Oswego Team Develops Business, App in 54 hours
Five SUNY Oswego students showed off their computer science skills and business savvy in a business-startup competition that brought 146 students and faculty from 10 colleges together with scientists, engineers, software developers, designers and other professional mentors to harness entrepreneurial drive throughout the region.
The team earned fourth place for developing a plan to start a company called SpecialMenu with a built-from-scratch mobile Web app that finds specials at nearby restaurants. They were among 17 teams taking part in Startup Weekend, an intense 54-hour business planning and entrepreneurial training event that took place Nov. 4 to 6 in Syracuse.
The Oswego team-consisting of Nicholas Poorman '12, Joe Mirizio '12, Joshua Primrose '12, Steve Pomerville '12 and Armando Franco M' 13 as well as one SUNYIT student, Darren Samson, was awarded space in the Tech Garden, a Syracuse business incubator.
"They did extraordinarily well and precisely what we wanted them to do," said James Early, associate professor of computer science. "They started thinking how they can take a business idea and translate it into a real product."
For teams whose ideas and business models attract the interest of business mentors and seed-capital investors, it could go beyond just a competition, according to Robert Simpson, president and CEO of the host regional economic development organization, CenterState CEO.
"The big challenge is they're trying to make a company in two days," said Mitchell Patterson, Startup Weekend organizer and managing director for the emerging-business portfolio at CenterState.
"I reached out to the computer science professors at all the local universities," said Patterson, who contacted Oswego and other area colleges and universities that participated in the international competition, including University of Rochester, Syracuse, Clarkson, Cornell, Colgate, Rochester Institute of Technology and SUNY Binghamton.
"I had to go up in front of hundreds of people and had one minute to pitch the idea," said Poorman. "But it only took me 30 seconds — I was nervous.
"It's a lot to do in 54 hours, to take an idea and show how you can make money off it," Poorman said. "We made a business plan, created a presentation and developed a working prototype for our app all in that time."
Their creation, SpecialMenu, displays local restaurants' daily specials based on the user's location. It can factor in price range, directions and other details.
"After we presented, a man approached us with his business card and said he's been trying to do the same thing for six months, and we did it in two days," said Poorman.
SpecialMenu, as one of the top five, has been promised space in the Tech Garden, which offers offices and conference spaces for developing businesses.
"Over winter break we're thinking about going to the Tech Garden," Franco said. "It'd be great to utilize some of that space and see where this can go."
— Samantha Yeh '12
Teammates for the Startup Weekend business-creation competition go over SpecialMenu, a mobile app they propose that displays daily specials of nearby restaurants, providing descriptions, prices and directions. Seated are computer science majors Nicholas Poorman '12, left, and Joshua Primrose '12; standing, from left, are computer science major Joe Mirizio '12, Armando Franco M '13 and software engineering major Steven Pomerville '12.
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