March 12, 2014

Entrepreneurs at SXSW


Maggie: Tons of your favorite companies and brands all got their start right here at SXSW. Foursquare officially launched in 2009. And have you ever heard of a little company called Twitter? Well, no one had until they came to SXSW in 2007. Eight groups of college students from around the country are all competing to see who could be the next part of SXSW’s startup history.

What if there was an app that picked out your outfits for you? Or got rid of spoiler alerts on social media? Or made it easier to find a band mate anywhere in the world? If these students have anything to do with it, there will be.

Vincent Fong: In a startup, you have to be so passionate that you’ve just got to go above. You know, it’s not all about the money, it’s not about the publicity, it’s not about that. It’s all about what you really like to do and just keep pushing it.

Maggie: All these students are part of Student Startup Madness. And what started off as sixty-four competitive teams has now been whittled down to the elite eight. Now, they all have the opportunity to pitch their companies from a South by Southwest stage, just like Foursquare and the countless other companies that have come before them.

What is it like presenting at SXSW? There is so much history here.

Sarah Roche: It’s terrifying! It’s so scary to be up on stage in front of everybody. My heart races, my pulse… I’m shaking the whole time. And if you fail, you fail. You can’t blame a boss. You can’t blame another employee. It’s on you.

Maggie: The companies are pitted against each other in a pitch off, with each group getting exactly four minutes to sell their company to a panel of judges. Next comes a rapid fire question-and-answer round.

Brian Cohen: You’re making this up as you go along.

Maggie: And the judges definitely don’t hold back.

Cohen: If you’re going to get up on stage and you’re going to present your business and you’re looking for money, you better be prepared.

Vincent: A lot of people take it personally. And I think you should never take anything about your company personally because every company has weak points, even Facebook, even Twitter. So I think it’s a great learning experience by having this kind of treatment.

Maggie: Well, then what do the judges look for? They say great leadership, a one-of-a-kind idea, and that they actually know their customer.

Cohen: It’s incredible how many companies start and then they find out the customer doesn’t really need it. So I want to know how close they are to the customer.

Maggie: So, what team made the cut?

Announcer: And the winner of the 2014 Startup Madness pitch competition, hailing from Seton Hall University, Notefuly! Come on down!

Maggie: And you just became the national champion of Student Startup Madness. How does it feel?

Taseen Peterson: It feels awesome!

Maggie: And look at this trophy you have!

Taseen created Notefuly as a simple and easy way to remember things. He says to think of it like a sticky note for your digital device.

So, presenting on this stage where so many other famous, well-known companies have launched, what does that mean for Notefuly?

Taseen: I couldn’t even explain it in words, you know. I do have a sense of how big of an opportunity this is. You know, for us to kind of be in the same position as some of these guys, it’s amazing!

Maggie: As the winner, Taseen gets national bragging rights. And the top three teams each receive $5,000 worth of credit for Google Cloud services.

So, is Notefuly the app of the future? Well, we will have to wait and see. But Taseen and his company hope this win will rocket them to a spot in SXSW history.


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