Capstone Competition Highlights Business Skills, Entrepreneurial Spirit of Whitman’s Graduating Seniors

From women’s-only sports betting to water-saving shower nozzles, this semester’s Capstone Competition at Syracuse University’s Whitman School showcased amazing business ideas that demonstrated students’ skills in development, ideation, research and financial planning. The two-day event, held April 29 and 30, showcased the results of the 3-credit Strategic and Entrepreneurial Management Course (commonly known as the “Capstone”) that all senior undergraduates must complete with the guidance of a Whitman faculty member. During the competition, small groups of four to five students pitch original business plans to a panel of judges for the chance to take the top spot.

Each Capstone business concept is required to be a new product, service or business model unique to the “real world” and include a novel approach to creating economic value. In addition, the concept must be scalable with the ability to achieve $3 million in gross revenue within five years of operation, as well as investment from an outside source that exceeds $100,000.

This semester’s competition kicked off with 37 teams presenting their ideas to judges made up of faculty, alumni and business professionals. The judges posed 10 minutes of questions to each group in an effort to whittle down the competitors to eight teams that were then given the opportunity to give “elevator pitches” on their ideas. Ultimately, five team finalists returned on day two to present to Professor of Practice John Petosa L’95; Misty Fox, director of entrepreneurship and small business portfolio at Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF); and Anas Almaletti ’14 MBA, CEO of Cell Phone for Less, Inc., who served as judges for the final round.

Winners of this year’s competition were:

First Place: GamblHer

Uniquely positioned between the software publishing and online educational instruction industries, GambleHer is a betting educational tool and learning platform exclusively for women with the goal of broadening the demographic of those who gamble, while also destigmatizing the pastime. It does not host live betting but, instead, facilitates gambling between bookie and better. The business aims to serve a growing need for a space for women to join this market. The winning team included Sean Westerkon ’22, Ann Marie Caine ’22, Preston Buhrmaster ’22, Ripley Price ’22, Alexander Mayani ’22 and Caitlyn Shea-Katz ’22. Professor of Entrepreneurial Practice Alexandra Kostakis served as faculty coach.

“I still can’t believe that we won Capstone! We saw how women were being completely missed in a market that is becoming more accepted and popular,” says Caine ’22, of the GambleHer team’s win. “Capstone really pulls from every single one of the classes you take during your time at Whitman and has you apply it to a completely new concept. We had great team morale, and it couldn’t have become what it is without the wise words of Professor Kostakis. It was such a fun experience and one that I will never forget. “

Second Place: ShowerFi

ShowerFi is commercializing a patented technology to replace current shower nozzles with motion sensing, water saving versions. The team consisted of Luc Ayoub ’22, Sebastian Gonzalez ’22, Spencer Gross ’22, Will Kofman ’22 and McKayla Murphy ’22 under the guidance of Professor of Entrepreneurial Practice Ken Walsleben.

Third Place: Conci

With the idea that salon care should be convenient and easy to schedule, Conci is an app that functions as a service marketplace that allows users to connect with beauty professionals. Team members included Daniel Jeon ’22, Haley Francois ’22, Trey Gates ’22, Jake Aryeh ’22 and Joe Piacitelli ’22. Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship Suho Han served as faculty coach.

Honorable Mention: E-Patch and AscendVR

E-Patch is a nutraceutical patch that encourages the body to better utilize electrolytes already in the blood stream, while not transmitting anything new transdermally. Thomas Flynn ’22, Jason Fox ’22, Christopher Lorenz ’22, Kyle Parker ’22 and Nikki Surella ’22 made up the team with the guidance of Walsleben.

AscendVR provides virtual reality-centered training solutions for U.S. construction companies struggling with employee training and retention with a focus on safety and on-site spatial awareness through 3D modeling. Team members included Connor Sargent ’22, Arianna Mendez ’22, Rolando Cabral ’22 (WHIT/iSchool), William Stoddard ’22 and Chase Smallback ’22. Han served as faculty coach.

“Watching our students at their best while presenting their work is always the highlight of the semester,” says Professor of Entrepreneurial Practice and Deputy Department Chair of Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises John Torrens. “Congratulations goes out not only to the winners but to all of those who shared their entrepreneurial spirit and demonstrated the business skills learned over their past four years at the Whitman School.”