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Alum Article Startup

One Year Later: Shea Parikh and “Jam” Adapt in 2020

Last year, six finalists—including three current Davidson students and three recent graduates—competed in the 2019 Davidson Venture Fund Pitch Competition (DVF), an annual event hosted by The Hurt Hub@Davidson. Winners of the competition are awarded a $25,000 seed investment to start their for-profit ventures. Contestants were given five minutes to pitch their ideas to a panel of investors and entrepreneurs, followed by a round of questioning from the panel. Their ideas ranged from an app to construct diet plans for cancer patients to a mobile beauty bar. After deliberating, the judges selected Shea Parikh ‘16 for his company Jam, which offers an app to help companies design face-to-face social interactions between employees, which leads to better relationships, connectivity and productivity across the firm.

After winning the 2019 DVF, the Davidson founder relocated to the greater New York City area to continue building Jam. Last month, Juan Diaz Mercado ‘22 checked in with Parikh to learn about Jam’s inaugural year.  

Parikh credits the generous investment from the DVF as the catalyst for the company’s development: “[the] direct investment [from DVF] helped give Jam the resources to hire engineers to continue building the product.” Beyond raw capital, he recognizes how the DVF “provided a platform to engage with Davidson alumni.” Parikh insists developing these connections were essential to Jam’s first steps: “establishing these connections…provided invaluable advice on how to navigate the early days of trying to get a company off the ground.”

However, Parikh reports that communications with the consumer significantly contributed to Jam’s growth over the last year. He writes that at the beginning of the year, Jam started “simply” as a “culture-building tool” which “uses metadata from communication networks…to help employees find the people and information they need.” Over the past year, the company pivoted its business model: “we learned there was value in [culture-building]…value [that] companies were willing to pay for. [So] over the past year we’ve learned we were dancing around a much bigger opportunity.” Through conversations with the consumer, Jam “moved away” from an optional culture-building tool to “an internal communications tool…for larger companies.”

According to Parikh, this dialogue with the customers—the “getting feedback, positive or constructive”—was his favorite experience. “It’s largely humbling because you realize customers don’t actually want the thing you think they want…with every new conservation, I think we take one step closer to finding that fit which is very exciting.”

But perhaps the defining moment of Jam’s inaugural year would be the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ongoing pandemic—which has closed down businesses across the nation and forced many to work from home—made Parikh realize the importance of interpersonal communication. Accordingly, he made it Jam’s mission to maintain cross-team communication under these unprecedented conditions: “COVID has made it painfully clear that remote work is here to stay. Going forward, Jam can play an integral part in helping employees access the information and the people they need to do their best work.”  

Parikh concluded the interview with some advice to future DVF applicants: “Absolutely apply [for the DVF]…If you have an idea you’re excited about and you’ve done some work to validate it, the worst thing that can happen is you don’t win. On the upside, you receive some capital that can jumpstart growth and you get a platform to connect with the Davidson alum base.” 

Although the 2020 DVF Pitch Competition scheduled for late April was postponed due to COVID-19, The Hurt Hub looks forward to rescheduling it when it is safe for the community to return to campus. 

The author, Iain Anderson, would like to thank Juan Diaz Mercado ‘22 for sharing his interview notes. 

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Article Co-Working Startup

A Leap of Faith: Greenhills Win Prestigious International SCALE Challenge

Although the ongoing coronavirus pandemic temporarily closed The Hurt Hub’s doors in April and May, coworking members Judy and Zach Greenhill continue to find success. 

Earlier this month, their company Greenhill AntiBallistics—one of the 82 companies operating out of The Hurt Hub—won the International SCALE Challenge, an international contest for innovative, high-tech companies to “advance the supply chain and logistics industry.”

“[We’re] exhilarated!” The Greenhills wrote.“Each validation we get….is a big win. [But] this one is especially sweet because CAI [Center for Advancing Innovation] is an international competition judged by experts…The life of a startup like ours…is exhilarating peaks and the deepest of valleys. This is definitely one of the peaks.”

For the competition, the Greenhills submitted their product, Force Disruption Platform (FDP), a nanotechnological material designed “to reduce force of impact up to 50% in the thickness of a dime” by “disrupting kinetic energy and reduction platform.” Greenhill AntiBallistics designed FDP to protect children, athletes, and soldiers from traumatic brain injuries. For the CAI SCALE Challenge, the Greenhills proposed using FDP to protect packages during shipping, which would “enable size and weight reduction” which would not only facilitate package delivery but could increase the capability of drone delivery. 

“FDP was conceived by…standing on a subway platform staring at a 75-gallon bin and thinking about how to protect people from terrorists. [Our] goal evolved as we learned about the terrible toll on children, soldiers, and athletes of Traumatic Brain Injury and blunt trauma,” the Greenhills write. “Since the current solution isn’t working, i.e., tweaking macroscale technology, which is thicker and heavier, we decided the solution is to be thinner and lighter with better protection.”

The Greenhills, however, acknowledged that their success did not come without challenges. “There were a lot of obstacles, e.g., composition, production and cost… Another problem [was] skepticism that a material thinner and lighter can offer greater protection than thicker and heavier, macroscale materials…but we overcame these by having a great team and skilled DOD contractors for R&D, testing, etc. GABC solved that…by benchmarking FDP against those materials; but any invention requires a leap of faith.”

The Greenhills also recognized the support from The Hurt Hub and the Davidson community: “The Hurt Hub and the Davidson community have been tremendous for us.  The Hub is exactly that: a place where entrepreneurs gather, share their travails, learn of opportunities, interact with the community, and launch.” They recalled how The Hurt Hub connected them with Startup Grind, the world’s largest community of startups, founders, innovators, and creators. This past February, the Greenhill AntiBallistics was one of eight North Carolina companies to attend the Startup Grind Global Conference. 

As winners of the CAI SCALE Challenge, the Greenhills will be a featured technology at an invitation-only Investor Forum in Northwest Arkansas this fall. Attendees are companies which work and invest in the supply chain: “we hope to interest these companies in a strategic partnership and investment to complete the integration of FDP into the supply chain.” When they return, the Greenhills hope to “approach large big box retailers and package delivery services to use FDP.” 

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Article

To Our Community

Dear Hurt Hub community,

Today, we acknowledge the unrest and pain in our community and our country, stemming from systemic racism and police brutality. This past week, our team has reflected upon our collective responsibility and duty to respond with action. In that process, we returned to our values, posted on the wall above our coworking desks:
 
OUR VALUES 
Our strength is in our community.
Our passion is impact.
Our drive is to accelerate.

WE… 
Respect diversity of all kinds.
Make friends, not contacts.
Believe in giving, not taking.
Help others before helping ourselves.
Listen before advising.
Celebrate success and failure.
Never stop learning.

WHAT DRIVES INNOVATION 
Innovation exists where diversity of culture, age, origin, gender, experience and perspective collide to test our limits and push our boundaries.


Today we reaffirm these values as we stand in solidarity with Black, Indigenous, and people of color members of our community: students, colleagues, coworking members and local residents. We admit these values are only a start, and there is more work to do to become the community we aspire to be. It is not enough to respect diversity of all kindsas an engine of innovation; we must actively and loudly condemn racism, and the acts of discrimination and violence spawned by it, as utterly reprehensible and unacceptable. We pledge to never stop learning, and to listen before advising, as we educate ourselves, examine our own structures and practices, and work toward a more just and welcoming community.

Our strength is in our community. 

As a community, The Hurt Hub@Davidson is committed to diversity, equality, and inclusivity. We believe that while intentionality is important, actions speak louder than words. To that end, The Hurt Hub@Davidson is committed to: partnering with organizations, leaders and financial supporters who affirm these same priorities of diversity; building diversity and inclusion into all programs, events and services we provide; and increasing diversity among those we serve and who serve.

As we continue to resume our normal operations over the course of this year, we will host opportunities for community discussions including round tables, lunch and learns, and more. We encourage you to join us in doing this necessary work for as long as it takes, knowing we can’t solve the problem overnight.

We welcome your ideas, suggestions and ongoing dialogue about how we can continue to make The Hurt Hub@Davidson a diverse and affirming community for everyone. 

With hope,
The Hurt Hub team