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UT Students Shine at New Venture Expo

By JENNA MANTO

A place for new ideas to be hatched in the incubators and businesses to come alive, the Daly Innovation and Collaboration Building for UT’s future entrepreneurs, hosted the New Venture Exposition on April 14 to present and judge graduate and undergraduate seniors’ business ideas.

Over 25 businesses were presented to the judging panel starting at 9 a.m., which consisted of members of the Lowth Center advisory board, entrepreneurs, UT faculty, and other members of of the entrepreneurial scene in Tampa.

Students’ business teams were set up at tables around the top floor of the ICB building and consisted of concepts from caffeinated cookies to marijuana cookies, from removable heels to organic women’s clothing.

The judges picked winners for each category: tech, online and application; retail and product; healthcare and services; food and beverage, hospitality and entertainment.

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Bret Harris, director of business development at Indiegogo, was one of the many judges for the competition. While judging, Harris looked for presentation of the business, connection, eye contact, personality, and most importantly, passion. He also looked at funding, the competitor landscape and how the business will differentiate themselves in the market.

“I was really blown away by some of the products. You can tell the community here is really invested. Tampa seems to be a really up and coming market,” Harris said.

Three undergraduate seniors majoring in entrepreneurship, Robin Roossien, William Wynn, and John Hamre, all collaborated to come up with their app, SpecScore, about a year ago.

SpecScore is “The world’s first gamification device for spectators at sports games,” according to Hamre. “To put it simply, it opens the doors for gambling at sports like basketball, football, or hockey.”

The app is not direct gambling though as you can win prizes, discounts, and promotions such as a free beer in the arena and discounts outside the sporting arena.

“It’s come a long way in a few months. It would be nice if this actually became an actual thing. It’s still a long ways off from that,” Hamre said.

The trio still has to code the app which consists of complex algorithms.

Another business collaboration team composed of undergraduates Mariner Cheney, Patrick Schroeder, and Matt Phillips, has come up with the concept of an app called LiftSync, which began in October 2015. LiftSync won second place in the retail and product category.

LiftSync is designed to connect two wearable wristbands to the app to track how much an athletes is lifting, their reps, sets, power, and velocity. The information sent to the app then helps inform the coaches.

The team is looking to launch their product in August and to sell to universities and professional sports teams.

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A table of two undergraduate entrepreneurship majors, Jim Hoff and Tyler Moffa, were pitching the idea of a opening a marijuana dispensary, KeefStreet, in Boston, Massachusetts, where recreational marijuana recently became legal.

Hoff has had a longtime interest in getting into the cannabis industry which sparked the idea for KeefStreet.

They hope to open in 2018, selling every possible cannabis product such as weed itself, weed cookies, and bongs.

“We want to monopolize the entire marijuana sector,” Hoff said. “We’re going to expand to all the surrounding states as they become legal. We’re going to vertically integrate so none of our investment capital is ever going to leave the supply chain.”

Another team comprised of undergraduates Hasan Alkhlor, Mohmmed Guennouni, and Hitch Belkhyayat, presented their business Simo Juice, which sells cold pressed juices with supplements including one for anti-stress with an immune boost. They took home first place in the food and beverage category.

Although they are not selling the product yet they hope to launch next month online in Tampa and get into stores.

“We follow the philosophy of Hippocrates, ‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine and medicine thy food,’” Alkhlor said.

After winning, Alkhlor admitted that he was unaware there were even prizes being given out.

“As soon as I heard there was a competition between food and beverage I kind of expected  that we would win especially because the judges are familiar with our products, they’ve tried our products and they like them,” Alkhlor said.

Jenna Manto can be reached at jenna.manto@spartans.ut.edu.

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