Orange Tank 2022 Awards $41,000 to Student and Alumni Entrepreneurs

photo of the winners holding their Orange Tank grand prize check of $25,000

Orange Tank 2022 Awards $41,000 to Student and Alumni Entrepreneurs

On Sept. 30, 2022, the Whitman School of Management hosted its eighth annual Orange Tank business pitch competition. The event brought Whitman students and alumni entrepreneurs together to pitch their ventures to a panel of entrepreneurial alumni judges in hopes of receiving the $25,000 grand prize. Thanks to the generosity of Whitman Advisory Council member and Syracuse University Life Trustee John Couri ’63 (A&S), H’08, the cash prizes for the event totaled $41,000.

Emceeing the event this year was alumnus Derrell Smith ’10 (IST), G’13 (NEW), a dynamic leader and entertainer on a mission to spread love through food. After a neck injury ended his NFL career, Smith worked in New York City as an advertising producer. In 2016, he won a meatball competition and started 99EATS, inspired by the women who taught him how to cook. Today, he is the executive producer and host of Mad Good Food on Tastemade and CEO of 99EATS LLC. Smith is a frequent guest on the “Today” show and E! Network, sharing his twist on food from his upbringing and entertaining people with stories and tantalizing dance moves. He now resides in Los Angeles.

The event also welcomed judges Jeff Burbank ’08, founder and CEO of Oaza Beverages; Blake Brossman ’98 (VPA), founder of PetCareRX; Amy Fazackerley, co-founder and CEO of Lay-n-Go LLC; Amrita Mainthia ’12 (WSM/NEW), vice president of investor relations at General Catalyst; and James Perkins ’88 MBA, a business consultant, back to campus to listen to the competitors pitch their ideas.

New this year, participants were matched with alumni coaches - Kora-Lynah Abelard ‘15 (WSM/NEW), Nate Cotanch ’12, Danielle Donovan ’09, Mike Gursha ’10 (WSM/NEW), Ryan Novak ’11 and Corey Passarella ’11 - to guide the student and alumni teams as they prepared their presentations.

Smith interviewed Orange Tank 2021 grand prize winner Bruno Gonzalez Hauger '21 (WSM/NEW), '22 M.S., co-founder of a medical development company Illumenar. Gonzalez Hauger took home the $25,000 prize last year for his venture Ambassadoor Technologies, an app that aims to help small brick and mortar companies stand out in social media through the use of nano-influencers.

Gonzalez Hauger’s advice to entrepreneurs pitching their business was to “Figure out what people's problems are, and how to solve those problems. And then how to solve that many, many times in a row. Don't focus on what you think the solution is until you know that problem like the back of your hand.”

While the judges deliberated, Whitman’s EEE Department Chair Todd Moss, associate professor of entrepreneurship and the faculty director of the Sustainable Enterprise Partnership (SEP), updated the audience on some of the department’s recent accomplishments.

The judges returned to announce the following winners.

Alumni Category

First place and $5,000 went to Sam Hollander ’21 (WSM/NEW) and James LePage ’22 of ShareClub. The company is a platform leveraging shareholder rewards to turn loyal customers into investors and turn these investors into more loyal customers.

Second place and $2,500 was awarded to Blaine Killen ’15 (WSM/IST) and Eric Atcheson of FitLift. The company tracks motion and gives real-time and post-training feedback on weightlifting techniques, all from a wearable device and smartphone.

Student Category

First place and $5,000 went to Noah Mechnig-Giordano ’22 (ECS), ’23 MBA, of Happy Loose Leaf Tea. The company’s mission is to engineer innovative tea-steeping devices that change the way loose-lead tea is brewed. Mechnig-Giordano has a patent pending product.

Second place and $2,500 was awarded to Jack Adler '23 of Out2Win. This company 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 name, image and likeness (NIL).

Third place and $1,000 was awarded to Selim Dangoor ’23 (WSM/NEW) of MUNCH Jerky. Using ethically sourced flank steak, MUNCH provides a tender beef jerky for the health-conscious without sacrificing taste.

Grand Prize Category

The highlight of the Orange Tank competition was the presentation of the $25,000 prize to alumni team Hollander and LePage, co-founders of ShareClub. With over 500 retail investors on the closed Beta platform, ShareClub is already offering shareholder rewards.

ShareClub unlocks the ability for companies to activate a customer segment that is a 1.3 times a more frequent shopper with over 74% greater share of wallet than an uninvested customer. Unlike traditional shareholder benefits given away through in-person annual shareholders meetings, ShareClub is digitizing shareholder rewards through an automated platform that verifies ownership and facilitates reward redemptions.

"We're thrilled to have won both first place and the grand prize at the Orange Tank competition. It's a testament to the hard work that our team has put in, and we're excited to use the prize money to help us bring ShareClub to as many public companies as possible," says Hollander. “We're on a mission to help public companies better communicate with their retail investors, and I'm confident that we'll be able to make a big impact."

Watch the winning pitches from Orange Tank 2022.

Kimmy Kimball