Student Entrepreneurs Competed for $14,500 in Prizes in Annual ‘Shark Tank’ Competition

Matthew Watson ’16 wins with Brewery Stewardship Alliance pitch

Shark Tank Competition on Feb. 25. Matthew Watson ’16 took home the grand prize of $12,000 with his pitch to start the Brewery Stewardship Alliance (BSA), a sustainability certification program that empowers environmentally-friendly craft breweries. “It has been incredible to cooperate with such invaluable mentors in order to develop the BSA’s foundation,” Watson said, following his victory. “More than anything, I feel validated that my work and vision have earned a vote of confidence.  The brewing industry is a dynamic, fascinating one that I am looking forward to learning from and innovating in.”

In a turn of events, the judges awarded Jake Medina ’16 and Sean Griffin ’16 second place with $2,500 to put towards their mobile technology units to help continue to expand their non-profit, Student Empowerment Program (StEP), an organization that seeks to close the educational technology gap. “We’re excited,” Medina said. “It was an amazing experience to see an abstract idea get worked into a concrete reality. The people we worked alongside were amazing. They helped us learn how to market our idea and helped us develop our product, answering any questions we could think of to make our product the best it could be.”

Students presented their original ideas prepared through various COES workshops with the aid of alumni mentors. This year’s participants included Sean Griffin ’16, Jake Medina ’16, Matt Heffner ’16, Matt Watson ’16, Reilly Bloom ’18, and Michael Sise ’18. The judges panel included alumni members Michael Guleserian ’93, chief experience officer of Nubar and Sheraton Commander Hotel; James Horne ’98, analyst at IBS Capital LLC; Larry Naughton ’93, co-chair of the Business & Technology Group, Choate, Hall & Stewart LLP; and Michael Balmuth, partner at SV Life Sciences.

All four student teams developed their ideas through Holy Cross’ Idea Hack-a-Thon, a three-day workshop held in November. Students who participated then had the opportunity to further shape their ideas through January’s Deep Dive five-day workshop. Only those teams who participated in both could compete in Shark Tank. Ja-Naé Duane, resident entrepreneur at Clark University, was instrumental in helping teams work with their products for the competition. “Each team has come a very long way in a short period of time,” Duane said. “Their energy was always up and they showed a willingness to fail and to accept feedback.”

Each team pitched their idea for 10 minutes followed by a five minute question and answer session with the judges panel. After all teams had made their presentations, the judges moved to a separate room to deliberate, accompanied by David Chu, associate professor of accounting and director of the COES and Prebusiness Program.

“This competition gets better every year,” Chu said. “We’ve improved and we’ll keep improving as we move forward.” Naughton, co-founder of the Holy Cross Entrepreneurs Group, has attended Shark Tank since its beginning, and was excited by what he saw from each team. “I’ve always been impressed by the quality of students and their work effort here at Holy Cross.  Each year, I see that the Shark Tank teams are getting better.”

View photos from the competition here.

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