Trinity University Virtual Stumberg Venture Competition Selects 5 Finalists

By Iris Gonzalez
Commuv is founded by (from left) Jalen White and Michael or Mike Marquez, courtesy photo

Ten Trinity University student entrepreneur teams pitched business ideas to judges via a Zoom video call Monday evening in the seed round of the annual Louis H. Stumberg Venture Competition.

Trinity University president Danny Anderson said the venture competition enables “students to thrive as they express their creativity” while building new businesses. The five finalists pitched “Shark Tank-style” their ideas for wide-ranging businesses, from social justice to bioscience, art, and esports.

Commuv founders Jalen White ‘23 and Michael Marquez ‘22 came up with the idea to develop software that connects police officers and drivers during low-level traffic stops via short-range technology and a mobile application. Using an app can help reduce the need for direct contact during traffic stops and translate officer questions if the driver is not fluent in English.

Junior George Wiggam is launching Notch Esports Suppliers as a subscription-based service that builds and supplies high schools and colleges with updated gaming computers and the necessary equipment for schools to start and maintain an esports program. Given the level of interest in esports, Wiggam saw the need to sell affordable subscription bundles that include computers, monitors, peripherals, and other products tailored for a school’s individual needs.

Microlev seeks to sell its prototype advanced technology that will aid scientists engaged in aerosol research. This women-led team of juniors Josefina Hajek-Herrera and Bene Snyder are working with Trinity chemistry professor Ryan Davis to launch an optical equipment company. They strive to provide more accurate and innovative aerosol research instruments for scientists to isolate single droplets for analyzing assays and sensors.

New Works SA is a nonprofit organization that offers classes and performance opportunities to teach middle and high school students how to create original theatrical productions. Scarlett Patiño ‘23, Wren Ramos ‘23, and Anthony Tresca ‘22 recognized San Antonio’s community needed educational resources and training so students can learn about theater by doing the writing, design, and production needed to create new works.

WakeScoot is an all-freshman team composed of student-athletes Ryan Arnold, Carson Byrd, A.J. Townsend, and Cannon Starcke. The founders seek to make the riding on a WakeScoot, a new kind of lightweight water scooter fun and accessible. WakeScoot plans to capitalize on the untapped market of beginners and experienced water sport enthusiasts who enjoy riding a wakeboard either on their own or while visiting a cable wakeboard water park.

“Our hope is that at least five new ventures will go on to launch successfully and as many as all 10 competing make it to market,” said Luis Martinez, director of Trinity’s Center for Science and Innovation. 

The winner of the 2020 venture competition was Sapphire, co-founded by Trinity women’s soccer team player and CEO Tara Lujan and Trinity graduate Zachary Taylor, the startup’s chief technology officer. Their patent-pending water bottle lid connects wirelessly to smartphones and smartwatches and tracks a person’s water consumption using sensors. The company, since renamed Hydrotek, has eight employees and is looking to manufacture water bottles and sell their sensor in other industries. 

Read more: Smart Water-Bottle Lid Company Sapphire Wins Stumberg Competition $25,000 Prize at Trinity University

According to Martinez, a donor funded a $1,000 award for each of the five remaining teams to help them develop their concepts into companies.

  • Seniors Brenden Shue and Yelizaveta Vetyuhova aim to build AllFor1 as a social networking platform for environmentally conscious individuals looking for relevant volunteer opportunities with local environmental organizations.
  • First-year students Erika Jones and Lucy Orosco pitched Ecospace, a marketplace and online community for buyers of eco-friendly products produced sustainably.
  • Junior Maren Merwarth repurposes purses and used clothing into new products for her streetwear clothing label called Neram Textile Recycling and is already generating revenue.
  • PartySafe is a safety application juniors Ian Mann, Christina Avila, and Morgan Cartwright created to connect event attendees with hosts or local security to create an interconnected safe partying experience.
  • Ventura is a nonpartisan platform that makes U.S. politics and official information transparent and easy to understand and is founded by junior Nathaniel Castillo Rodriguez and graduate (and former Stumberg entrant) Francisco Macias ‘20.

Since its launch in 2016, this two-part university-wide competition typically features 10 Trinity University student entrepreneur teams, with a panel of judges choosing five to move onto the second round. The finalists compete for the $25,000 grand prize in the Stumberg fall competition. Each of the five teams receives $5,000 in seed funding, a spot in the program’s summer accelerator, summer housing on campus, mentorship, and a credit hour.

The competition is named after the late San Antonio businessman and civic leader Louis H. Stumberg, who was also a member of Trinity’s board of trustees for many years. Stumberg was a well-known entrepreneur in San Antonio who founded Patio Foods and its line of Tex-Mex frozen dinners in the 1940s at the end of the Great Depression in the U.S. 

This is Trinity’s second year holding a virtual competition due to COVID-19 limitations on gathering in person. Martinez said the ability to “pitch virtually and engage with mentors remotely” is a pandemic-triggered trend that will remain relevant even after the stay-at-home restrictions are lifted.

“The pandemic has revealed how important online pitching is,” Martinez said. “It’s something we are going to incorporate for all our students moving forward.”

This year, Martinez said judges selected five finalists, not the customary six from previous competitions. The entrants reflect both diversity in the student teams and in the various concepts in technology, science, and retail. This is the first year that there is no food-focused entry.

“Any entrepreneur mature enough to start a startup during a pandemic is bold,” Martinez said. “This is our seventh cohort, and every year we’re surprised at how our teams consistently move the bar at what it takes to advance to the next round.”

The featured image is of one of the five finalist teams to advance to the next round of the 2021 Stumberg Venture Competition.  Commuv is founded by (from left) Jalen White and Michael or Mike Marquez, courtesy photo.

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