Students pitch new ventures at Entrepalooza

Members of the Startup Lab course presented their entrepreneurial ideas to students, faculty and investors


Dakin Moore

at Entrepalooza Photo courtesy of Dakin Moore In front of hundreds of people in attendance, these 11 students presented their new business pitches that they have been developing in their Startup Lab class since October.

Kristen Heilenman, Contributing Writer

On April 7, more than 400 people gathered in Brendle Auditorium in Scales Fine Arts Center to celebrate the sixth annual Entrepalooza event. Hosted by the Center of Entrepreneurship, this event allowed nine groups of Wake Forest students to present their entrepreneurial ventures. 

The students who presented at this event are a part of the Startup Lab class (ENT399) in the Entrepreneurship program. They applied to be enrolled in the course last September and were selected in October. This year, there were more than 70 applicants of which nine were chosen. 

Gregory Pool — director of the Startup Lab and assistant professor of the practice of entrepreneurship — is extremely pleased with the outcome and recognizes the time-intensive aspect of the event.

“We had nine student ventures who were pitching,” Pool said. “They spent hundreds of hours working on the ventures themselves, but at least dozens of hours and dozens of run-throughs of the pitches in order to be ready for the event.”

One of the student entrepreneurs is senior David Sinclair. He pitched his venture “Armago”, an app that helps university campuses organize and advertise their intramural, club and varsity sporting events. Originally from the United Kingdom, Sinclair and his friends recognized the lack of sports in university life and wanted to find a solution. According to Sinclair, Armago ran a poll that found 90% of students in the U.K. wanted more sports involvement.

“We wanted to find a more fun, interesting, social way to fix the issue of sports involvement at the university level,” Sinclair said. “We came up with ‘Armago’. It’s simply an app to facilitate all of your club and intramural needs and spread all of that information regarding intramural, club and varsity sporting events all across your campus. We’re currently helping club communities, and, in turn, university campuses as a whole, create that thriving, interactive sporting atmosphere full of actively engaged members.”

Sinclair emphasizes the many positive aspects of Startup Lab — especially the support from those inside and outside the program. 

“I wanted to do it because the culture in the Startup Lab program was fantastic,” Sinclair said. “Everyone was always helping each other out, and that’s a big reason why I chose to come to Wake Forest — because of the culture of everyone lending a hand.” 

A diverse range of people attended the event — ranging from students to faculty to investors.

“There were faculty there, staff was there, students were there,” Daniel Cohen, co-founder of the Startup Lab and a professor of the practice of entrepreneurship, said. “Not just the students in the entrepreneurship minor, but also students who might be interested in Afton Vechery because she built a company based on women’s reproductive health.” 

He continued: “We had qualified investors that actually invest in the Startup Lab teams present, and we had professors from other universities there. And we had members of our community in Winston-Salem. So, we had a very eclectic mix of attendees.”

Another student who presented their venture at the event was senior Andrew Rust. He presented “ByteSize Learning”, an initiative to increase childhood education in computer science.

“It’s an education company for children offering them instructional experiences in software or technology,” Rust said. “Anything from coding languages like Python or Java to what I call creative design or multimedia software — Photoshop, video editing, game design, music production — stuff that’s meant to give children unique technological skills that I think can be really effective in a child’s future.”

Pool is optimistic that the students who presented gained real-world experience and confidence in their ventures.

“First of all, I think they killed it,” Pool said. “So I hope they take away some self-confidence in the fact that they can do that, and they can talk for five to six minutes in front of a crowd of hundreds of people about a venture that they’re working on. I hope they got some good exposure that could lead to them getting some traction for the ventures that they’re working on.”

Both Rust and Sinclair gained many connections as a result of Entrepalooza and are hopeful about the future. 

“At the end of the day, it was more about the connections and learning more about the business world,” Sinclair said. “And that definitely happened. We went to dinner afterwards, and it was great. I mean, I’ve never heard such stories from some really, really successful people before. It was fantastic. Some of these guys are just incredible, and it just shows that there are so many great connections that can be made.”

At the event, Vechery gave a keynote presentation. Vechery graduated from Wake Forest in 2011 and is the co-founder of Modern Fertility — a company designated to provide accessible, at-home fertility tests and care. 

“[Vechery] is just an absolute dynamic speaker and role model,” Cohen said. “She built Modern Fertility from scratch to a $225 million exit, and it was just a bonus to have her rockstar husband, Zach Perret, be the moderator for this event.”

In terms of the event, Sinclair hopes more Wake Forest students become aware of the opportunities it presents and, hopefully, become more involved with it.

“I should say, again, the event yesterday was seriously phenomenal,” Sinclair said. “And I really do think more Wake Forest students should be aware of it and also get involved because there are some seriously fantastic opportunities that come from it.”

All in all, Pool sees the positive outcome from the event and acknowledged the achievements of the students.

“I think what they did was awesome,” Pool said. “I think the event was great. I hope everybody who attended just had a blast, because I know I did. And I was truly impressed with what they were able to accomplish and what they were able to do.”