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Five minutes to impress

Five minutes. That’s how much time the hopeful entrepreneurs had to pitch their ideas to potential investors. While this may seem stressful, the fledgling businessmen and women—the purveyors of more than a dozen startups affiliated with IDEA, Northeastern’s student-run Venture Accelerator—reveled in the challenge on Wednesday night at District Hall, Boston’s new innovation center.

Think Shark Tank, but a little friendlier.

“Pitch-a-thon is a powerful showcase of all the hard work and effort our ventures put into their businesses,” said IDEA CEO Nick Naraghi, DMSB’15. “It’s exciting to watch them progress through IDEA’s stage gates and grow into investment-ready businesses.”

Indeed, IDEA helps stu­dents and alumni create, develop, and accel­erate new busi­nesses through coaching, men­toring, and funding. Since its inception in 2009, the student-run venture accelerator has helped launch 30 startups, which have received more than $12 million in external funding.

On Wednesday evening, a variety of startups from industries ranging from tech to retail made an impression with potential investors, some of whom may soon help these businesses grow and achieve success.

Several entrepreneurs discussed their innovative ideas to improve upon existing industries, like online trading, advertising, and healthcare. Others, like Ryan Wright, E’09, see a market for a completely new type of product.

“People are constantly running out of battery life on their smartphones,” Wright said. “There’s currently no way to charge your device, especially if you’re outdoors.”

And so he created Sol Power, a company that builds outdoor solar-powered cell phone charging stations that enable users to lock up their phones and return later to a fully charged device.

Other fledgling entrepreneurs who pitched their startups hope to improve the daily grind, like Johnny Fayad and Ali Kothari, both DMSB’17. They cofounded New Grounds Food, creating a coffee bar that packs the same punch as an espresso shot and marketing the product to Boston-area cafes.

“After one too many spilled coffees rushing to class, we thought there had to be a better way to get yourself going in the morning,” Fayad said.