April 25, 2017 BOSS competition brings out the very best in student ideas

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Many ideas may be created in a vacuum, but few are brought to life in one.

That lesson was on display recently as The Ohio State Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) hosted its spring Best of Student Startup (BOSS) Finale. The event, a culmination of a semester-long workshop, landed five teams of Ohio State students in front of a panel of judges for a “Shark Tank”-style pitch competition. Dozens of students, faculty, staff and community members filled the PAST Innovation Lab to watch.

“The BOSS competition and CIE have framed my idea in a way that I really hadn’t thought of,” said Connor Kitko, a fourth-year finance student, who pitched CitySlate to the judges. The travel app provides users with events and activities listings for cities based on user preferences.

“They taught me what was required if I wanted to get other people to invest in my idea. They poked holes and really forced me to think of things I hadn’t considered. Interacting with them on a regular basis helped the idea become much more whole and taught me a lot about what goes into starting a business.”

2017 BOSS Spring Finale

Mirroring the mission of the CIE, the BOSS Competition connects students from across all disciplines at Ohio State. The diversity of thought, skills and experience parallels the innovation and entrepreneurship cultures that spark the next great product, service or process.

“Collaboration in any industry is key, but that’s especially true when launching new ideas,” said Paul Reeder, executive director of the CIE. “This competition is a perfect example of that interconnectedness. An idea for a new restaurant pitched during BOSS brought together industrial design, logistics, finance and accounting majors. Many of the tech-based ideas combined computer science proficiencies with business.

“And that’s what the CIE is designed to do — to facilitate these connections, provide guidance and proven insights from our faculty and to help equip the next generation of ideators with the skills, experience and confidence to explore innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Laura McLaughlin, a third-year nursing student with a research specialization, won first place and $1,000 for her product — BabyTalk, an app designed to inform and support new and expecting parents.

RoadTrip, a monthly craft beer subscription service, took second place ($500) and won the People’s Choice Award ($200) as voted on by those in attendance. The service was created by Anthony Rangel, a third-year logistics management and finance major; Chase Hemmelgarn, a third-year mechanical engineering student; and Nate Grose, a third-year finance and entrepreneurship major.

Other finalists included:

  • Michael Ashley, a second-year computer science and marketing major, who pitched Loop, a personal assistant designed to help manage daily work.
  • Third-year students Ximeng Huang, Camille Snyder and Ryan Simons (industrial design), Xinying Lin (logistics), Haoran Wang (finance) and Jane Tang (accounting). The team created Hot Pot, a traditional Chinese cuisine restaurant startup.

Business members from throughout Ohio served as judges:

  • David Butcher, a second-year student and creator of FlyBy BBQ, the Fall 2016 BOSS winner
  • Jasmine DeGaia, VP and executive director of business engineering, JPMorgan Chase
  • Courtney Heppner, director of corporate relations, Office of Corporate Engagement at Ohio State
  • Brent Stutz, SVP of Commercial Technologies, Cardinal Health/Fuse
  • Lily Vail, program lead, Kiva Columbus

“This experience has been incredibly valuable,” Kitko said. “They really teach you to think critically about your idea and mold it into a viable business, rather than just some idea that’s on the back of a napkin.”

Said John Cornell, a second-year finance student, who competed: “The BOSS experience opened my eyes to how exciting entrepreneurship can be and how you have to have a grasp of every different business field, as well as your industry to be successful. It also opened my eyes to how valuable collaboration can be, and all the fantastic ideas different individuals can have.”

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Students, faculty, staff and community members participate in the 2017 Spring Best of Student Startups (BOSS) Finale at the PAST Innovation Lab.