NU hosts nationwide entrepreneurship competition finals for first time


Allie Goulding/The Daily Northwestern

SwineTech founder Matthew Rooda stands with judges and other contestants at the Cupid’s Cup Entrepreneurship Competition. SwineTech, which developed technology to prevent piglet deaths in pig farms, won the $75,000 grand prize.

Catherine Kim, Assistant Campus Editor

For the first time since its founding more than a decade ago, the Cupid’s Cup Entrepreneurship Competition was held outside the University of Maryland, concluding at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall on Thursday.

The competition final –– created by Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank –– drew hundreds of people. In front of a full house, five startup founders pitched their companies to four judges, one of whom was athletic director Jim Phillips. Under Armour is Northwestern’s official apparel outfitter.

During opening remarks, Plank said he started the competition 11 years ago because of his own experiences as a young college entrepreneur who wanted to make a shirt that wouldn’t soak up his sweat.

“From that first year of business, we made $17,000 in revenue,” Plank said. “This year, we’ve crossed more than five billion dollars in revenue, 21 years later. And that’s the kind of story we’re hoping to inspire today.”

After each company gave a five-minute pitch and participated in a three-minute Q&A, the judges awarded SwineTech, a company that developed technology to prevent piglet deaths, with the $75,000 grand prize.

SwineTech, which opened its presentation with a video of a piglet being crushed to death by its mother, will help farmers increase profits by preventing piglet deaths, the company’s founder, Matthew Rooda said. Being crushed is the leading cause of piglet deaths on farms, he said.

Mother pigs will wear the company’s device, which will vibrate when activated by the sound of distressed piglets, Rooda said.

“Going into this, there were so many parts of the presentation that weren’t figured out yet, and I was still writing it when I was turning on the stage,” Rooda told The Daily. “So having it all come together and really making people excited about what we’re doing was great.”

SwineTech competed against four other finalists: Luna Lights, an automated lighting system company founded by an NU alumnus; NaturAll Club, an all-natural hair care provider; PiperWai, an all-natural, charcoal-based deodorant company; and LearnLux, a millennial-targeted online learning platform for finances.

Phillips told The Daily the judges decided to choose SwineTech as the winner because of its potential and innovation. The company explores an area where not much has been done yet, he said.

“It’s really practical (and) necessary,” Phillips said. “It has the opportunity to really make a significant impact, and for us what this thing could look like in three to five years kind of won the day.”

NaturAll Club, founded by University of Pennsylvania alumna Muhga Eltigani, came in second place, claiming $20,000. The company ships fresh, fruit-based hair products to those who seek natural products but do not have the time or patience to consistently follow DIY hair care recipes, Eltigani said.

In addition, Luna Lights, which was founded by Donovan Morrison (McCormick ’14), was named the crowd favorite entry and received $5,000. Following the event, Morrison told The Daily he will continue to develop his lighting system for older adults, which will activate whenever they are out of bed to prevent falling.

Weinberg freshman Samuel Kronick, who has just launched his own snack startup, “Care Package,” said the competition was inspiring to young entrepreneurs like himself.

“All of them came out of college, they didn’t have any experience in business, but they dived straight into startup,” Kronick told The Daily. “That’s very inspiring, how they can take that risk.”

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