New events, speakers and a crafty open house made DU’s second annual Entrepreneurship Week bigger and better than the first

DU’s second-ever Entrepreneurship Week showcased the diversity and energy of Entrepreneurship@DU, a fast-growing department in the Daniels College of Business. With Joshua Ross at the helm as director of entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship Week took last year’s success and imbued it with new energy. This year’s events utilized new locations and topics, and incorporated the department’s first-ever open house. Attendees enjoyed great food, live music and speakers with global experience.

Monday, Oct. 3

Student vendors set up their booths at the EWeek launch party. (Photo by Kevin Douglas)

The week kicked off with the Entrepreneurship Week Launch Party at the Community Commons. Live music flooded the main floor and event space, where visitors enjoyed pop-up shops and food from student-created barbecue restaurant Briskets for Betterment.

The party showcased students at their most inventive and entrepreneurial. The main stage featured student bands Antibroth, Monk Gyatso and MOYLOM DJ—three self-managed, self-promoting and self-distributing acts that illustrate entrepreneurship in the arts. Featured vendors at the launch party included recent graduates of Entrepreneurship@DU’s new summer accelerator, BASE Camp. For example, guests enjoyed gluten-free apple cider cinnamon rolls, courtesy of GoodLove Foods, a company founded by alumna Chennelle Diong (MBA 2022).

Tuesday, Oct. 4

The second day of Entrepreneurship Week shined a spotlight on The Garage, Entrepreneurship@DU’s home base. An open house welcomed guests from across campus, showing off all the resources the facility has to offer, including coworking spaces, a full kitchen, a sewing room and a maker space, complete with a 3D printer, sticker printers and more.

Open house guests work on DIY projects; Mezzanine founder Julianne Lukens helps attendees make ceramics dishes; guests enjoy refreshments inside TheGarage. (Photos by Kevin Douglas)

In front of the building, students could get their hands on paints, buttons, yarn, ribbons and more to create DIY picture frames and macramé wall tapestries. Julianne Lukens, a DMBA student, BASE Camp graduate and founder of ceramic studio startup Mezzanine, helped attendees make their own ceramic dishes.

Thursday, Oct. 6

Guests returned to the Community Commons on Thursday for a special speaker event on entrepreneurship and innovation in Israel. Israel is one of the world’s leading hubs in startups and innovation, home to 92 “unicorns” (companies that reach $1 billion valuation), despite being smaller than the state of New Jersey. What is the secret to this young country’s entrepreneurial success? A trio of speakers provided insight.

People talking and eating before the Innovation in Israel panel

Attendees of the Innovation in Israel event gather at a reception beforehand. (Photo by Kevin Douglas)

The evening kicked off with an introduction from Doug Sesserman, CEO of Americans for Ben-Gurion University, which is the fastest growing research university in Israel. He touched on Israel’s desert location and how desert tech has been a major source of Israel’s innovation, despite political and religious conflict in the region.

Adam Rovner, associate professor and director of the Center of Judaic Studies, delved into Israel’s complex history and how cultural and political conditions wove an entrepreneurial spirit into the country’s DNA. Through trial and error, Israelis self-taught crucial skills like agriculture, as the country developed itself from the ground up. As Rovner put it, Israel was “building the ship as they were sailing it.”

Next was Brian Abrams, former president of Ibex Investors. Abrams co-founded the company’s Israel-focused strategy and helped it grow from $2 million to over $700 million in assets in roughly 10 years. He explored how tech innovations and cybersecurity have shaped the country, as well as how Israel’s national identity and cultural norms prime their citizens to have an entrepreneurial mindset.

The final speaker was Or Santo, the CEO of Gav-Yam Negev Advanced Technologies Park (ATP). Santo traveled to Denver all the way from Israel, where he is overseeing the massive ATP project. He discussed the challenges and risks of establishing a new technological and residential community in the Negev region of the Israeli desert.

Speakers at the “Innovation in Israel” panel included (from left) Doug Sesserman, Adam Rovner, Brian Abrams and Or Santo. (Photos by Kevin Douglas)

Friday, Oct. 7

Lila Ruppe pitches her startup idea, Metafest. (Photo by Kevin Douglas)

Entrepreneurship Week closed with its second annual student pitch completion. Ten teams, all composed of current DU students, pitched their business ideas to judges with professional startup experience. Some teams have already launched their startups and are in the process of raising capital; others are first-time entrepreneurs, with nothing more than their business ideas. Over 50 teams submitted applications to participate. The 10 finalists were a diverse group with innovative solutions to an array of market problems.

Judges included Peyton Bell, a managing partner at DU’s Pioneer Venture Group; Chennelle Diong, founder of GoodLove Foods; Collin Ricker, co-founder of NuRange Coffee; and Max Haines Styles, co-founder and CTO at Galore, which was acquired by Care.com.

The entrepreneurs sought to address problems like musicians’ hearing loss, plastic waste, dementia and unsustainable sporting equipment. Each problem presented was paired with an innovative solution, as well as a target market and business model to demonstrate their ideas’ potential as a proper business.

After the judges’ deliberation, Jack Billeaud won first place and $1,500 from E@DU for Stik Buds, a product designed for drummers to keep track of their earplugs and ensure hearing protection. Second place and $1,000 went to Denver Persinger with One More Moment, an organization providing resources meant to empower and support parents of teens struggling with mental health. Kasey Shen took third place and a $500 prize for Here ‘n There, a rideshare service composed of background-checked childcare workers on-call for parents who need help transporting their children.

The winners of the student pitch competition stand with their prizes. From left to right: Jack Billeaud, Denver Persinger, Kasey Shen. (Photos by Kevin Douglas)