How the Husky Startup Challenge Has Inspired Student Founders
The Husky Startup Challenge is Northeastern's semester-long venture incubator and flagship program of the Entrepreneurs Club. The program helps students become founders and entrepreneurs through several boot camps and personal mentorship.
Last semester, I had the honor to act as co-director of this program, working with the rest of the team to support 46 new student ventures full of motivated and ambitious student entrepreneurs. The program concludes in a pitch completion, known as Demo Day, where the top 12 ventures get to pitch on stage for up to $6,000 in cash prizes. Each of these ventures has inspired me personally, specifically our winners, Haley Weinstein, Matt Swenson, Leonardo Piantanida, and Ben Brown.
“No one has to stop playing music”
Haley won first place at Demo Day and went home with $2,500 for her startup. Haley came into her first HSC boot camp passionate about music and engineering. She noticed the lack of practice spaces on campus and in shared areas like college dorms. I remember meeting her at her first boot camp and seeing how motivated and driven she was to create a tool that “made sure no one has to stop playing music”. With the tools and resources from boot camps, she went on to create Diminuendo, a tool that allows musicians to play their instruments and sing anywhere without bothering others using cutting edge active noise cancellation technology.
Haley came into the program with an idea and walked out with a startup. “HSC taught me a lot about how business and engineering can go hand in hand and introduced me to so many incredible motivated people”. When asked what she would tell potential participants of the program Haley said: “it’s a great way to make connections and while it is hard to start, once you do it is so worth it!” She’s currently in the process of joining other Mosaic organizations and bringing in other co-founders so she can focus on what she loves to do, the tech development. As an engineering major and avid saxophone player, Haley is determined to make music more accessible to everyone.
“An idea close to his heart”
Matt, the founder of SmartyPill and second place winner of Fall 2019, first came into HSC with an idea close to his heart. He wanted to be able to save lives and provide peace of mind to family members of those who need to take multiple pills a day. Before HSC, he felt like he “needed to do many things by [himself] when it came to [his] startup” Through the mentorship and the friends he gained during the semester he “realized that [he] didn’t need to do things alone and that [he] could learn from others and their entrepreneurial experience to apply to [his] own”. He was a huge part of the HSC community, he even wore the Entrepreneurs Club cape around campus the entire week before Demo Day in our game of “Catch the Cape”.
Matt created an automated medication management system that is far more accessible than any other in the market. He has created multiple prototypes with his three other co-founders and is well on their way to obtaining a patent for the device. Matt has also taken everything he learned through the program and applied it to win first place at Startup Summit Boston. His advice for everyone is “don’t be discouraged by your idea. If you think it has merit, and you’re motivated to bring it to fruition, join HSC”.
“An invaluable experience”
Leonardo and Ben joined HSC hoping to revolutionize the glasses experience and help people get a better fit out of their eyewear. They knew that many consumers are unsatisfied with how their glasses fit. With this understanding, they set out to create Thea, a startup that provides custom-fit 3D printed glasses that fit perfectly to the contours of your face. The company utilizes “new technology and addresses a wide pain point in people’s everyday lives”. Leonardo and Ben won third place together on the Demo Day stage and went home with $1000.
Upon further conversations with Leonardo, it was really clear just how much the Husky Startup Challenge program fostered his growth. Before HSC, he “was afraid of starting [his] own journey in [the entrepreneurial community]”. He describes the program as a “game-changer” and explained how the boot camps taught him and his partner how to conduct effective market research and helped them in identifying their Customer Value Proposition. His message to every student at Northeastern is “to join HSC, as it’s an invaluable experience that you will cherish… [it] will allow you not only to make strong and meaningful connections but also help you unlock your potential towards creativity and passion for innovation”. Thea is currently focused on prototyping and are working with other MOSAIC organizations such as IDEA, Northeastern’s venture accelerator.
Each of these newly formed startups had unique growth within the Husky Startup Challenge; however, they can all agree that the program has helped them enter the entrepreneurial communities at Northeastern and in the Greater Boston Area and has given them a strong community of passionate, determined and motivated individuals, ready to help them. The Husky Startup Challenge and the Entrepreneurs Club as a whole are dedicated to supporting our community of individuals, such as Haley, Matt, Leonardo, and Ben, who are committed to self-improvement and the entrepreneurial-mindset. Each of our winners persevered through their own challenges and their work paid off, literally, when they each went home with a 3 by 1.5-foot check and seed funding for their ventures. We are so thrilled to have been able to support them at the beginning of their entrepreneurial journey and we look forward to working with them during the rest of it.
Our doors here at the Entrepreneurs Club are always open, we look to work with motivated and driven students from all fields and help them bring their ideas to fruition with internal and external opportunities and by growing their connections. The organization really is here to support and lift up every hidden gem within Northeastern’s community.
Here’s to educating, inspiring, and empowering Northeastern students to become the entrepreneurs, innovators, and leaders of tomorrow.
On behalf of the entire Executive Board and Community,
Head of Community