Students Win Cash for Business Ideas

Students take a swing for their second chance to win big in The Pitch

By Zachary Krauss

On Jan. 11, students and student teams presented their business ideas to a group of students, professors and investors in the second-annual The Pitch, a competition much like “Shark Tank.” Seventeen teams submitted ideas, but only eight made it to The Pitch stage.

During the competition, students used a slide presentation to give an overview of their concept and presented it to the audience in a five-minute speech, after which they took audience questions for five more minutes. Below is a breakdown of the winners.

First Place: Colson Cissel

Colon Cissel developed an idea for a more private personal assistant. [Photo by Lauren Jacobs]

Colon Cissel, a senior computer science major, based his idea on voice control tech similar to automated personal assistants like Siri and Alexa. Cissel said he’s always been interested in technology like this but has been concerned about how much data it collects.

Cissel said computer science professor Dr. George Landon encouraged him to submit an idea to The Pitch.

“He gave me a lot of really good advice and made some really good recommendations,” Cissel said. “It was really helpful to be able to work along with a professor who was able to help guide me through the process.”

Cissel asked fellow computer science student and former Pitch competitor Keeton Feaval for suggestions about how to improve on Feaval’s first attempt at the competition the previous year.

Cissel said the suggestions from Landon and Feaval helped him win.

Cissel’s product would have similar functionality to Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home but would not make the same sacrifices in the privacy arena.

“It’s actually very possible to set something like this up,” Cissel said. “I have a working proof of the idea and I’m excited to be able to work on the project in the future.”

Cissel plans to use his $1,000 in prize money to continue working on a prototype of his idea. As a senior, Cissel said he is excited for future opportunities and would like to continue working on this project if he can find a sponsor. He’s hopeful that The Pitch has set him on the right trajectory.

“I’ve started putting together what will hopefully be something a lot closer to a production-ready version of the idea,” Cissel said. “Now that I have more time to work on it, I’m trying to work a bit slower and do things right so that it could be something that can actually be used, so that’s what I’m spending my free time on now.”

Cissel said that his favorite part of being involved in The Pitch was interacting with other competitors.

“Getting to interact with other people and their ideas and see what other people were innovating was really cool,” Cissel said. “Sometimes I try to be innovative in things I do, and it was just helpful to see so many cool ideas that they’re doing; it’s kind of inspiring.”

Second Place: Rufus Mathew and Cameron Roseman

Rufus Matthew and Cameron Roseman’s design capitalized on the power of word-of-mouth. [Photo by Lauren Jacobs]

Rufus Mathew and Cameron Roseman, who are sophomores majoring in Computer Science and Marketing, respectively, developed an idea that would use GPS on mobile devices and allow users to connect with social media influencers who are interested in the same things they are. The target market is students struggling to find their niche on social media in a world full of influencers.

Mathew said word-of-mouth is the most effective means of communication today, and influencers can play a big role in that.

“You trust a friend of yours way more than you trust an advertisement that could have been made with half a million dollars,” Mathew said. “So that was our whole business plan; advocating for the effectiveness of word-of-mouth advertisement.”

Mathew said that The Pitch is just the beginning of his and Roseman’s ideas.

“I would say the overall best experience was just learning; learning how to present, how to get the right points, and how to be confident but not cocky,” Mathew said. “It’s a very important balance to find.”

Mathew was also excited to see that his major was well-represented at the event.

“We were really excited that most of the people who won, even in the top four, were [computer science]-based,” Mathew said. “It shows … that there’s actually a lot of new entrepreneurship that can happen.”

Another Computer Science major, Jake Allinson, won the first Pitch, which took place in the fall semester.

As he prepared for the Pitch, Matthew asked Allinson about his experience so he and Roseman could learn from his successes. Matthew said Allinson told them to predict the questions the audience would ask and prepare answers.

Both Cissel and Mathew said Cedarville’s sponsorship of The Pitch encourages entrepreneurship and innovation in students who otherwise might not have had the confidence to put themselves in front of a crowd with their ideas.

“It’s fun to see all these ideas that people have put together and are passionate about and watch them present,” Cissel said. “Watching others innovative and getting to know them; that was really cool for me.”

Mathew agreed with Cissel.

“For some reason I don’t feel like the Christian world got on the train as quickly as other people did for entrepreneurship, and these products are really able to help people,” Mathew said. “It isn’t about the money, it’s literally us trying to make a tool that can help people, and that’s what we were thinking about when we were presenting our idea.”

Zach Krauss is a Pharmacy grad student from central Texas and campus reporter for Cedars. He loves music, theatre, biology, community and meeting new people.

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