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Student entrepreneurs pitch innovative ideas

ASU student founders network, pitch their startup business ideas to alumni at the ASU California Center


Arizona State University student founders (from left to right) Vivek Prasad, Antoine Mistico, Max Bregman and Manpuneet Benipal were selected to present at the Hool Coury Law Tech Venture Challenge during the Tech Devils Annual Innovation Retreat hosted at the ASU California Center in Southern California. Photo courtesy Brent Sebold

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March 29, 2023

For 15 Arizona State University student startup founders from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and other colleges at ASU, their venture development experience brought them to a retreat sponsored by the Prescott Student Venture Fund to explore the startup community in Los Angeles. They also got to pitch their business ventures to a panel of ASU alumni who, like them, founded their own startups.

Brent Sebold, director of the Entrepreneurship + Innovation program at the Fulton Schools, led the Tech Devils annual innovation retreat to connect ASU-affiliated founders with new opportunities.

“We have students who made an incredible impression with their work ethic,” Sebold says. “We want to help those students take advantage of these types of experiences and leverage them to have their ventures be as impactful as possible.”

Learning from experienced entrepreneurs

Student attendees were selected from the ASU Venture Devils program competition cycle or nominated by faculty and staff at ASU. Each student has demonstrated an impressive commitment to their venture and an eagerness to develop their skill set.

The 2023 retreat is the first to be hosted at the ASU California Center in Los Angeles, opening doors to a whole new network of contacts for the student innovators. This also marks the first year that alumni participated as reviewers in the Pitch Showcase, which features students pitching their venture ideas.

The Fulton Schools' Entreprenurship + Innovation program strives to give its student founders access to every resource ASU offers, including the university’s vast network of alumni. Aryyama Kumar Jana, a Fulton Schools alumnus and software development engineer at Amazon, enjoyed meeting with the student founders and providing feedback on their ventures.

“It was amazing to see young entrepreneurs from ASU pitching technology-backed business models for their startups,” Jana says. “I am very impressed by the way my alma mater is providing support to these early-stage startups.”

The annual retreat began in 2015 thanks to the support of Fulton Schools alumnus Tom Prescott and the Prescott Student Venture Fund. Since graduating, Prescott has become CEO and chairman of Align Technology, the world’s third-largest 3D printing company and producer of orthodontic product Invisalign.

He has enthusiastically supported his alma mater over the past decade and has been instrumental in developing several programs within Entreprenurship + Innovation. Prescott aims to encourage students to think beyond their academic experiences and toward the future opportunities and challenges in store for competitive startups.

Ishaan Mirchandani, a computer science student and co-founder of Tenance, a mobile app that automates rent payments and provides payment flexibility for renters, appreciates the chance to explore beyond the Phoenix tech industry.

“As an aspiring entrepreneur, the opportunity to pitch to such an influential audience and to learn from successful entrepreneurs was invaluable,” Mirchandani says.

Bringing together the ASU community’s innovators

Skysong Innovations, ASU’s intellectual property management company, and ASU RealmSpark, an initiative that connects investors to entrepreneurs within the ASU community, designed the retreat’s 2023 itinerary, drawing from their extensive network within the Los Angeles community.

The students were invited to attend a mixer at Preccelerator, an organization that develops startups, where they connected with experts to learn more about resources and best practices for operating in the enterepreneurial space.

Founders and alumni also gathered for the retreat’s Pitch Showcase, in which students performed five-minute pitches for their ventures and ASU alumni served as audience members and reviewers. The alumni then selected three teams to present at the Hool Coury Law Tech Venture Challenge on April 28.

The following teams were chosen to present at the upcoming showcase:

  • Zen Shuttles, founded by technological entrepreneurship and management major Antoine Mistico and computer science major Vivek Prasad, is a subscription service that provides safe transportation for students on college campuses.
  • Breathe EV, founded by business student Max Bregman, is a mobile app for electric vehicle owners to find and reserve electric vehicle charging stations.
  • Advent Diamond, founded by Manpuneet Benipal, a nanoscience and materials science and engineering alumna, produces diamond-based semiconductors to improve precision in telecommunication, power and advanced sensors.

Sebold says that the program’s best quality is the lasting connections formed across industries, backgrounds and communities.

The co-founders of Zen Shuttles, who won first place at the Pitch Showcase, met and became business partners at a previous Fulton School entreprenurship event called Techiepalooza two years ago.

Sebold aims to continue bridging the gap between student startup founders and resources to help them bring ideas to fruition.

“Not only do our students dream up amazing technological solutions to real-world problems, but they also reframe how we look at those problems,” Sebold says.

Ishaan Mirchandani, a computer science student and co-founder of Tenance, a mobile app that automates rent payments and provides payment flexibility for renters, appreciates the chance to explore beyond the Phoenix tech industry.

Talah Cummins, co-founder of a rideshare platform that facilitates city-to-city travel for college students called PoolUp, developed connections that she says will stay with her for the rest of her entrepreneurial journey. 

“I got to bond with people who are going through the smiliar experiences as me with their ventures,” Cummins says. “I met some of the most inspiring entrepreneurs, investors and forward-thinking people.” 

Ventures that participated in the Annual Innovation Retreat included:

Advent Diamond, founded by Manpuneet Benipal, a nanoscience and materials science and engineering alumna, is a semiconductor production company.

Breathe EV, founded by business student Max Bregman, is a mobile app for electric vehicle owners to find and reserve charging stations.

DocYou, founded by biomedical engineering major Anvitha Doddipalli and computer science major David Ellis, is a software tool for medical residents to efficiently document information.

FoodTrax, led by innovation and venture development graduate student Zafeerah Sheikh, is a mobile app that gives users access to the schedules, menus and reviews of local food trucks.

Lift With Cat, led by co-founders Catherine Nunez, a biomedical engineering student, and David Syms, a computer science alumnus, is a fitness and lifestyle program based on biomechanics and physiology.

Philanthrofi, founded by student Ricky Marton, is an AI consulting software.

PoolUp, founded by Michael Chong and Talah Cummins, is a rideshare platform that facilitates city-to-city travel for college students.

Quantax, founded by management of technology graduate student Surabhi Vinodkeerthi, supplies wearable gloves to enhance virtual reality experiences.

Rayn, founded by Nicole Ray, a materials science and engineering alumna and current adjunct faculty member in the ASU School of Molecular Sciences, is a medical device supply company.

Tenance, led by computer science students and co-founders Ishaan Mirchandani and Jason Coawette, is a property management software tool for rent collection and bookkeeping.

Thrively Foods, led by innovation and venture development graduate student Isaac Hinson, provides a variety of cold foam flavors with sustainable practices.

Zen Shuttles, founded by technological entrepreneurship and management major Antoine Mistico and computer science major Vivek Prasad, is a safe transport subscription for students on college campuses.

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