Daily News

UMass Amherst Innovation Challenge Awards $65,000 to Student, Alumni Entrepreneurs

AMHERST — Ten UMass Amherst students and recent graduates will share $65,000 in equity-free funding to pursue their entrepreneurial endeavors, thanks to the 2023 Innovation Challenge hosted by the Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship in the Isenberg School of Management. The center’s premiere pitch event aims to launch novel ideas into scalable, impactful ventures.

The students and Graduates of the Last Decade (GOLD) represented five teams in the finals of the two-part competition, held in Old Chapel and remotely via livestream from the Mount Ida campus in Newton on May 3. Friends and alumni cheered on the teams in the competition hosted by Gregory Thomas, the Berthiaume Center’s executive director and a lecturer at the Isenberg School of Management.

Computer science and marketing dual major Juliano Wahab ’23 and computer science major Alex Rohrberg ’23 earned $41,000 in equity-free funding for developing Monet. The online platform, which connects artists with art lovers worldwide, was inspired by the mission to support artists by providing a platform to collaborate and connect with potential buyers and monetize their art.

IRON garnered $21,000 in equity-free funding. The brainchild of marketing majors Elijah Mishkind ’21 and Kyle Collins ’19, IRON is an app for the gym, empowering users with frictionless workout tracking and discovery though an addictive user interface.

Noah Martinez ’23 and Aaron Xu ’23, who will be graduating this month with degrees in sport management and computer science, respectively, devised the venture that earned the People’s Choice Award by the viewing party at the Mount Ida campus and $1,000 in equity-free funding. Drafted is an all-inclusive app that aims to streamline the athlete-recruiting process by creating a more casual and social experience intended to boost athlete exposure.

The two remaining teams also earned $1,000 in equity-free funding for their entrepreneurial creations. Finance major Emily Shal ’23 developed Food Near Me, a mobile app designed to simplify the restaurant search process for food lovers, allowing users to filter search results based on distance, food type, and price range. CardVerse, from computer engineering majors Ritik Shah ’23, Jatan Pandya ’23 and Shubham Shah ’23, seeks to revolutionize the multi-billion-dollar collectible-card authentication industry by introducing an automated solution.

“My favorite part of the event was to see the emphasis on the Berthiaume ecosystem,” Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement Michael Malone said. “The Innovation Challenge has been going for 18 years strong, and it’s been a pleasure to watch it grow to include participants and spectators from all over the UMass community.”

The Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship is central in promoting entrepreneurship and innovation across the UMass Amherst campus, region, and state. Headquartered in the Isenberg School of Management, the center has become the central hub of a cross-campus network of scholars, innovators, and entrepreneurs, with a three-fold mission of supporting research, education, and practice, all targeted at facilitating the transformation of ideas into business realities.

The judging panel for the Innovation Challenge included Tara Brewster, director of Philanthropy and vice president of Business Development at Greenfield Savings Bank; Hisao Kushi, co-founder and chief legal officer of Ernesta Home Inc. and co-founder and past chief legal officer of Peloton Interactive Inc.; Bud Robertson, former chief financial officer of Progress Software Corp., member of Launchpad Venture Group, and board member at OpenExchange Inc.; and Erica Swallow, co-founder, co-lead, and Realtor at the Turnberg & Swallow Team of Coldwell Banker.