Blog: Two MSF Students Win November Firestarter Pitch Competition

On November 15th, four separate teams participated in the C4E Firestarter Pitch Competition. During this virtual event, each team had the opportunity to present their business concepts to a panel of five distinguished judges from the entrepreneurial community: Michael Burcham, Rob Dickins, Ethan Fidida, Cale Genenbacher, and Brittani Roberts. After each five-minute presentation, the judges provided valuable feedback and offered their advice to the teams as they move forward with their businesses. 

Max Mona (MSF ‘22) and Adam Jace (MSF ‘22), students at Vanderbilt University’s Owen School of Management, won this competition with their startup idea, ESGi. 

Explain your business and how it works. Where did you find the inspiration for ESGi? 

 Mona: “The business started from an internship experience that I had in private equity. I had noticed that ESG metrics and operations were being pushed to these firms at a premium. It was a costly and time-intensive practice that ended up not being worth its value.

Max Mona, MSF ’22

What Adam and I are setting out with ESGi is to develop and create a subscription-based software that is multifaceted. We want to give Private Equity and Venture Capital firms the tools they need to monitor their portfolios regarding ESG opportunities and risks while also giving their portfolio companies the foundation of proven ESG practices that will help drive further value as they mature. Our goal is to help these portfolio companies grow with impact in mind, rather than waiting until these companies mature and outsourcing their company culture and conscience to ESG consultants.”


What has been the most challenging part of the startup process so far?

Mona: “The most challenging part of this process so far has been dealing with competition. Between Adam and I, we have a small team of advisors and we’ve bootstrapped the company ourselves to this point. In the past few months, we’ve seen multiple competitors appear out of nowhere with millions of dollars in funding already raised for their products. That has both been validating and intimidating for our team. To get past this, we’ve worked hard on providing as much value to our customers as possible and are focused on building the best product that we can.”

 Jace: “The most challenging part is being patient and trusting the process. I would love to jump into product development tomorrow, but there is a reason due diligence and market research takes months. We could have the best idea, product, and team but fail to address one key pain point that would have taken our company so much further.”


What is your most significant piece of advice for those wanting to pursue their business ideas/concepts?

Adam Jace, MSF ’22

Mona: “Talk to your potential customers. It has been a huge point of emphasis for us to communicate with our customers and really identify their pain points. At the beginning of our process, we had created a solution for a very small niche of companies but weren’t sure if we had a larger market application. It wasn’t until we started gaining more feedback that we realized that we had to pivot and make a company shift. It’s been very validating ever since but had we kept going down that original path, I don’t know if we’d be as far along.”

Jace: “Find a business partner that compliments yourself. Make a list of competition and keep track of their progress. Always be ready to pivot your product (don’t get too attached to an idea). Focus on the needs of your customer rather than how you want your product to look.”

As Mona and Jace continue the Owen MSF program, they will also continue to build their product. The co-founders are excited about ESGi’s future and are committed to further developing and growing their business. 


The C4E wants to congratulate Mona and Jace and wish them the best of luck! 


Interested in competing or judging at our next Firestarter Pitch Event on January 25th? Email for more information.