Five minutes to impress

Johnny Fayad, left, and Ali Kothari, both DMSB’17, cofounded New Grounds Food, creating a coffee bar that packs the same punch as an espresso shot. Photo by Lauren Dibble.

Five min­utes. That’s how much time the hopeful entre­pre­neurs had to pitch their ideas to poten­tial investors. While this may seem stressful, the fledg­ling busi­nessmen and women—the pur­veyors of more than a dozen star­tups affil­i­ated with IDEA, Northeastern’s student-​​run Ven­ture Accel­er­ator—rev­eled in the chal­lenge on Wednesday night at Dis­trict Hall, Boston’s new inno­va­tion center.

Think Shark Tank, but a little friendlier.

“Pitch-​​a-​​thon is a pow­erful show­case of all the hard work and effort our ven­tures put into their busi­nesses,” said IDEA CEO Nick Naraghi, DMSB’15. “It’s exciting to watch them progress through IDEA’s stage gates and grow into investment-​​ready businesses.”

Indeed, IDEA helps stu­dents and alumni create, develop, and accel­erate new busi­nesses through coaching, men­toring, and funding. Since its incep­tion in 2009, the student-​​run ven­ture accel­er­ator has helped launch 30 star­tups, which have received more than $12 mil­lion in external funding.

On Wednesday evening, a variety of star­tups from indus­tries ranging from tech to retail made an impres­sion with poten­tial investors, some of whom may soon help these busi­nesses grow and achieve success.

Sev­eral entre­pre­neurs dis­cussed their inno­v­a­tive ideas to improve upon existing indus­tries, like online trading, adver­tising, and health­care. Others, like Ryan Wright, E’09, see a market for a com­pletely new type of product.

“People are con­stantly run­ning out of bat­tery life on their smart­phones,” Wright said. “There’s cur­rently no way to charge your device, espe­cially if you’re outdoors.”

And so he cre­ated Sol Power, a com­pany that builds out­door solar-​​powered cell phone charging sta­tions that enable users to lock up their phones and return later to a fully charged device.

Other fledg­ling entre­pre­neurs who pitched their star­tups hope to improve the daily grind, like Johnny Fayad and Ali Kothari, both DMSB’17. They cofounded New Grounds Food, cre­ating a coffee bar that packs the same punch as an espresso shot and mar­keting the product to Boston-​​area cafes.

“After one too many spilled cof­fees rushing to class, we thought there had to be a better way to get your­self going in the morning,” Fayad said.