Katie Stewart ’23 (she/her) and Erin Papakostas ’23 (she/her), News co-Editors
On Monday, April 26th, Davidson’s Hurt Hub announced the two winning companies of the 8th annual Venture Fund competition.
According to Hurt Hub Director Liz Brigham ’04, the Hurt Hub seeks to foster innovation in the Davidson Community. “We exist to facilitate access and exposure to entrepreneurship and innovation for all Davidson students, alumni, faculty, staff, [and] also the local community,” said Brigham.
This particular competition was created thanks to donations by Marian Nisbet and Chip Nisbet ’86, and the competition awards a $5,000-$25,000 equity investment in exchange for granting Davidson College partial ownership of the company. While this main competition is decided by a team of judges, the Hurt Hub introduced a second award this year that was decided based on online voting by the general public. The winner of this crowd-favorite award received a $5,000 cash grant.
In order to be eligible, the company must include at least one team member who is a current student at Davidson or who graduated from the last 6 classes. Normally they would only extend the competition to alumni who had graduated in the last five years, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020’s competition was cancelled. The Davidson students or alumni involved in the company must also collectively have at least 25% equity in the business.
This year’s competition initially received twelve applications and was narrowed down to five finalists after the first round of judging. Each of these companies were then paired with 3-4 mentors made up of a team of 15 alumni and 3 Hurt Hub co-workers, who are people who lease working space from the Hurt Hub. Due to the remote nature of the last year, the program was also able to draw from a larger geographic range of mentors than they had in years past.
“One of our mentors actually lives in Amsterdam and is a Davidson alum. And so I think in previous years mentors were more local […] but this year we were able to really pull from mentors — specifically Davidson alumni mentors — who just had such a breadth of knowledge,” said Brigham. These mentors ranged from people who work in the federal government to Ana Enriques ’05, who is the global vice president of all non-alcoholic beverages for Anheuser Busch.
These mentors worked with the companies on different parts of business strategy over the past 6 weeks on topics ranging from marketing strategy to legal and finance considerations.
Ultimately, Orion Consulting Solutions, LLC and it’s team comprised of Owen Bezick ‘21, Nico Bracco, Dayton Simenz ‘21, and Calvin Spencer ‘23 took home the big prize of the $25,000 equity investment. According to their statement on the Hurt Hub website, “Orion Consulting Solutions, LLC is an integrated software platform that increases efficiency in the process of master strategic planning.”
Finsiteful, which was created by Jack Clary ‘20, Tea Rankin-Williams ‘20, and Axel Fries ‘20 was awarded the crowd-favorite prize. Their pitch statement explains that “FinSiteful develops habit-forming and behavior-changing mobile financial wellness software for young adults and recent graduates.”
While the school does get a certain equity investment in the winning companies, Brigham looks at the competition mainly as an opportunity to help young Davidson entrepreneurs. “Davidson is investing $25,000 in the company with the hopes that sometime in the future, maybe we would get a return on that investment. But really at the same time, that’s an opportunity to provide support and a leg up so these ventures can continue to grow,” said Brigham.
Brigham also hopes that the wide range of businesses in the competition helps to dispel the myth that the Hurt Hub is only for STEM students or those that have already fully formed businesses. “We’re really trying to facilitate access for all and an entrepreneurial mindset. I feel like it’s something that’s just endemic and who we are as Davidsonians,” said Brigham.