Send in the entrepreneurs

As bone-chilling winds swept across the city of Boston Wednesday night, Daniel Hennagin, E’17, stood confidently in the slightly warmer confines of Northeastern’s Cabot Cage donning a black tank top with the phrase, “I’m exercising my right to bare arms.”

At first glance, the chemical engineering major appeared severely underdressed for this time of year; but on this night, he had a good reason to go sleeveless. His tank top production company, Send In The Tanks, was one of about 50 ventures on display at NEXPO, the semi-annual celebration of entrepreneurs.

The event is sponsored by IDEA, Northeastern’s student-run venture accelerator, which provides students and alumni with a range of resources—mentorship and coaching, gap funding, and connections to investors, to name a few—to help turn their entrepreneurial ideas into thriving businesses.

“It’s really hard to break into the apparel industry, especially in a place where people can only wear your clothes to the gym or five months out of the year,” explained Hennagin, who was participating in his third NEXPO event. His company’s tank tops come in a variety of colors and with a range of slogans to show funny can also be cool.

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IDEA’s CEO Max Kaye, DMSB’14, said this semester’s NEXPO provided a valuable opportunity for ventures to showcase their work to the entrepreneurial community and network with the some 450 attendees.

Tiffany Kelley, a 2008 alumna of Northeastern’s nursing graduate program and MBA program, participated in her second NEXPO event. Kelley founded the mobile health information technology company Nightingale Apps, which said generated a lot of interest from attendees both within and outside the healthcare industry.

Kelley said Nightingale Apps is trying to improve patient care while also making nurses’ lives a little easier on the job. The venture’s first mobile app is called Know My Patient; it offers workflow specific modules that allow nurses to use patient information more efficiently.

“We got such awesome feedback,” Kelley said. “There aren’t a lot of nurses here but a lot of people are interested in what we are doing.”

Kelley, who is a part-time lecturer in the School of Nursing, has worked closely with IDEA to help develop her venture. She took part in the organization’s alumni boot camp and is working on a business plan in the hopes of getting gap funding.

IDEA is an important part of Northeastern University’s larger ecosystem that supports and fosters the entrepreneurial spirit of its students, staff, and alumni. Another is the Husky Startup Challenge. Sponsored by the Northeastern Entrepreneurs Club, HSC is a semester-long business development competition that includes bootcamps, networking events, and an end-of-semester demo day.

The winner of the spring 2013 Husky Startup Challenge’s audience favorite award was CoffeeBar, whose co-founders and first employee were at NEXPO with samples of the company’s mocha latte bar. It’s an all-natural, vegan, gluten-free bar that contains a shot of espresso.

Co-founders Johnny Fayad and Ali Kothari, both DMSB’17, came up with the idea last year to combine a nutritious bar with a cup of joe after realizing last year they often didn’t have time in the morning to make breakfast and coffee.

“Learning food science was really interesting and a little difficult on top of learning how to run a business,” Fayad said. “But it has been very rewarding.”