Orange Tank 2021 Awards $42,000 to Student and Alumni Entrepreneurs
The event brought Whitman students and alumni entrepreneurs together to pitch unique ventures to a panel of alumni judges, who themselves have proven successful in the entrepreneurial space. The competition not only gave the competitors the opportunity to pitch their ideas but also answer questions, receive feedback and win cash prizes to advance their businesses. Thanks to the generosity of Whitman Advisory Council member and Syracuse University Life Trustee John Couri ’63 (A&S), H’08, a grand prize of $25,000 was awarded. A total of $42,000 in cash prizes were presented at this year’s Orange Tank competition.
Moderated by John Torrens, deputy department chair of entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises (EEE) and professor of entrepreneurial practice at the Whitman School, the event welcomed judges Ryan Benz ’11 M.S., a local restaurateur and Syracuse-based developer; Steven Bettinger '93, founder of the Insurance Specialist Group and an experienced entrepreneur in real estate, technology and insurance; Nathaniel Cotanch ’12, founder of Zia Hatch Chile Company; Molly Fisher ’08, ’12 M.S., vice president of finance and operations at Dig; and Scott Friedberg ’14, CEO at Gilded Social, back to campus to listen to the competitors pitch their ideas.
Only the top six ventures (three alumni and three student ventures) out of 20 alumni and student entries were selected to pitch at the Orange Tank event. While the judges deliberated, EEE Department Chair Todd Moss, who is also an associate professor of entrepreneurship and the faculty director of the Sustainable Enterprise Partnership (SEP), updated the audience on some of the recent accomplishments of the EEE department. The judges then returned to announce their decisions.
First place and $5,000 went to Joe 2.0 and Brian Mellin ’15. Joe 2.0 is a company offering coffee blends designed to reduce stress and caffeine jitters using organic beans combined with other stress-relieving natural ingredients.
Second place and $2,500 was awarded to Vees and Victoria Vasil '97 (NEW), '20 MBA, '21 M.S. (WHIT). Vees is a line of women’s golf wear that takes female body preferences into account. The clothing is made from tree-based performance fabrics that supports multiple body types and has street appeal.
Third place and $1,000 went to Aphinity and Sardor Askarov '20. Aphinity is a social app that is creating a meaningful environment using artificial intelligence to create platonic connections for those with specific common interests, like playing a musical instrument, speaking a foreign language or participating in a particular sport.
First place and $5,000 went to MUNCH Jerky and Selim Dangoor '23 (WHIT/NEW) for a new take on the stereotypical, rubbery beef jerky found at the corner gas station. Dangoor passed out samples of his premium, artisanal, gluten-free flank steak jerky to the judges, while explaining how he is tapping into the $1.4 billion jerky business in the U.S. by targeting Gen Z and Millennials willing to pay a premium for natural ingredients and great taste in their snacks.
Second place and $2,500 was awarded to Out2Win with Jack Adler '23 and Sam Holland '23 (WHIT/NEW). Out2Win is a sports marketing agency run by college students for college students with a particular emphasis on leveraging the newly opened space for NCAA athletes to profit off their names and likenesses. The company connects the right brand with the right athlete, while also providing guidance to help student athletes capitalize on their personal brands, as well as stay in compliance with existing NCAA rules.
Grand Prize Category
The highlight of the Orange Tank competition was the presentation of the $25,000 prize to Ambassadoor Technologies and Bruno Gonzalez Hauger '21 (WHIT/NEW), '23 M.S. Ambassadoor Technologies aims at helping small brick and mortar companies stand out in social media through the use of nano-influencers. The company has created both a business app and an influencer app bringing together influencers with only 100 to 10,000 followers and brands without giant media budgets in order to target audiences based on location, category, gender, age or engagement rate.
“Instead of pushing out content, we’re engaging with people. These nano-influencers are pushing out content to their friends, not their followers,” explains Gonzalez Hauger of the concept, which he says has been successfully tested on the Syracuse University campus. “We’re about empowering, automating, optimizing and de-risking influencer marketing for small businesses, while enabling anyone on Instagram with a voice and engagement to be an influencer.”
With this $25,000 prize, Ambassadoor Technologies has won approximately $75,000 in funding to further the company. “The Orange Tank win was one of the most special,” Gonzalez Hauger says. “It is the largest amount of money that we’ve ever won, and we’ve now won more prize money from Syracuse University than any other startup coming out of the University. It was fantastic and it meant the world to me.”
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