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Student innovation is awarded at ‘Tribe Tank’

  • Pitching the idea:
    Pitching the idea:  Mason MBA student Hans Boateng presents his idea, Madro, which would provide a delivery system for expatriates to supply their family members in Ghana with needed chronic medications.  Photo by Cortney Langley
  • Pitching the idea:
    Pitching the idea:  Tribe Tank contestants, organizers and judges line up for a group shot after the contest, during which five of the eight teams won awards.  Photo by Cortney Langley
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A toaster small enough to fit in a backpack, a pepper-spray phone case, an app to find the best parties and another for food delivery after the party were awarded last week at Tribe Tank, William & Mary’s answer to the hit TV show, “Shark Tank.”

Eight teams competed for cash prizes and makerspace grants in the event organized by the Student Marketing Association and the Design Thinking Club and hosted at the Raymond A. Mason Business School. The organizers are hoping to make it an annual event.

“Our goal is for participants to walk away with valuable pitching experience that they can use in interviews and resumes, for the audience to be inspired to innovate and learn valuable tips about pitching and for the judges to be so impressed with William & Mary students that they share via their networks what our students have to offer the real world,” said Alicia Howard, Student Marketing Association president.

Among the five judges was Danny Mastronardo, cofounder of Nardo’s Natural, a family-owned organic skincare line awarded with an investment on ABC’s “Shark Tank.”

Joining Mastronardo in judging were Laura Markley ’07, director of finance and operations for New Richmond Ventures, a Richmond-based venture capital firm, and Graham Henshaw, clinical professor of entrepreneurship at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business and former director of venture development at New Richmond Ventures. Small Hall Makerspace directors Wouter Deconinck, assistant professor of physics, and Josh Erlich, Class of 2017 Associate Professor of Physics, also judged.

The first-place winner was Owler, presented by Ryan Metzger ’18. It is a social media app that would allow campus users to upload party information and for attendees to rate the party in real time. It would be integrated with Steer Clear to provide safe transportation.

Daniel Hansen, Neil McLean, John Murphy and Kent Rollins, all Class of 2018 members, presented RiteBite, an app enabling students to order food from area restaurants and have it delivered, presenting one interface to customers and another to delivery drivers. The team took second place.

Though the Maker Space originally planned to provide one grant, in the end it awarded two groups, Travel Toast and Spray-Away.

Travel Toast was presented by Thompson Hangen ’15, who said he was inspired by the idea of a scaled-down, portable toaster while doing missionary work in Russia during the winter.

Moises Romero ’19 presented Spray-Away, a cartridge-based pepper spray delivery system that would be built into cell phone cases.

A fifth prize, based on audience feedback, went to Universe, presented by Chris Hoyle ’18 and Asher Smith-Rose ’18. Another social media app, Universe would pull all the disparate pieces of information on campus into one place so students wouldn’t have to track event calendars, listservs, multiple social media accounts and the like.

Other teams included:

  • ComFlo, presented by Ryan Yan ’16, is software to render usable and create visualizations of the vast raw data presented in the Bureau of Transportation Statistics' Commodity Flow Survey, which tracks freight shipments in a wide range of industries.
  • Madro, presented by Mason MBA student Hans Boateng, would provide a delivery system for expatriates to supply their family members in Ghana with needed chronic medications. Boateng has an eye set on expanding to other African nations.
  • Sweet Chic, presented by Mason marketing student Hashim Ahmed, would be a high-end women’s clothing line marketed online.

Offering advice to all of the groups, the judges recommended testing their assumptions, considering business partners (with caution), researching the market and soliciting input from others.

“I commend you for having your eyes open to seeing opportunities and for coming up with potential solutions,” Henshaw told the eight teams. “Keep going. I heard a lot of great ideas, and I think there are seeds to something that could be real if you keep going.”

Mastronardo praised the performance and delivery of all of the competitors.

“We had some notes of what we were looking for,” he said, “and a lot of you guys touched every one of those points. It was really impressive.”