Entrepreneurial students launch their pitches in U.S. and Europe

October 10, 2022

Quinnipiac and polish business students pose in front of the innovation hub sign during the pitch competition.

Quinnipiac students and Kozminski University students from Poland collaborated to compete in the first Start Up Academy business pitch competition in early September, where they shared their business ideas with American and Polish investors.

The Start Up Academy was developed about one year ago through the partnerships of the Central Eruopean Institute, the M&T Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Kozminski University. The students collaborated since February 2022 to develop business ideas. To prepare for the pitch competition, which took place at the School of Business, students took workshops that focused on conceptualizing businesses, creativity, applying skillsets toward a business and developing a pitch.

The workshops were taught by faculty members of Kozminski University Quinnipiac.  Dr. Bartosz Kondaszewski of Kozminski Academy conducted the workshops Business Model Cavnas and MVP while Professor David Tomczyk of Quinnipiac conducted Validation and Innovation and Creativity. 

“The idea [of the workshops] is to prepare students who do not have experience thinking about conceptualism in business,” said Novak Family Polish Chair Gedeon Werner. “They learn how to think creatively, how to conceptualize the business idea, how to put that in a business concept and how to present the most valuable proposition of what’s in the business and how to present the proposal in the end through a formal pitch.”  

3+1 student Yasha Laskin BS ‘24 MBA ‘25 joined the Start Up Academy competition and participated in all four workshops to acquire international business experience and knowledge. Laskin’s group spent four months working on their entire presentation and business report on their idea of an AI technology system supermarkets could use to identify when certain produce was close to spoiling to provide discounted prices. After months of research and development, Laskin and her group members finalized their pitch for three weeks. Their first pitch took place in June via Zoom and then the final 10-minute pitch in September at Quinnipiac.  

“It was an amazing experience in the Start Up Academy,” said Laskin. “I learned so many valuable things through the lessons and the real-life experience of going through the presentation. I learned how hard it is to start a business and work with others. It definitely has its ups and downs, but I am forever grateful to my partners for how amazing they were and how hardworking they were.”  

Shaheer Ansair, a second-year financial management student at Kozminski University, also had a fulfilling experience.  

“I had an absolute blast working with some of the brightest minds in my team during the pitch competition,” Ansair said. “The exchange of ideas, team work, time management, business acumen building, and professional networking were key elements of the StartUp Academy event. I am grateful for the opportunity given to me by Quinnipiac University & Kozminski Business Hub.” 

Olohirere Ezomo MD '23, winner of the pitch competition, pitched a project on home based augmented reality gaming system in the management of shoulder impingement syndrome. Ezomo says she enjoyed collaborating with other students to work on the pitch. 

"My classes, my entrepreneurship class, prepared me to think about what clients want and answer critical questions about understanding market strategies," said Ezomo. "My peers in my group also brought in a ton of personal experiences that help to challenge my thought process and come out with better plans." 

Ezomo believes it is important and valuable to finish projects until it is the best it can be. She was pleasantly suprised when she found out she won the competition. 

"Never give up on your dream," she said. "It may be challenging or discouraging, but be resilient. Even if others do not think your idea is great, keep working on it and get better. One day, it will pay off." 

According to Werner, any student can join the Start-Up Academy. This year, students from the School of Business and the School of Nursing competed.  

“We don’t want only students with [business] experience, but we want people with drive who want to start a business” he said. “I think right now there are a lot of pitch competitions going on in the U.S. market and in our school for those who truly have the experience to pitch their ideas. We are open to everyone. The three most important things participants should have are an open mind, passion and pursuing results.”  

Students who participate in the Start Up Academy can network with investors, broaden their international experiences and knowledge and win a chance to go on a faculty-led trip to Europe.  

“I would advise students to just jump at every opportunity provided,” said Laskin. “Out of this competition, I got a free trip to Europe that so many students passed up. How much better of a deal can there be?”  

During the months of the Start Up Academy, Werner saw students excel in their business knowledge, proposals and communication skills.  

“The students who participated from start to finish did a tremendous job,” said Werner. “They did good, had fun with it and some of them are actually talking to the judges who were able to put them in touch with other potential investors as well.” 

The competition teams included the teams "Legendary Winner" with Kozminski Academy students Renata Zawrotna, Piotr Pawlak and Sheeran Ansari as well as Quinnipiac student Yasha Laskin BS ‘24 MBA ‘25; "Unicorns" with Kozminski Academy students Bartosz Malodobry and Filip Michalski and Quinnipiac student Aashman Verma '24; and "EVA" with Quinnipiac student Olohirere Ezomo MD '23 and Kozminski Acaademy student Jan Molski. 

Students who are interested in joining the program can email Werner to Gedeon.Werner@quinnipiac.edu and Director for the M&T Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to Patrice.Luoma@quinnipiac.edu.  

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