for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
at Davidson College

for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
at Davidson College

Group of people standing on a stage

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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