Tag: entrepreneurs

IdeaBounce startup pitch

Yesterday I attended my first IdeaBounce. I’m new to WashU (I started working in Olin’s Marketing & Communications department Jan. 4) and the idea of students giving a two-minute business pitch to a room full of strangers seemed intriguing. And, as someone who successfully avoided most forms of public speech through college, it also seemed terrifying.

Olin has a great reputation for turning out successful entrepreneurs—and it isn’t just limited to the business school. WashU has nurtured entrepreneurs from the medical school, the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, and especially Olin and the engineering school. I wanted to watch the beginning of this process.

However, IdeaBounce was not what I expected. Here’s my quick take on my first IdeaBounce experience—and what surprised me most:

1. I incorrectly assumed that only business and engineering undergrads participated in IdeaBounce. Reality is, WashU students from all tracks are looking to launch businesses, and they aren’t all undergrads. The participants ranged from freshmen to those seeking MBAs, executive MBAs, other graduate students, and local entrepreneurs. I think the last point—that IdeaBounce is open to anyone—is particularly important. St. Louis entrepreneurs attend IdeaBounce to polish their ideas, but also to recruit help from WashU students. And, their presence provides a great opportunity for Olin students to make connections and gain experience from those who may be further along in the startup process—that is a win-win.

2. I was most surprised by how far along in the process many of the presenters were. I pictured IdeaBounce as only a way to present brand new business ideas to an audience who could help polish them. However, several presenters had already launched startups and were looking for help getting to the next stage—greater distribution. This included a company that produces pizza-shaped horse treats and a startup creating a special surgical suture (they have a provisional patent and have already tested it on pigs). IdeaBounce, I learned, is more of a way for undergrads, medical students, MBAs, and community business owners (among many others) to connect, share advice, build relationships, and find new resources.

3. I heard additional pitches that are truly cross-disciplinary. In addition to the pizza-shaped horse treats, other ideas included a monthly subscription box that features tools to help managers improve the quality of their meetings, a lifestyle web-magazine focused on living like a Parisian, a specialized camera to identify cancer cells during surgery, and a food delivery app, among others. These ventures were looking for marketers, experts in materials science, full stack developers, and people from other disciplines like art and journalism.

I was surprised at the level of confidence (or how well they faked it) and poise the presenters displayed—at least two of whom were freshmen(!!) seeking to create thermally adaptive insulation for jackets. I was also pleased to see a supportive atmosphere. In fact, the judges don’t rate presenters based on what their idea is, but rather their passion and clarity. If you’re a budding entrepreneur—student or otherwise—it’s definitely worth your while to check out the next IdeaBounce. I’ll see you there!

This fall, Washington University students will have yet another way to get off campus and engage with local innovators: the InSITE Fellowship.

The INSITE Fellowship is a nationally renowned leadership program designed for full-time graduate students interested in entrepreneurship and venture capital. As a partner school, WashU joins a cohort of other top institutions: Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Columbia, NYU, UPenn, Georgetown and UC Berkeley.

In this three-semester program, students will have the opportunity to perform high-impact projects for local startups and venture capital firms. The fellowship also connects students with a nationwide network of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, through annual sponsored events, such as:

  • Free passes to South by Southwest (AirBnB even dontates housing for the INSITE Fellows in Austin, TX!)
  • A fireside chat with Fred Wilson, author of the popular AVC blog, and co-founder of Union Square Ventures, a NYC venture capital firm known for its investments in tech companies like Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare, Zynga, and Kickstarter
  • INSITE Connect, a biannual conference where fellows present their projects

All full-time Business, Law and Engineering graduate students are welcome to apply. The deadline is THIS WEDNESDAY, 9/23 at 11:59 pm. APPLY NOW  

Please reach out to Jessica Stanko (stanko@wustl.edu) with any questions!

Debbie Sterling graduated from Stanford in 2005, the year that Steve Jobs delivered his now famous commencement address, emphasizing the importance of following one’s passion. Jobs’ message combined with the encouragement of a high school teacher to study engineering, and a self described “itch” to change the world, sent Sterling on a mission to create toys to “get girls building.”

Sterling launched her award winning toy company GoldiBlox in 2013. She spoke at the Leadership Perspective Series: The Female Entrepreneur’s Guide to Raising Startup Capital, sponsored by Olin’s Executive MBA program and held at the Knight Center March 26. Sterling described her entrepreneurial journey and how she went about raising startup capital.

Sterling began raising funds first by saving up enough money to quit her job as a brand manager for a jewelry company. Next, she submitted an application for an elite capital accelerator program that rejected her idea. Then she tried friends and family, and finally Kickstarter, an online threshold pledge system for funding creative projects.

She said that in the beginning, she had absolutely no interest in asking family and friends for money. “But once I asked, I believed that GoldiBlox was a great investment, and anyone who got involved would be lucky to be a part of it.”

The accolades for Sterling and Sterling’s company have rolled in steadily since she got funded. For Sterling, Time’s “Person of the Moment” and Business Insider’s “30 Women Who Are Changing the World”.

Honors for GoldiBlox include:

  • Most Audacious Companies of 2014, Inc. Magazine
  • World’s Most Innovative Companies of 2014, Fast Company
  • Educational Toy of the Year 2014, Toy Industry Association
  • People’s Choice Toy of the Year 2014, Toy Industry Association

The session with Sterling also included a panel discussion on the topic of raising startup capital facilitated by Michelle Duguid, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior at Olin, Maxine Clark, Founder of Build-A-Bear Workshop and Mary Jo Gorman, Lead Managing Partner of Prosper Capital.



Get a behind the scenes look at the road to the Olin Cup Competition final round with the Epi Squared Team in this video. The team is made up of undergraduate and graduate students from the School of Engineering & Applied Science, Olin Business School and the School of Medicine. They are developing an implantable device that would serve as a mobile solution to reducing the severity of epileptic seizures.

The Olin Cup Awards Ceremony is Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, at 5 p.m. in May Auditorium. For more details, see story about keynote speaker David Karandish, CEO, Answers.com.

Finalists in this year’s Olin Cup competition are:

      • Epi Squared*, developing an implantable mobile solution to reduce severity of epileptic seizures;
      • Farmplicity*, an online marketplace making it easy for chefs to acquire local food;
      • Genetix Fusion*, developing the next generation of transfection kits for biomedical researchers;
      • Nanopore Diagnostics*, developing products that provide immediate molecular diagnostic testing;
      •  Stumpy’s Spirits*, locally sourced grain-to-glass premium spirits distiller;
      •  SynerZ Medical, developing an outpatient device for treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes; and
      • Zymplr, developing a helmet designed to reduce concussions in high-impact sports.

Teams marked with an asterisk * include Washington University students who are eligible for the $5,000 student cash prize.

Thanks to WUSTL Public Affairs for sharing this video.


We’ve heard it for the past few years—St. Louis is a hub of startup activity.  There’s an energy, a buzz, a whirr about the town and it’s catching on.  And now—our little secret is spreading.

St. Louis is getting national attention for the startups that call it home.  And the really cool part?  Wash U MBAs (both current and alums) are a huge part of the action.

Last week Ben Castleman of The Wall Street Journal ran a story called, “Cities Hunt for Startup Magic.”   In it, he profiled the entrepreneurs who were bucking national trends by launching their own companies—and he profiled the city in which they were doing it:  St. Louis.

Accompanying his article was a video called “Will St. Louis become the next Silicon Valley.?” Cultivation Capital General Partner and Olin alum Rick Holton was a key part of the story, describing how St. Louis emerged as a hub for entrepreneurship.

But the St. Louis startup love didn’t stop there.  Last week, James Corbett put together this snapshot of St. Louis entrepreneurship It takes viewers inside the  T-Rex startup city.  Current Olin MBA Geoff Stonner describes his work with FoodEssentials and what it’s like being a part of the community (if you pay close attention, I even make a cameo in there at one point).

The takeaway?  Big things are happening here in St. Louis.  This is a town that is proving that entrepreneurs don’t have to pack up and move to the coasts to be successful.  In fact, St. Louis is proving that startups can even be more successful and their employees can lead better, happier lives by basing themselves here.  Five years ago, that thought might have sounded crazy.  Today, it’s a reality.  And Washington University Olin MBAs are a huge part of that success.

Photo credit: postcard collage by Jeff Kopp.

On paper, Israel should cease to exist as a country.

Despite being flanked by unfriendly neighbors and stuck in a small yet heavily contested dessert land with nearly no natural resources, Israel thrives.

I visited Israel two summers ago and witnessed the effect of the Israeli situation; I was yelled at for not ordering my falafel quickly enough, rudely interrupted while in conversation and ignored when others spoke in Hebrew on purpose. At the time, I was offended. To be frank, I still am a little offended at certain shawarma stands. When I returned home, however, I read the book Start-Up Nation at the recommendation of my Rabbi and everything was suddenly put into perspective.

Israelis aren’t rude, Israelis are direct. Israelis aren’t disrespectful, Israelis just feel the need to challenge authority. When one’s life is constantly under threat, there is no time for American politeness and pleasantries that simply take up time. Get to the point, order some shawarma or get out.

When I discovered that there was a class that studied the business, entrepreneurship and innovation of this resilient country called Israel, I was enthralled. The opportunity to meld together two of my greatest interests, entrepreneurship and Israel, was the best way to truly design a college education that I would be interested in. The ability to discover firsthand what I had read in Start-Up Nation, but was too young to understand when I initially visited Israel, seems really like the chance to redeem myself and give back to Israel.

While Start-Up Nation was certainly an inspiring read, in reality this book resembles nothing more than a jumping off point for my studies. I thirst to discuss the content of this book, research further into venture capital and discover other Israeli startups with students around me, something the book did not cover. Even the first day of class, a classic lesson on venture capital, was more exhilarating than most of my other classes combined. I had no idea about the intricacies of venture capital, let alone its relationship with Israel.

Ultimately, I am looking forward to returning to Israel and speaking with true professionals that exemplify what I have only read in class. The exciting itinerary will certainly keep our group busy and challenged throughout our entire trip. Examining Israel through a business lens has revealed an entirely new dimension that my Sunday School teachers never taught me. Additionally, I consider myself to have that same burning entrepreneurial spirit exemplified by the Israelis and hope to expand my own horizons by examining their culture and the Israeli entrepreneur.

Olin Business School, Class of 2017
Hometown: Chicago

The Business, Innovation & Entrepreneurship in Israel course at Olin Business School provides WUSTL undergraduates an opportunity to understand the interconnectedness between culture, politics and business, and how all three produce a unique and successful business environment in Israel. Students travel to Israel during spring break to learn first-hand about the Israeli business culture. Students in this course are asked to reflect about their in-class takeaways, as well as throughout their immersion trip to Israel.