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Budding Entrepreneurs Vie For Venture Cash At Fairfield University

Senior George Pertesis pitches Thrivio at Fairfield StartUp at Fairfield University. Photo Credit: Contributed photo
Alumni investor Mary Campbell asks a question at Fairfield StartUp, a business plan competition at Fairfield University. Photo Credit: Contributed photo
Junior Michelle Puthota presents RediMed at the fifth annual Fairfield StartUp business plan competition at Fairfield University. Photo Credit: Contributed photo

FAIRFIELD, Conn. — Five teams of budding entrepreneurs vied for big bucks from alumni investors Tuesday at the fifth annual Fairfield StartUp, a lively business plan competition at Fairfield University.

While the five innovative proposals didn’t get the nearly $800,000 they sought in combined asks, no one walked away empty-handed after a night of five-minute pitches compete with dramatic videos and flashy Powerpoint presentations.

“What this world needs…are good ideas,” said Don Gibson, dean of the university’s Dolan School of Business, who served as a jocular master of ceremonies for the evening. “The stakes are high, my friends.”

Junior Thomas Casale presented DraftSales, a salesforce app that combines the concept of fantasy sports and sales metrics to add a little competition — and fun — to any company’s workday.

“It turns everything a salesperson does into a competitive fantasy game,” he said, noting it complements workers’ visits to Facebook or fantasy leagues while on the job.

Though he was asking for $40,000, some of the investors instead agreed to sponsor him as a StartUp Summer Fellow at Fairfield University Entrepreneurship Laboratory (FUEL), a downtown mentoring site for proposals with potential.

Seniors Jason Wierzel and John Bauer presented FavrWire, an app that would pair busy people who need help around the house with “ambitious young individuals” looking to make extra money.

Wierzel and Bauer likened it to a tech-savvy version of walking door to door to shovel snow or mow lawns.

“People just don’t want to do that anymore,” Wierzel said.

The investors gave them $5,000 to work out legal and marketing issues in exchange for 5 percent equity in the company.

“I like this idea,” said Michael Garvey ’89, who founded his own business in 1999. “I have stuff my wife wants me to do. I like this.”

The RediMed team presented its idea for a product that would sort, dispense and track medicines to prevent accidental overdoses and other mistakes. The creators of Zapp showed off their solution that let social media users exchange all of their social media information with friends with a quick scan of a QR code.

The biggest winner of the night was senior George Pertesis, who came up with Thrivio, a social media platform that would bring people with disabilities together to rate products such as hearing aids and wheelchairs.

“”We would exclusively go for the disability community,” said Pertesis, who said he is hard of hearing. “They could read real reviews from real people.”

The investors put up $25,000 and promised to help him apply for a matching state grant in exchange for 20 percent equity.

Gene Mauro ’92, Pertesis’ mentor, congratulated him after his presentation.

“”I’m really happy with the outcome,” he said. “i’m not at all surprised, but I’m really happy.”

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