Students involved in Mississippi State University’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach’s VentureCatalyst program pitched their ideas to the Entrepreneurship Center Advisory Board (ECAB) on Friday for the chance to receive up to $2,000 in funding.
According to the E-Center’s website, the business ideas presented at ECAB are in Stage 2 of the VentureCatalyst’s New Product Track and are in preparation to enter the planning stage.
The Director of the E-Center, Eric Hill, opened the meeting by reviewing the center’s activities and expenses over the summer. Hill said the center has seen explosive growth since last year, as the number of new student startups has doubled since last year.
“It’s amazing to see where this has come in the last few years,” Hill said.
Hill also provided an update on a student startup in a later stage of the VentureCatalyst program, DueT Technologies, which has already been funded by the Bulldog Angel Network, is a group of MSU alumni and affiliates that exist to provide funding to MSU student startups. The E-Center is considering investing further into DueT, a company that has created a new type of electric hair clippers that have a built-in cooling system, solving the problem of electric clippers quickly and frequently overheating.
Jeffrey Rupp, the E-Center’s director of Outreach, said the center’s recent “Lemonade Day” event where local kids learned business practices by setting up and operating lemonade stands was extremely successful; the event had 90 stands, multiple of which made over $500 in profits.
Next, the meeting transitioned into a “Shark Tank” style business pitch session for student startups.
Madison Kate Dyer, a MSU senior studying electrical engineering, began the presentations with her startup company, “Street BEETs.”
Street BEETs seeks to fix the problem of hazardous, unwanted ice on cars and road surfaces in the winter.
“Sugar beet juice is way more efficient at preventing ice than salt is. Salt can lower the freezing point to about 25 degrees while sugar beet juice lowers the freezing point to 5 degrees Fahrenheit,” Dyer said.
Most sugar beets are grown in the North, but according to an experiment Dyer conducted over the summer, they are able to grow in the South during the winter months.
The sugar beet juice Dyer has proposed would be an odorless, colorless and environmentally friendly liquid that is sprayed on cars and road surfaces to prevent ice.
Street BEETs’ business process would include farming, juicing and distribution. The company would have an additional revenue stream from selling the leftover beet pulp to cattle and deer companies.
Dyer hopes to have Street BEETs’ sample products in consumer’s hands by January of 2020.
Following Dyer, MSU graduate student Chinwe Okorie presented on her company “Les Pieds-Chic: Sentir la Glissade,” which seeks to provide fashion footwear for women with larger-than-average feet.
“Our competition is really low, as all the competitors do not carry large sizes of shoes. Although, they carry designer shoes, and they’ve already made a name in the market," Okorie said. "But they don’t carry large sizes of shoes, whereas we will have an advantage in this market because we carry wider in our ranges."
Okorie also plans to offer an online platform where customers can send pictures of their feet to be custom matched to a shoe size. Les Pieds-Chic currently has 32 working designs, along with 10 prototypes.
Les Pieds-Chic would use the Venture Catalyst startup funds for production of shoes, materials, marketing and storage
The third startup presentation, “TechTellic,” was presented by Yehong Peng, a graduate student studying electrical and computer engineering.
The company is a subscription-based service that uses artificial intelligence for electricity price predictions.
According to Peng, the company’s electricity forecast service, targeted at electricity trading companies, is already prototyped, and Peng predicts that by using their product, customers will earn around half a million dollars a month.
After convening to discuss the pitches, the board decided to grant Street BEETs $1,000, Les Pieds-Chic $2,000 and TechTellic $2,000 in VentureCatalyst startup funding.