2 Barrington High student startups awarded funding
A nonprofit using an app to promote recycling to teens and a company producing covers to slip over athletic cleats to prevent falls and messes received funding at the second Incubator Pitch Night at Barrington High School.
Student startup Save Da World received $15,000 and Cleat Guard received $29,050. They joined the five student-run companies that were funded at last year's pitch night.
The two groups convinced a panel of business experts from the Barrington 220 educational foundation that the companies they developed over the course of the school year were the most deserving of seed money.
In all, five groups went before the judges and the audience and had 10 minutes to make their case.
"I am continually impressed at the poise of those pitching," said Karl Freucht, one of the co-founders of the Incubator program, after the event, as the two groups posed with their oversized checks. "To be asking a group on the side of the stage for $30,000 while at the same time speaking before an auditorium is impressive. And there weren't too many 'ums' and 'ahs' either."
Now that they've won, the two groups will create LLCs, open bank accounts and use the money to get their companies off the ground.
The groups hope to follow the success of the five companies that received $80,000 in total funding last year. Of those companies, four are still in operation even as most of their members head off to college.
Matt Rowley, a junior in Save Da World, said it was great to see the Incubator students who got funded at last year's pitch night come into their classroom and be so excited that they were starting a business.
"Many times my mom yelled at me to stop working on my business and do my homework for other classes," Rowley said.
Save Da World is going to use its money to create an app that encourages middle school-aged children to recycle by giving them virtual points whenever they do and encouraging them to compete with their friends for the highest score. The startup also received $5,000 in funding from the Barrington Area Community Foundation.
Each group worked throughout the year with a mentor. The mentors are local entrepreneurs with real-world business experience.
This year, the two winning groups will get even more help from professionals. The educational foundation is paying for Cleat Guard and Save Da World to do a 72-hour startup workshop at a company called Hatch Valley, which was started by Barrington High School alumna Rania El-Sorrogy.
El-Sorrogy said the groups will work with her staff of designers and business professionals to hone their idea. The $9,500 session is being paid for by the Barrington Educational Foundation.
"Getting to do Hatch Valley is going to make it feel even more real," said sophomore Andréa Potgieter of Cleat Guard. "They won't be treating us like high school students."
With the money Cleat Guard received, the group will be able to buy the equipment it needs to produce its product and plans to begin selling it at baseball and softball tournaments this summer.
Potgieter said she didn't know much about business before taking the incubator class, but now she has a passion for it.
Like the student businesses, the Incubator program itself is a startup that is growing quickly. After premiering at BHS last year, Incubator curriculum was at nine schools this year, and Michael Miles, the program's other co-founder, said it will be in 31 schools next fall.
"We will be in schools from California to Pennsylvania to Florida," Miles said. "The interest in educating students in these skills is very high."
This year, 17 student startups competed for funding. Hagop Soulakian, who has taught all of the Incubator students the last two years, said it was much more difficult this year for them to narrow it down to the five groups who got to present.
Soulakian took time to make sure the other groups that didn't get funded knew how viable their business ideas are and encouraged them to keep working to make them a reality.
The groups that made presentations but didn't win were Knowtify, a mobile app that delivers updates on school-related events to students; Tract, an app that helps restaurants better organize and track food delivery; and Players Card, an app that calculates the scoring on complicated golf strategy games.
The winners don't have long to celebrate; El-Sorrogy said their workshop will start June 26.