Investors have given five student companies created during Barrington High School’s inaugural Business Startup Incubator class a major shot at real-life success with $80,000 in funds to get their businesses off the ground. In a surprise move, not one but ALL FIVE of the business finalists were funded during “Pitch Night” before a panel of investors at BHS on Wednesday.
After listening to each group pitch their business concepts, outlining plans for profitability on stage before an audience of their classmates and community members, the Barrington 220 Educational Foundation plus two private equity investors gave the students a total of $80,000 to fund their projects.
Students answered tough questions about their business models posed by a Pitch Night panel, which included an impressive list of local entrepreneurs and influential leaders in business. Here’s a look at how it all went down before the money was awarded…
At the end of their pitches, these five student businesses all received investor funds and we’ll be featuring all five businesses, individually, in the coming weeks at 365Barrington.com…
Founders: Sanjit Narendra, Connor Boundy, Jack Lenihan, Massimo Guhde and Luke Nilles
Investment Awarded: $25,000
FMB or “Find My Bus” Technology is a service that allows parents and students to see where their school bus is at any time of the day. They also provide analytical and statistical data to the bus company and school district to improve efficiency of both parties.
At the end of Pitch Night, BHS Junior and FMB Technology co-founder, Connor Boundy, told us they have big plans for the future and will be using their $25,000 investment wisely. “This check is going to open up some new doors for us. It’s really going to allow us to advance the software even further than we thought and allow us to really market our company.”
365BarringtonTV reporter, Catherine Goetze, featured FMB Technology in this video report which we published earlier this year…
The Study Projects
Founders: Jessica Terrill, Naomi Evers, Carrie Merrick, Rachel Morin and Sarah Parsons
Investment Awarded: $25,000
Concept: The Study Projects is a website application for online learning through a collaborative group studying format.
Pitch Night panelist and Partner with JK&B Capital, Ali Shadman, was so impressed with The Study Projects, he invested $10,000 out of the $25,000 they received and says he plans to help work with the team by sharing some of his past experience with similar businesses.
“I’m investing in this company because I really believe in the need. Given that electronic learning is going to become a larger and larger part of overall study and learning, I think tools to make that more socially productive are going to present significant opportunities in the future.”
Here’s a video detailing how The Study Projects works…
Founders: Scott Arnett, Jake Coon and Jake Orr
Investment Awarded: $15,000
Concept: FantasTech can help you feel comfortable with your computer, smartphone, tablet, social media, apps and more! Connect with loved ones using your own technology made easy by FantasTech’s friendly teen technology tutors who come to you at a conveniently agreed upon time!
Local businessman Jim Cerkleski, CEO and Founder of global recycling company Clover Technologies Group was so impressed with FantasTech’s pitch, he invested $15,000 in their company for a 10 percent stake. Here’s what Cerkleski told Forbes Magazine about the motivation behind his investment.
“This is like [Best Buy’s] Geek Squad for teens, with teens teaching adults. They already have clients, which is what got me excited.”
FantasTech Co-founder Scott Arnett says they’re excited to already be off and running. “We have some great retirement communities locally that are already working with us now. From here, we plan to move all over the country.”
Investment Awarded: $10,000
Founders: William Ladas, Terry McGovern, Cole Walsh, Paul Roeckell and Robert Tracy
Concept: Warrior Wipes is a company that enables mothers to prevent their children from harmful diseases. Not only are these infections detrimental, they’re seen in all athletic arenas in a large scale.
Investment Awarded: $5,000
Founders: Dean Carlson, Will Robbins and Emily Krueger
Concept: A non-profit, Techwurk connects student volunteers with charities looking for website help. They award scholarships to their students while giving organizations a chance to pay the community instead of a corporation.”
At the very end of Pitch Night, TechWurk co-founder Emily Krueger made a point of finding and thanking her mentor, Hagop Soulakian, the teacher that Barrington 220 hired specifically to run the new BHS Startup Incubator. “This class has been life-changing,” Emily says. “When we stared the incubator we weren’t sure what it was going to be like, but it has given me such a great experience that I could never get anywhere else.”
Hagop, or “Hags” as the students call him, was visibly emotional as he addressed the audience at one point during Pitch Night. “You don’t realize how emotionally invested you get into these groups. Some of these kids weren’t even talking to each other the first week of school. And now they’re up here doing something like this. I couldn’t be prouder, happier or more excited about the end result.”
Throughout the night, Hagop made a point of recognizing every one of the 32 business concepts created by the 122 students who took part in the Startup Incubator. The program’s success has generated much buzz, leading to an impressive amount of Chicago and national media coverage. Michael Miles and Karl Fruecht, the local entrepreneurs who inspired and contributed funds for the curriculum, say there has also been a lot of interest from outside school districts.
“Our goal was not to profit from the sale of the curriculum. Nobody profits from this,” Karl says. “It’s about starting a movement in educating our students differently through experiential learning about real things that they’re going to need when they enter the workforce. These kids aren’t going to get a job. They’re going to invent their job and you can really see the enthusiasm they have today in the way they present themselves.”
Karl also stressed that, with funding, now the real work begins for the five chosen businesses. After final exams next week, all 21 of the students who received funding will return to summer school where the incubator process will continue. Then, they will spend the next school year in a class together to grow their companies. As the five BHS businesses develop, new students will enter the class next year, starting the process over again.
If you were unable to attend Pitch Night last week, BHS-TV filmed the whole presentation. Congratulations to our newest local entrepreneurs on their awesome success! We look forward to watching your businesses grow and supporting you every step of the way.