Alumni Delali Dzirasa ’04, computer engineering, and Andrew Mavronicolas ’14, information systems, were recently featured in a SmartLogic video promoting bwtech@UMBC. Both alumni run companies based in the research park: Dzirasa is the president of the software company Fearless Solutions, and Mavronicolas is co-founder of Backpack ‘Em, an online intra-campus exchange platform. Ellen Hemmerly, executive director of bwtech, is also featured. Watch the whole clip here:
Greg Cangialosi ‘96, English, has made a name for himself as a serial entrepreneur with a passion for helping others succeed. Since he graduated from UMBC, he has gone on to run two companies, and made it a personal mission to turn Baltimore into a hub for startup companies. To help support that initiative, the MissionTix CEO and co-founder of the startup incubator Betamore gave a generous gift to UMBC to establish the Cangialosi Business Innovation Competition.
The CBIC launched last year through the Alex. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship to give undergraduate and graduate students an opportunity to develop and present their business plans, and get a head start on establishing their companies. The first competition was held in the spring of 2014.
“His spirit is all about entrepreneurism,” says Susie Lynch, a development officer at UMBC. “[He’s] passionate about others’ success…[and] having a thriving startup community in Baltimore.”
Cangialosi had been involved with the Alex. Brown Center for some time before the competition began, according to the Center’s director, Vivian Armor. Among other initiatives, he was a featured speaker for the Entrepreneurship Speaker Series, developed and taught UMBC’s Entrepreneurial Marketing course, and served as a judge for the university’s annual Idea Competition, upon which the CBIC is based and which still runs every fall.
“As a result of his long term involvement with the Center, [Cangialosi] realized there was a need to provide the next level of competition and support for students who were serious about starting a business,” says Armor. The CBIC, she explains, was intended to connect students with the larger Baltimore business community.
To enter the competition, students submit their business plans to a panel of qualified experts. Those selected for the next round are paired with a mentor to help them fine-tune their ideas, and in the final round, they present their fully-formed startup plans to a panel of community business leaders and investors. In addition to a cash prize of up to $5,000 for seed funding, competition winners receive free Betamore membership, as well as free legal services, accounting advice, and fundraising and pitch advice.
Andrew Mavronicolas ‘14, information systems, is one such beneficiary. He was one of 10 finalists in last year’s inaugural competition, and his company, Backpack ‘Em, is now located in UMBC’s Cyberhive incubator. The company provides a platform for an intra-campus marketplace, its most popular use being textbook selling and trading. Mavronicolas says the support he received during and after the competition was invaluable in helping him get his business off the ground.
“The greatest gain that we had from the competition was easily the insights given by judges [and] investors, our mentor, students, and the university. This allowed us to improve upon our business idea by expanding our revenue models. It also helped us to perfect our pitch and gain the confidence to go meet with university decision makers and investors,” he says.
According to Armor, the competition will continue every spring semester, and has been a boon to the Brown Center’s visibility on campus. “[…Now] more students are aware of the wide range of initiatives and programming the Center makes available,” she says.
Lynch says Cangialosi is personified by his Twitter hashtag of choice: #neverstop. “That’s him in a nutshell,” she says. As the CBIC enters its third year, one hopes that that tenacious entrepreneurial spirit will be fostered within and passed onto several generations of students.
– Julia Celtnieks ’13