Demo Day celebrates student innovation

After seven weeks of intense development and preparation, the young entrepreneurs behind 16 student-created startups presented their ventures to the Northeastern community at the Husky Startup Challenge’s Demo Day on Monday night in the Curry Student Center ballroom.

Presented by the Northeastern Entrepreneurs Club, the Husky Startup Challenge is a business development competition aimed at helping Northeastern students and alumni turn their ideas into ventures through a series of boot camps, workshops, and networking events culminating in Demo Day. Here are some takeaways from the event:

Facts and figures

Students presented more than 50 startup ideas at the start of the Husky Startup Challenge earlier this semester. About 400 people checked out the 16 ventures Monday night, and attendees had the chance to pick their favorite.

That designation went to ASAMOAH’s, a food truck that serves Afrocentric cuisine. Attendees enjoyed free samples of the rice and meat options that ASAMOAH’s plans to serve.

Top prize and $2,000 went to Senci, a website that connects prospective college students with enrollees through overnight visits. “Sharing economy is really taking off right now,” said Senci founder Elliot Mustoe, DMSB’18, pointing to companies like Uber and Airbnb.

Second place and $1,250 went to Tabé, an e-platform for young professional foodies and chefs to connect via dinner events. Third place and $750 went to CoClo, which will automatically update your phone’s contact list if you change phone numbers.

A fluid process

Some Demo Day presentations looked a little unlike the ideas that the entrepreneurs-in-training pitched at the start of the Husky Startup Challenge. The program’s guest speakers and boot camps helped them recognize opportunities to make adjustments or pivot in a new direction in order to boost the viability of their ventures.

A prime example is SmartRack, a self-contained bike rack for college students to better secure their bikes. Co-founders Gen Ohta, E’17, and Mike Wagenheim, AMD’17, who both ride their bikes to campus, originally planned to create a better bike lock. But after going through the Challenge process, they shifted their focus and now look to offer a rack in which users can store their bike for free for 24-hour periods at a time.

“We wanted to do something that would disrupt the bike lock,” Wagenheim explained. “Going through the Challenge was really cool. I learned a lot about pitching and identifying a need in the market.”

Chow down

Food was a popular theme at this year’s Demo Day. The student ventures in this field ranged from connecting foodies to offering unique dining options to helping users find restaurants and organic foods.

Nidhey Pan, DMSB’18, saw a need for high quality and affordable Indian cuisine in the Boston area and created a food truck called Pan – Chaat Box. The restaurant on wheels will serve Indian savories and appetizers with ingredients directly from India.

“I like the mobility a food truck offers,” Pan said as he served samples at Demo Day. “It makes it easier to reach the target audience. And there is not a single Indian food truck in all of Boston.”

Online tools

Many of the ventures aim to use technology to help make the users’ lives a little easier. For example, Wuway helps users looking to plan spontaneous cultural or recreational adventures with others nearby. SizeMe, for its part, is software geared toward online shoppers who want to know whether the clothing they buy online will fit them.