RALEIGH, N.C. – Imagine walking into a room and pitching your “million-dollar idea” to a panel of potential investors that includes Mark Cuban, Daymond John, Lori Greiner and Kevin O’Leary.
It wasn’t quite as intense as the popular “Shark Tank” television show on Friday night for a group of young, budding entrepreneurs at North Carolina State University’s Entrepreneurship Initiative, but it was close.
Student-entrepreneurs pitched their best ideas and business models to a panel of sharks from the Triangle and beyond at Innovation Hall on Centennial Campus during NC State’s version of “Shark Tank,” an event designed to encourage students to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. TrakDex walked away with the grand prize as they prepare to revolutionize the trucking industry.
The panel of sharks consisted of Andy Albright (President/CEO National Agents Alliance), Sharon Bui (Frill), Chris Evans (The Deepwood Group), Jesse Jones (Forrest Firm) and Lewis Sheats (NC State eClinic and Poole College of Management).
Bui, an NC State graduate, appeared on an episode of ABC’s “Shark Tank” pitching Frill, the company she co-founded while she was still a student.
Jennifer Capps, Director of Undergraduate Programs with the Entrepreneurship Initiative, said providing opportunities for EI students to share their ideas was critical in helping their ideas become reality.
“Any event that brings entrepreneurship students together to practice their pitches, interact with investors and mentors and have fun while doing it is a great event for us,” Capps said. “These students are amazing and we are thrilled to help them share their ideas with others.”
In addition to Shark Tank judging, the NC State Entrepreneurship Initiative awarded the inaugural Albright Entrepreneurs Village Outstanding Resident Award, which was created to recognize students who go above and beyond in their efforts to support the mission of the Albright Village.
David Tillack earned the award for his efforts in outreach and engagement to promote the AEV. Tillack, a second-year resident of the Albright Village and a junior in the College of Engineering, participated in AEV information sessions to recruit new residents, participated in feedback sessions to help improve the AEV and volunteered his time to help plan and host events such as socials, Entrepalooza and the Shark Tank event. Tillack is a student-employee with the Entrepreneurship Initiative and helps keep the EI Garage in tip-top shape for its members. Albright awarded Tillack two seats for the upcoming basketball game between rivals North Carolina and N.C. State.
The AEV is N.C. State’s newest living and learning community on campus. The Village is a residential community at Wolf Ridge Apartments on Centennial Campus that provides sophomores and above across all academic disciplines the opportunity to live and work with entrepreneurial-minded peers. Residents can explore and develop their entrepreneurial interests in an environment that fosters creativity and encourages innovation.
Albright, who is the namesake of the AEV, said he was honored to serve on the panel and to have the AEV Outstanding Resident Award named after him.
“For me, the EI program and the work (EI Executive Director) Dr. Tom Miller and his team are doing is so important to the future of North Carolina and our country,” Albright said. “Helping provide that little spark for future generations of entrepreneurs is something I believe strongly in. Opportunities like this shark tank event can make all the difference in the world to a young person who is trying to make their idea work. It’s exciting to see and learn about all the great things going on with the EI program and I’m proud of the work the Albright scholars are doing in the village.”
The EI was founded to foster innovation and entrepreneurship in students. As a program, the EI takes an interdisciplinary approach to learning. The EI faculty and staff come from a variety of backgrounds and industries, and actively recruits students from all areas of NC State’s campus. The EI desires to build a community both within and beyond the university that thrives on a creative, immersive entrepreneurial experience for all.