for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
at Davidson College

for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
at Davidson College

Access to Capital Alum AVINGER IMPACT FUND Startup

Kishan Vyas ’24: Bridging the Gap Between Surplus Food and Those Who Desperately Need It with NoWaste:

According to Feeding America, every day, 295 million pounds of food go uneaten in the United States. This equates to approximately 357 million meals being wasted. Simultaneously, more than 34 million people, including 9 million children, face food insecurity. Recognizing this glaring discrepancy, Kishan Vyas ‘24, envisioned NoWaste, a mobile application designed to bridge the gap between surplus food and those who desperately need it.

NoWaste’s mission is straightforward yet profound: ensure that food gets eaten, especially by those who need it most, rather than ending up in the trash. The app connects consumers to excess food from businesses – offering it either for free or at a discounted price. By simply opening the app, users can view nearby businesses with surplus food and place orders for pickup. This solution not only helps those struggling with food insecurity but also aids businesses in reducing waste and contributing to their communities.

Kishan’s primary target demographic includes individuals from low-income backgrounds and those experiencing food insecurity. However, NoWaste is open to everyone, with a goal of making the app as accessible as possible through strategic marketing efforts. Furthermore, Kishan aims to involve local food pantries, homeless shelters, and organizations dedicated to helping the underprivileged. 

On the commercial side, businesses can register on NoWaste to post their discounted or free excess food. Kishan’s vision is to develop a strong local user base and expand outward, eventually creating a nationwide impact.

Kishan’s journey with NoWaste has been supported by his involvement at the Hurt Hub for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Davidson College. His previous experience in founding and exiting a business has equipped him with the resilience and knowledge needed to navigate the challenges of launching a startup.

Participating in the Avinger Impact Fund has been a pivotal moment for Kishan and NoWaste. The fund provided the essential feedback to bring this innovative solution to life. As Kishan Vyas continues to develop NoWaste, he exemplifies the spirit of innovation and Impact that the Avinger Impact Fund seeks to support. His work not only addresses critical societal issues but also inspires others to think creatively about how they can contribute to a better future.

Access to Capital Alum Article AVINGER IMPACT FUND Startup

Constantine Desjardins ’24: Pioneering Year-Round Sustainability for Camps with Direct Camp

Constantine Desjardins ’24 is setting the stage for a new era in the camp industry with his innovative venture, Direct Camp. With a mission to enhance the operational efficiency and financial stability of camps, Constantine is leveraging technology to unlock new revenue streams and ensure that camps can thrive not just during the summer, but year-round.

Inspired by the success of platforms like Airbnb, Constantine recognized a significant untapped potential in the off-season periods when camp facilities often sit idle. Research indicated that by renting out their facilities to outside groups such as corporations and recreation organizations, camps could earn up to $100,000 annually. This additional income could triple their profit margins from 3.4% to 10.2%.

Direct Camp’s platform is designed to streamline rental management and make it easier for camps to offer their facilities to a broader audience. By doing so, camps can support their financial health without increasing traditional summer camp fees. Renters, in turn, gain access to unique, cost-effective venues that provide a refreshing connection to nature. This symbiotic relationship ensures that both camps and renters benefit from the arrangement.

Constantine’s approach to identifying potential customers for Direct Camp is strategic and well-defined. He has pinpointed two main customer segments: existing camp renters and new camp renters. For existing camp renters, particularly for-profit overnight camps that already offer facility rentals, Direct Camp aims to enhance their current offerings by making the process more efficient and attractive. These camps, especially those in warmer climates and accessible by car, are targeted through email marketing, referrals and partnerships with camp associations.

For camps that do not currently offer rentals, Direct Camp aims to lower the barriers to entry by providing essential services such as insurance, security, and maintenance. This makes it easier for these camps to start renting out their facilities and tap into a lucrative revenue stream that they had not previously considered.

The solution that Direct Camp offers meets the pressing needs of camps and renters alike. For camps, it means increased revenue, efficient management of rental bookings, payments, and contracts, and an expanded customer base. 

Constantine’s journey with Direct Camp exemplifies the spirit of innovation and business impact. By addressing the financial challenges faced by many camps and providing a platform that benefits both camps and renters, he is paving the way for a sustainable future for these cherished institutions. His work with Direct Camp and his participation in the Avinger Impact Fund reflect his commitment to making a meaningful difference in the lives of campers and the broader community. Through Direct Camp, Constantine is not only helping camps thrive but also enriching the experiences of all those who interact with these unique and valuable spaces.

Access to Capital Alum Article Innovation Nisbet Venture Fund Startup Try It Fund

Thomas Athey ’24: Revolutionizing Music Management and Distribution

Technological innovations have revolutionized music production and distribution, allowing artists to have fully functional studios on their computers and enabling them to reach global audiences directly. However, despite these advancements, managing the behind-the-scenes aspects of their careers remains a daunting task for many artists. Organizing collaborations, handling contractual obligations, and ensuring rightful ownership or credit for their work often require juggling multiple tools and services. A staggering 69% of artists report losing money due to administrative oversights.

Enter MESA Wallet. This innovative platform co-founded by Thomas Athey ‘24 offers a comprehensive solution that simplifies and organizes the administrative aspects of a musician’s career. The initial product integrates file organization, collaboration management, and contract handling into one intuitive platform. Future features will include distribution services, data analytics, and fintech services. By bringing these key functionalities together, MESA Wallet not only saves time and reduces complexity for artists but also ensures they have complete control and visibility over the business side of their music careers. This tool empowers artists to manage their administrative tasks with the same ease and efficiency as when they create and distribute their music.

Thomas’s passion for this venture is deeply personal. Growing up surrounded by music, with a professional saxophonist uncle, a brother who attended the best music conservatory in Chicago, and the formative experience of attending Lollapalooza every summer, Thomas developed a profound appreciation for the art form. He recognizes music’s unique ability to evoke emotions, unite individuals, and enrich cultural landscapes. For Thomas, music is more than just a medium; it is crucial to humanity’s well-being. His mission is to help musicians focus more on creating their magical art by alleviating the burdens of administrative tasks.

The next step in developing MESA Wallet is the completion and refinement of the beta product based on user feedback. This critical phase will ensure the platform meets the evolving needs of music creators. This launch will mark a significant milestone for MESA Wallet, transitioning from a developing startup to a sustainable business. 

Thomas Athey’s vision for MESA Wallet reflects his dedication to transforming the music industry. By addressing the overlooked administrative challenges faced by musicians, he is paving the way for a more equitable and efficient future for music creators. His journey with MESA Wallet and the support from the Hurt Hub exemplify the spirit of innovation and compassion, making a meaningful difference in the lives of artists and the broader community.

Access to Capital Article Startup Student Try It Fund

Emma Huff ‘26: Spreading Positivity One Sticker at a Time with Star Sprout

As an artist and entrepreneur, Emma Huff ‘26 has transformed her passion for art into a small business with her online shop, Star Sprout, which specializes in unique and heartwarming stickers.

The inspiration behind Star Sprout stems from Emma’s use of art as a personal outlet during stressful times. Her stickers feature delightful scenes such as coffee cups, books, and whimsical little creatures. They are adorned with motivational and supportive phrases like “Keep Growing,” “You’re More Than Enough,” and “It’s Okay to Not Be Okay.” Each sticker is a small piece of art intended to provide comfort and uplift spirits, reflecting Emma’s belief in the power of positive affirmations.

Emma’s journey with Star Sprout took a significant leap forward when she applied for and won the Try It Fund. Her project was not just about selling a product—it was about spreading hope and making a difference in people’s lives. 

Looking ahead, Emma has big plans for Star Sprout. She envisions expanding the product line to include stationery sets, enamel pins, and keychains, all designed with the same quirky, supportive, and motivational ethos that has made her stickers so beloved.

Access to Capital Alum Startup Try It Fund

Sydney Schertz ’24: Capturing Life’s Honest Moments Through Photography

Meet Try It Fund winner Sydney Schertz ‘24, a portrait and lifestyle photographer based in Davidson and Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Sydney’s love for storytelling through images began in high school and has flourished ever since. Her fascination with both digital and analog photography has shaped her unique style, which blends modern techniques with the timeless appeal of film. 

Specializing in family photography, graduations, and portraiture, Sydney has a knack for capturing the genuine beauty of her subjects. Whether it’s the joy of a family reunion, the pride of graduation, or the essence of an individual’s personality, Sydney’s photographs tell compelling stories that evoke powerful emotions.

But Sydney’s creativity doesn’t stop there. She is constantly exploring new avenues in photography by delving into lifestyle and branding projects that push the boundaries of her artistic expression. Her recent experiments with shooting film in both color and black & white have added a rich, nostalgic quality to her portfolio – further enhancing the storytelling aspect of her work.

Winning the Try It Fund has been a pivotal moment in Sydney’s journey. The grant has provided her with resources and support needed to expand her business, Sydney Schertz Photography. 

For Sydney, photography is more than just a profession—it’s a way of seeing and celebrating the world. Through her lens, she captures the honest, unguarded moments that define our lives.

Access to Capital Innovation Nisbet Venture Fund Startup Student

Alp Niksarli ‘27: Transforming Housing with GrotN and $2,500 from the Nisbet Venture Fund

The Netherlands faces a severe housing crisis, especially in cities like Amsterdam, Utrecht, and Eindhoven. Despite efforts to build more homes, affordable multi-bedroom rentals remain scarce and expensive, particularly for international migrants. Enter Alp Niksarli, co-founder of GrotN and the 2024 Nisbet Venture Fund People’s Choice Award winner. Alp recognized this challenge and together with his co-founder Cagan Oflazoglu, developed GrotN, a web platform designed to revolutionize the rental market.

GrotN introduces a Tinder-like system for matching rental seekers. It allows them to pool resources and afford higher-priced properties together – which aligns with Dutch culture where shared living arrangements are common. By streamlining the rental search process, GrotN facilitates seamless relocation experiences for both local and international movers.

Winning the $2,500 from the Nisbet Venture Fund is a pivotal moment for Alp and GrotN. This funding will enable GrotN to move their service from Discord to a fully functional web-based platform. 

Alp’s focus is on creating a platform that not only meets the needs of rental seekers but also provides a secure and reliable service. By offering personalized matching based on criteria such as preferred languages, desired rent, location, and roommate compatibility, GrotN ensures users find suitable and affordable housing options. This commitment to reducing individual rental costs is especially crucial for students and budget-conscious individuals.

GrotN stands out from traditional rental websites and social media groups by offering a free service that caters to both local and international users. By taking a percentage cut from monthly rent payments processed through the platform and offering premium services to rental providers, GrotN ensures a continuous income stream while maintaining the security and integrity of transactions.

Alp’s journey with GrotN and the $2,500 award from the Nisbet Venture Fund exemplify his dedication to solving real-world problems through innovation. With this funding, Alp and his team are positioned to transform the rental market in the Netherlands.

Access to Capital Alum Nisbet Venture Fund Startup

Mike Remezo ‘24: Revolutionizing Pharmaceutical Safety with TruePharma

In a world where half a million lives are lost annually due to counterfeit drugs, Mike Remezo, a innovative student from Davidson’s class of 2024, is making a significant impact with his venture, TruePharma. As the winner of the 2024 Nisbet Venture Fund Incubation Track, Mike has been awarded $5,000 to bring his groundbreaking idea to life.

The problem Mike is tackling is both critical and complex. The pharmaceutical industry faces a severe trust issue, particularly in regions with inadequate regulatory oversight. Unethical actors exploit gaps in the supply chain and flood legitimate channels with fake drugs. This not only endangers lives but also undermines the integrity of the entire pharmaceutical delivery system.

TruePharma offers a unique solution to this pressing issue. Leveraging blockchain technology and tamper-evident packaging, TruePharma ensures the authenticity of medications from the point of manufacture to the consumer. By implementing cryptographic keys and a secure delivery system, TruePharma provides unparalleled transparency and traceability.

Mike’s dedication and passion for solving the counterfeit drug problem have driven him to develop the initial concept and prototype. With the support of Dr. Mendes, who provided guidance and assistance in running experiments, Mike has been able to refine and validate his innovative approach.

Winning the Nisbet Venture Fund Incubation Track is a pivotal moment for Mike and TruePharma. The $5,000 award will be deployed in two critical areas: hiring a developer and attending industry conferences. Hiring a developer will help Mike bring the technical infrastructure of TruePharma to fruition. Attending conferences and industry events will allow Mike to showcase TruePharma’s prototype and possibly connect him with potential partners and investorss.

What sets TruePharma apart from competitors is its holistic approach. While traditional logistics companies focus on specific aspects of supply chain security, TruePharma provides end-to-end protection. This comprehensive solution not only safeguards public health but also strengthens trust in the pharmaceutical industry.

As Mike continues to develop TruePharma, his story serves as an inspiration to fellow college students, alums, and aspiring entrepreneurs. With TruePharma, Mike Remezo is not only making a difference in the world of pharmaceuticals but also paving the way for a safer, more trustworthy future.

Access to Capital Alum Article Community Innovation Startup Student

Hurt Hub@Davidson Celebrates 10th Annual Nisbet Venture Fund

Photo credit: Henry Royster

On April 24, 2024 we celebrated the 10th annual Nisbet Venture Fund Pitch Competition, featuring 12 Davidson College student and young alumni finalist teams presenting their innovative ventures to a panel of judges and over 130 attendees. The Nisbet Venture Fund, established in 2014 through generous support from Marian Nisbet and Chip Nisbet, Davidson class of 1986, is a comprehensive, six-week program including entrepreneurial classes and mentorship, which culminates in this annual venture pitch competition. Liz Brigham, the W. Spencer Mitchem Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Hurt Hub, opened the evening’s program highlighting, “Tonight’s competition embodies our values of freedom, integrity, and inclusion and manifests our vision to provide access and exposure to innovation and entrepreneurship for all.”

A Fierce Competition

After an application review process, selected finalist teams were divided into one of two tracks – Incubation and Acceleration – and were paired with 20 mentors from the Davidson Entrepreneurs Network (the DEN), LaunchCLT, and the Hurt Hub Coworking community. They attended a six-week entrepreneurial educational program, led by Hurt Hub instructor and serial entrepreneur, Rebecca Weeks Watson, and attended the Nisbet Lecture featuring best-selling author and marketeer, Dr. Marcus Collins of the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. Amy Gascon, the Hurt Hub’s Educational Programming Manager and co-lead for the Nisbet Venture Fund program remarked, “Witnessing the community support for the finalists throughout the Nisbet Venture Fund Program was amazing. Every time we saw one of the mentors stop by the Hurt Hub to meet with their student team, we got a jolt of excitement.”

Finalists also had the opportunity to engage in pitch practice and shared their pitches online prior to the live competition. Each finalist team prepared a 3-minute video presentation and marketed themselves to solicit votes from our global community in competition for a $2,500 grant through the Audience Choice Award.

The Incubation track provided finalists with newer business ideas the opportunity to pitch for a $5,000 grant to further their research and venture development. Our finalists on the Incubation track included:

  • AirFit – Cate Phipps ‘26 AirFit is more than just a gym at airports worldwide, it’s an escape from the stressors of flying.
  • GrotN- Alp Niksarli ‘27, Cagan Oflazoglu GrotN is an online platform connecting potential housemates and providing rental management services for landlords, utilizing AI-driven matching to pair tenants for their dream housing, streamlining rental searches and application processes.
  • SensorySymbio – Peter Martinez ‘24, Kishan Vyas ‘24 SensorySymbio is a social media app that is focused on the blind community by offering a fuly accessible and inclusive social platform. Through features like voice messages, audio descriptions of images, and meaningful connection-matching, we enhance communication, interaction, and engagement.
  • Surpho – Benjamin Morehead ‘24, Tyler Yandt ‘24 SurPho is an app that connects photographers to clients in a convenient manner.
  • TruePharma- Mike Remezo ‘24 TruePharma is a blockchain solution to aid Patients in achieving safer pharmaceutical delivery, ensuring authenticity and traceability throughout the supply chain.

Each team prepared and delivered 3-minute pitches for the following judges:

  • Wil Brawley ’96, co-owns Schedulefly and hosts the “Restaurant Owners Uncorked” podcast.
  • Sherrod Davis ’13, is the CEO of EcoMap Technologies and an influential figure in the tech ecosystem of Baltimore, providing valuable insights into technology and innovation.
  • Christine Nicodemus is an experienced EdTech entrepreneur who recently launched her newest venture, WayHaven, focused on leveraging AI to provide college students better access to mental health support.
Photo credit: Henry Royster

The Acceleration track featured businesses that were already or soon-to-be incorporated, may have customers, and/or product-market fit. These finalists competed for a $25,000 equity investment to support their business growth and set them up for long-term success. Our finalists on the Acceleration track included:

  • BizCards – Odysseas Koufos ‘25, BizCards is the first on-demand laser engraver for your cards metal, wooden, and even paper. We aim to help students by providing them with an option to get their personalized cards with RFID capabilities just like printing their paper in the library.
  • Direct Camp – Constantine Desjardins ‘24, Direct Camp was founded on the principle of helping camps maximize and fulfil their potential. By introducing an online platform for camps to rent their facilities during the off-season, we aim to help camps thrive year-round!
  • Evergreen ESG – Neesha Basnyat ‘18, Evergreen ESG is a sustainability solution agency for micro and small businesses. We are built on the belief that businesses will drive environmental, social, and governance change for good.
  • Med Launch – Daniel Oukolov ‘24, Med Launch: We help doctors with revenue cycle data management.
  • MESA – Thomas Athey ‘24, Andres Botero, MESA is a rights management tool for music creators. MESA organizes and legally protects collaborators’ intellectual property.
  • Sunken Paradise – Redden McElveen ‘21, Christopher Alvarez ’21, Paul Stauffer ‘21, Ragnar Schmidt ‘21, Sunken Paradise is an established men’s athleisure and yoga company on a mission to disrupt the fast-fashion industry and its multi-bilion dollar corporate overlords by showing that fashion can be sustainable, utilitarian, and, most importantly, ethical.
  • US – Georgia Wines LLC – Sandro Chumasvili ‘24, US-Georgia Wines imports a curated selection of the world’s oldest and health-enhancing Georgian wines, bridging the rich heritage of ancient winemaking with today’s pursuit of exceptional quality and wellness.

Acceleration track finalists presented their pitch for 7 minutes, followed by 3 minutes of Q&A with our judges:

Photo credit: Henry Royster
  • J. Bennet Waters ’94, is the President & CEO of NCInnovation. His experience in business and governmental roles offers a robust background in business development and strategic planning.
  • Whitney A. White ’08, is the CEO and Co-Founder of Equity Commons, and founder of the Davidson Tech Impact Fund, enriching the Hurt Hub community through the Gig-Hub program.
  • Jay Hurt ’88, is the former President & CEO of The Hurt Company, Inc. and a real estate investor.

A Showcase of Grit, Resilience and Hard Work

After the judges deliberated and finalist teams anxiously awaited news, our emcee, Alumni Innovator in Residence, Donna Peters ’89, awarded the winners with life-sized checks, glory and bragging rights.

Thomas Athey ’24, Co-Founder of MESA. Photo credit: Henry Royster
  • Acceleration Track Winner: Thomas Athey ’24 and Andres Botero of MESA won a $25,000 equity investment for their software that organizes and legally protects music projects, ensuring fair distribution of contributions.
  • Incubation Track Winner: Mike Remezo ’24 of TruePharma received a $5,000 grant for his secure platform that bridges the gap in pharmaceutical delivery.
Mike Remezo ’24, Founder of TruePharma. Photo credit: Henry Royster
  • Audience Choice Award Winner: Alp Niksali ’27 and Cagan Oflazoglu of GrotN, an AI-driven platform for connecting potential housemates, won a $2,500 grant.
Alp Niksali ’27, Co-Founder GrotN. Photo credit: Henry Royster

Hitting for the Cycle with the Hurt Hub’s Pitch Competitions

Thomas Athey ’24 now joins an elite echelon of Hurt Hub “Groupies” who have won all of our pitch competitions – the Try It Fund, Avinger Impact Fund, and now the Nisbet Venture Fund. Owen Bezick ’21, Carson Crochet ’22, and Lily Korir ’23 – all the last Nisbet Venture Fund Acceleration Track winners – preceed Thomas in this honor. What they all have in common is a deep commitment to testing, learning, and iterating – the embodiment of a growth mindset. Thomas reflected on his experience over the past four years at the Hurt Hub: “The most valuable part of my Davidson College experience has been the Hurt Hub. The entrepreneurial education, access to mentors, and access to capital has allowed me to build a startup that I will be working on full time after graduation.”

Similarly, Incubator track winner Mike Remezo shared his sense of community at the Hurt Hub, noting, “Being at the Hurt Hub is like finding a second home. It’s a community where support is the norm. And the Nisbet Venture Fund? It’s the icing on the cake, giving not just funding but also reinforcing the belief that my idea matters.”

Alp Niksali, Audience Choice Award winner, echoed the sentiment, emphasizing the unique experience of the Nisbet Venture Fund competition relative to anything else at Davidson: “This competition really is one of a kind in terms of preparing students throughout the process and giving them an opportunity to compete for funding opportunities.”

Our Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Dwayne Sutton, summed up the evening, “The beautiful thing about entrepreneurship is that it has no boundaries. There were Davidson students from around the world who pitched. I am excited to see the impact their ventures will have on the world.”

Join Us on Our Journey

The Hurt Hub@Davidson is not just a space, but a vibrant community of innovators and problem-solvers. We invite you to join us in fostering entrepreneurial talent and developing innovative solutions that have a global impact in the spirit of Davidson College’s commitment to developing humane instincts and disciplined and creative minds for lives of leadership and service.

You can watch the full recording of the 10th Annual Nisbet Venture Fund pitch competition here:

Filming Credit: Rygid AV

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