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It’s ‘The Beanpot of Ventures.’ Northeastern hosts Boston’s biggest student entrepreneurial event of the year

In a Northeastern-hosted Pitch-A-Thon before a packed house at East Village, 11 undergraduates were given three minutes to present their startups for a panel of four judges.

A student standing in front of a projected screen with their business pitch on it.
Northeastern student entrepreneur Andrew Shenouda pitched Tadpole, his startup that aims to expand access to individual tutoring. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

More than 400 people registered for the biggest student entrepreneurial event of the year in Boston.

It was billed as “Pitch-A-Thon: The Beanpot of Ventures,” and the presence of both the men’s and women’s Beanpot trophies (courtesy of recent Husky hockey victories) signified that Northeastern University was the host.

Before a packed house at East Village, 11 undergraduates were each given three minutes to present their startups for a panel of four judges, who peppered them with questions and comments before awarding $11,000 in funding.To help celebrate the 15th anniversary of IDEA, Northeastern’s student-led venture accelerator, the event was both limited to undergraduates and expanded to include the best of the best.

The most promising student founders from 10 Greater Boston universities — Northeastern, Boston College, Babson, Bentley, Boston University, Emerson, Harvard, Suffolk, Tufts and Wentworth — were invited to make their pitches. Also participating was Anup Paikaray from India’s Odisha University of Technology and Research, which has been partnering with Northeastern on student entrepreneurial ventures.

They were led onto the stage by Andrew Shenouda, a Northeastern business and computer science student who opened the competition with a pitch for his startup, Tadpole, which helps educators build tutoring programs to reach more students.

“By having younger role models that are doing great things, it serves as an inspiration for the rest of the community as well as other kids who might be in high school,” said Izabella Pivo, a third-year Northeastern student who serves as chief executive officer of IDEA, whose students organized the event. “Maybe they don’t know what they want to do. But they know that they don’t want to be a traditional person in lots of corporate jobs. 

“So we’re looking to inspire the younger generations as well as bringing attention to the undergraduates who are an underserved community in the startup world.”

The expanded event marked the renewal of Pitch-A-Thon, which had been a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic since 2021. It included a keynote address by Yvonne Hao, who serves in the cabinet of Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey as secretary of the state’s Executive Office of Economic Development.

Hao emphasized entrepreneurism as crucial to the state’s $3.5 billion economic development plan.

“I never thought about doing startup stuff until much later in my life — and I wish I had started when I was your age,” Hao told the undergraduate entrepreneurs before they took the stage. “I’m so grateful for all of you because you’re changing the world from here in our state.”

Shenouda founded Tadpole while at high school in Connecticut during the pandemic. The judges praised him for telling the story of Tadpole in a personal way.

“I was held back in the first grade and couldn’t read until third grade,” Shenouda said while explaining his mission to develop access to the in-person tutoring that helped him become a top student and entrepreneur. “Tutoring is still a privilege but it doesn’t have to be that way.

“Our vision is to become the Shopify of learning and build the next generation of tools and software for schools and different tutoring programs.”

Shenouda showed a demo of Tadpole, which will be launched on April 14 with $40,000 in signed letters of intent as backing. He anticipates Tadpole becoming an $80 million business in five years.

The ensuing 10 pitches continued the momentum in rapid-fire form, presenting a spectrum of innovative next-generation leadership.

The event capped Pivo’s year-long co-op as CEO of IDEA, which supports Northeastern entrepreneurs as they create businesses through each stage of development.

“This is the best co-op you could get because you learn so many different things and you manage so many different stakeholders,” said Pivo, who will be graduating next year in business administration. “I learned fundraising [while] doing cold outreach to sponsors — or even to speakers. It’s really daunting to do those things. 

“But when you realize that you are giving people the opportunity to participate in something that is changing the landscape, it becomes less of a scary thing and more: Isn’t this a cool opportunity?”