annual Phoenix Pitch

On Friday, February 13, student teams from across the City came together at the University of Chicago’s newly opened Chicago Innovation Exchange in Hyde Park, for an afternoon of networking and competition at the first annual Phoenix Pitch. Designed as an intercollegiate event, Phoenix Pitch provides a novel opportunity for college students interested in entrepreneurship to build new connections and get valuable feedback on their business ideas.

The Chicago Innovation Exchange played host to over 80 participants from local universities including the University of Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology, DePaul University and University of Illinois at Chicago. Prior to the event, teams were asked to submit one-line idea descriptions and 30 second video pitches for the 1st and 2nd Rounds of selection.

Ten finalists were selected through participant voting during the event and had the chance to pitch in front a fantastic panel of judges who donated 2 hours of their time to provide advice to student teams. Judges included Rick Zullo, Vice President at Lightbank; Alida Miranda-Wolff, Associate Manager at Hyde Park Angels; Imran Ahmad, Principal at OCA Ventures; Shradha Agarwal, President and Co-Founder of Context Media; Shreena Amin, Co-Founder and COO at Pretty Quick; and Robert Rosenberg, Adjunct Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Booth School of Business.  Team mentors included Stelios Constantinides and Kathleen Qiu from Reliefwatch, Vilius Zaikauskas from Enova, Hunter Riley and Aaron Langford from Schlep.it, Michael Gaiss from ThinkB1G, Chris Stavitsky from Vintage Campus, Nate Williams from Flex.io, and Jason Rowley.

A team led by UChicago physics graduate student, Ge Yang took the top prize with Escherpad  a collaborative note-taking application. Prepify, a test prep startup offering adaptive SAT study materials, led by second-year College student Connor Soltas took second place and Trash-to-Tomato, led by IIT student Prasanna Deshpande, took third place with a pitch to help restaurants turn their waste into organic tomatoes.

Judge Miranda-Wolff commented, “Intercollegiate programs like Phoenix Pitch are key to building relationships across the Chicago entrepreneurial community. We build better products and teams when we collaborate, and until recently, universities served as their own entrepreneurship islands. This was a great step in bringing the community together and I have no doubt the next Phoenix Pitch will be bigger, better, and brighter.”

The event was made possible thanks to the remarkable support from a number of partner organizations and generous sponsors including Mastercard, Enova and Flex.io. Special thanks goes out to University of Chicago Careers in Entrepreneurship, Chicago Innovation Exchange, Edge, IIT MAD, Microsoft Student Partners, and Google.

The Phoenix Pitch committee was made up of University of Chicago students Shaan Sapra, Shao-Yi Qian, Jawwad Zakaria, Grace Lu, and Cooper Zajac.  Qian commented, “The entire team was thrilled by the turnout and to see our efforts come to fruition. Our goal has always been to promote a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation among Chicago college students; it is so important to provide students with the opportunities to cultivate their passions and connect them with the resources that will become key to their future success, whether its peers or mentors.” 

The intent of Phoenix Pitch is to become an annual event for the college students of Chicago. Continuing on the success of the first annual Phoenix Pitch, the team is already planning for the next Phoenix Pitch to hopefully bring even more students together to celebrate innovation and entrepreneurship.

For more information about judges and mentors, visit www.phoenixpitch.com/pitch

For complete event details, visit www.phoenixpitch.com

For all pictures of the event, visit http://bit.ly/17VMeHn

For any questions, email phoenixpitch@gmail.com or call (626) 476-3427