Students take five minutes to pitch businesses at Denver Startup Week

It isn’t unusual for college students to have interests outside of the classroom, but how many are launching exciting new businesses? Four Daniels College of Business students are not only doing just that, they each marked a milestone in their ventures by showcasing five-minute business pitches during Denver Startup Week, which was held virtually this year. Altogether, 19 University of Denver students took part in DSW’s Demo Day on Sept. 16.

For the Daniels students, Demo Day culminated a summer-long startup focus in Project X-ITE’s flagship program, XLR8. Now in its fourth year, XLR8 (formerly Pioneering Summer) is a 10-week program that supports students in taking their businesses to the next level with a $10,000 stipend, mentorship, company visits, coaching, workshops and dedicated time and space to build and grow their ventures.

Nina Sharma (EMBA 2019)

Nina Sharma, interim executive director for Project X-ITE, said Demo Day is a great opportunity for student entrepreneurs. Similar to an elevator speech with a slide deck, a pitch provides business owners with the opportunity to share their journeys and plans.

“The best outcome is community connection – whether that be other business leaders, startup founders or potential investors, the goal is to get students out talking about their businesses to the community,” Sharma said.

Kayla King (BSBA 2020) pitched Macro Menu, a company that helps create transparency between restaurants and consumers with dietary restrictions to make eating out easier. She used the results of a survey conducted in a market research class to add meaningful statistics to her sales letters. King said XLR8 helped her bring the idea to fruition by providing the necessary guidance and support to help her build confidence.

“The mentorship was massively helpful. Toward the end of the program, almost weekly, we met with our peers and practiced our pitch and got feedback from mentors as well. That was super helpful in making sure that it was ready for Demo Day,” King said.

Macro Menu is on the verge of a Denver launch in October and taking pre-signups at

Graduate business analytics student Patricio Gilly pitched Defudger, a company that uses technology to detect manipulated, forged or synthetic audiovisual content. For Gilly, having the summer to practice and get feedback on his pitch was not only helpful for Demo Day but also will improve his chances as he vies for a spot in the University of California, Berkeley’s SkyDeck Accelerator Program.

Lauren Barnes and Kayle Migaki

A past organizer of Denver Startup Week and Professional MBA student, Rye Finegan, returned to present Paired, a recruiting platform that connects talented people with great companies by leveraging the networks of connected tech industry leaders. He said the event provided exposure to a broader group of people.

“You’re able to present the business as effectively as possible to potential customers, business partners or investors and get people excited about what you’re doing and hopefully engaged. It is the endpoint of the accelerator to say here’s all the progress you’ve made to date and here’s what we continue to need going forward,” Finegan said.

It was the second time Lauren Barnes, an undergraduate management student, had been through the XLR8 program and participated in Demo Day for her business OneKindCup. Barnes aims to market her backyard-compostable sustainable cup-lid-straw combination to quick-service restaurants. She’s currently working through manufacturing and production challenges.

“Right now, we are really only seeing a glimmer of a way through these challenges, but we are just going to chase that glimmer until we can’t see a way through anymore because, to us, the grit and determination are what is going to make us successful entrepreneurs. Most importantly, we don’t have much to lose, but we have a lot of potential to learn,” said Barnes.