Shark infested waters infiltrated College Station last night when Startup Aggieland and the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship (CNVE) hosted a Shark Frenzy for student startup businesses.
The event was based on the television show, Shark Tank where businesses make pitches to the “sharks,” or potential investors. At Shark Frenzy, 12 student businesses made their case to seven business owners including Mark Bowles, Phil Graves, Michael Descheneaux, Clint Bybee, Nathan Day, Bob Metcalfe, and Chris Valletta.
The businesses ranged from moving companies to software developers. A company which helps businesses keep track of their partners, take notes on them and act as a personal relationship manager called Ryze won the Mayor’s Cup Grand Prize, and there was a three-way tie for best pitch between Tucke, Voyager and Saber.
“What Startup Aggieland's Silicon Valley Bank Shark Frenzy does for Texas A&M University students and faculty is give them real world, relevant experience not found in classrooms,” said marketing coordinator for CNVE Shelly Brenckman. “The event attracts investors and entrepreneurs from the West and East Coasts -- and around our state, who come to campus for a glimpse of the ‘next big thing.’”
Trucke, an uber for moving company, was founded by Derick Maduk and Dayo Okanlawon, class of 2015. The company uses college students to help people move in and out of their homes.
“I’m really hoping that we will be able to display what Trucke can provide for the community and be able to display what the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship will enable us to accomplish,” Okanlawon said. “Startup Aggieland is a great program that can really help any business accelerate and move fast, and I think the opportunities they’ve given us are immeasurable.”
Animal sciences junior McCalley Cunningham co-founded her business End Hunger, which provides a nutritional meal to someone in a developing country every time you buy one of their food products. Cunningham said Shark Frenzy is a great opportunity for young entrepreneurs.
“It doesn’t matter if you win or you lose,” Cunningham said. “You are making an impact because you are telling people what your name and your story is and how you and your business are going to change the world.”
One of the purposes of hosting an event like this is to increase the publicity of student-run businesses and encourage entrepreneurship, according to President of the Texas A&M Entrepreneurship Society and chemical engineering junior Jake Blasingame.
“We are a big school and relative to campus we are still trying to build up Startup Aggieland,” Blasingame said. “Students will be able to raise some eyebrows and raise capital from the investors, and it’s a great sign for the companies that are here.”
One shark, Phil Graves, class of 2004 and Director of Corporate Development at Patagonia, said it is encouraging to see the innovation happening at Texas A&M.
“As a Texas Aggie who lives on the West Coast, it is great to see this startup mentality ecosystem be built up in Texas at Texas A&M,” Graves said. “Given the fact that A&M is stepping up and promoting startups through startup Aggieland is going to be a game changer for us because innovation and business are powerful forces.”
Madison Jones, Jared Knowles,and Matt Kinsel, class of 2014, won the Shark Frenzy two years ago with their business that connects inventors with the global market.
“There are so many connections and open doors that’ll come through this,” Knowles said. “The deals we got with our products most likely would not have happened without the preparation that we put in for this event.”
Okanlawon said he gives a lot of credit to Startup Aggieland for growing and shaping his business, especially by hosting events such as Shark Frenzy.
“An event like this gives student businesses national exposure that any day they just can’t get,” Okanlawon said. “I ask myself everyday where we would be without Startup Aggieland, without events like this, and we wouldn’t be where we are today.”