Blog: Vanderbilt Owen Graduate Students Present New Business Concepts at November Firestarter Pitches

On November 9th, five student groups took part in the first Firestarter Pitch Competition of the 2020-2021 academic school year. In a virtual environment, competitors had five minutes to pitch their early-stage startup ideas. A panel of judges from the Nashville entrepreneur community followed up with questions and feedback for the different business concepts, scoring each to determine a winner of a $500 reward. The five concepts pitched include: 

Home HQ: Presented by Tara Tenorio, Corey Gingras

Home HQ is an app designed to help millennials navigate the challenges of owning a home. It functions through a subscription model with consultation fees purchased on an as-needed basis, providing customers with a homeowner’s checklist, maintenance scheduling reminders, how-to videos, connection to local service providers and ongoing, on-call virtual help. 

Pure Land: Presented by Rick Margaritov, Falon Scott

Pure Land is an American craft sake with core pillars of quality, integrity and community. It will be the first American brewed craft sake that connects deeply with the American conscious through ways Japanese brewers have failed to. Traditional sake has a lack of brand connection, education and recognition when compared to other alcohols. Pure Land Sake hopes to combat this by making a place at the table for American craft sake through becoming more than just an enjoyable drink during a sushi dinner, rather a part of customers’ lives in deeply personal and memorable ways. 

AthLink: Presented by Dane Drobocky

The 2019 Fair Pay to Play Act passed in California authorizes college athletes to acquire endorsements and sponsorships while still maintaining eligibility. This recent shift that allows college athletes to earn money for their name and likeness sparked an idea for Vanderbilt’s Master of Marketing student Dane Drobocky. Dane developed the business concept AthLink: a platform that connects student athletes with fans in a space where competing with agents or commercial companies isn’t necessary. With a goal of empowering athletes to market themselves and receive compensation, the platform is a one-stop-shop for athletes to promote their merchandise and connect with fans. 

Lantern: Presented by Jack Cogan

With an average of 82 minutes per day spent on dating apps, millennials are frustrated by their experience. Lantern is a dating app designed for individuals with busy schedules by eliminating the need for small-talk. It will be the only dating app that restricts messaging capabilities until a user indicates availability. While traditional dating apps leave you home alone in the dark, Lantern will allow you to step into the light. 

HSTN: Presented by Rowdy Vass, Travis Welwood

HSTN is an open source smart home system geared towards “home futurists.” With the smart home market plagued by deep fragmentation, HSTN aims to serve as a premier smart home integrator that helps customers circumvent communication problems between all their smart devices.

After the five pitches were completed, judges’ scores determined HSTN as the winner. Although only one group claimed the prize of $500, the true value in the competition came from the  feedback received early in the startup process and the relationships fostered between students and Nashville entrepreneurs. 

Interested in pitching your business idea? Join us on January 27th, 2021 for the next Firestarter Pitches! Visit our event page for more information and registration.