Halloween Pitch Party winners (from left) Matthew Sobel, Matthew Rojas, Amira Idris and Chris Lin.

Halloween Pitch Party

Spooktacular Horn Program pitch competition takes the scary out of startup pitches


4:45 p.m., Oct. 30, 2015--The University of Delaware’s Horn Program in Entrepreneurship delivered on its promise of “no tricks, just treats” at this week’s Halloween Pitch Party.

This spooky-themed edition of the Horn Program’s annual fall pitch competition took the “scary” out of startup pitching, with 20 teams of UD students pitching their business ideas to a live audience and panel of accomplished judges.

Campus Stories

From graduates, faculty

As it neared time for the processional to open the University of Delaware Commencement ceremonies, graduating students and faculty members shared their feelings about what the event means to them.

Doctoral hooding

It was a day of triumph, cheers and collective relief as more than 160 students from 21 nations participated in the University of Delaware's Doctoral Hooding Convocation held Friday morning on The Green.

Winner Chris Lin was awarded $1,000 in Venture Development Center (VDC) cash to be used toward the development of his wallet company, Flip.

“I didn’t want to buy a new wallet because I didn’t like any on the market,” said Lin, a UD mechanical engineering student. “So I made my own.”

The accordion-style wallet solves the age-old problem of struggling to pull cards out of a packed wallet, and prototypes of the design are selling already.

Lin realized this year that he was interested in entrepreneurship, so he signed up for UD’s Introduction to Entrepreneurship course and joined the Entrepreneurship Club.

Winning the pitch competition felt great, he said, and at the event he connected with a number of other entrepreneurs who he plans to work with on patenting and mass production to get the wallets on the market as soon as possible.

A surprise for second and third place winners

After presenting winners with skeleton-shaped trophies, the Horn Program had a not-so-scary surprise for the second and third place winners: awards of $750 in VDC cash.

Jackie Anninos, UD senior marketing and entrepreneurship student and special programs assistant for the Horn Program, explained that the program was deeply impressed with the potential of the second and third place ideas to positively change the world.

Second place winner Amira Idris, for example, created the Vibrosleeve, a device that helps amputees to keep limbs healthy through massage that increases tissue activity, blood and fluid flow.

Idris said that she was inspired to create her company, Goodvibes, after interning at a prosthetic clinic. She met an amputee who was depressed, in pain and seemed to be giving up. 

“This really touched me, and I wanted to do something about it,” Idris said. “I wanted to find a solution that would reduce the number of painkillers that amputees take and also help alleviate their pain and keep their limbs healthy.”

Idris’ invention comes at an important time, with the number of limbs lost from diabetes increasing. She said that her $750 in winnings will contribute to the second-generation prototype of the Vibrosleeve and the beginning of the provisional patent process.

Idris said that she wasn’t scared to pitch her idea, despite the competition’s theme.

“I’m really passionate about what I do, so it all started coming to me naturally.”

Third place winners Matthew Sobel and Matthew Rojas are founders of Lazarus Rising, which combats homelessness by matching college volunteers who have mastered the job application process with homeless communities.

Rojas said that he had the idea for Lazarus Rising as a freshman, when a good friend and upperclassman heavily edited his resume. He realized that college students could provide this service to others who are searching for work.

The $750 prize money, Rojas said, will be used to open up additional chapters of the program at a number of universities full of willing student volunteers.

Sobel agreed with Idris that the team wasn’t afraid to pitch in the VDC, where they spend a lot of time.

“I was very comfortable because we study in this space all the time; we’re always here,” Sobel said. “I knew that we were in a good surrounding, that the community we were talking to was interested in what we wanted to say.”

This community included the panel of accomplished judges:

  • Ralph Cetrulo, UD accounting alumnus, manager of Stephano Slack LLC, entrepreneur instrumental to the success of 19 companies;
  • Andrew Damico, UD business administration alumnus, president and director at WizeHive, past CEO and COO of IntraLinks;
  • Sue Frech, cofounder and CEO of technology startup Social Media Link; and
  • Gary Michel, UD accounting alumnus, operating partner at Providence Equity, and past CFO of Travelclick.

Also part of this community is Nancy Leonard, pitch party audience member and UD alumna, who has held a variety of leading positions at high-tech companies.

“I am so over-the-top impressed with the students: their maturity, poise, grace, professionalism – not to mention their rock star ideas,” Leonard said. 

“The faculty and staff who have taught and mentored these students deserve a round of applause for this extraordinary program and event,” she continued. “Two words: blown away.”

Horn Program Director Dan Freeman agreed that he was impressed by the drive and passion of the students. 

“Experiencing such a great event, and knowing that it was planned and executed by students for students was a proud moment for the Horn Program,” he said.

"All of the presenters did an incredible job and really tackled the point of the competition – to face their fears and pitch with confidence,” added Anninos. “We had a record-breaking turnout and truly showcased the success of the Horn Program."

About the Horn Program in Entrepreneurship

The Horn Program ignites imaginations and empowers world changers through entrepreneurial education. 

The program’s offerings emphasize experiential learning, evidence-based entrepreneurship and active engagement with entrepreneurs, business leaders and members of the broader entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

Participation in Horn Program courses and co-curricular activities empowers students by providing them with the knowledge, skills, connections and access to resources needed to successfully manifest innovation and thrive in a rapidly changing world.

News Media Contact

University of Delaware
Communications and Public Affairs

UDaily is produced by
Communications and Public Affairs

The Academy Building
105 East Main Street
University of Delaware
Newark, DE 19716 | USA
Phone: (302) 831-2792
email: publicaffairs@udel.edu