5 Start-Ups Fight to Survive

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Most people go to college to earn their degree, graduate and then work a boring nine to five job until the next rapture, only to be disappointed that the world didn’t end and then return to their daily routines. Then there are the select few who decide to take charge of their futures and stand out from early, early on in their careers. It’s the University of Maryland’s Entrepreneurship Invitational, started in 2006 by the CEO and founder of Under Armour, Kevin Plank, which recognizes a select few of these select few.

The Entrepreneurship Invitational brings together both University of Maryland alumni and current students who have taken initiative and started their own businesses. Often referred to as Cupid’s Cup, the invitational’s final stages will be held next Friday, March 30th, in the Stamp Student Union. It is there that five finalists will pitch their businesses to a panel of judges who will, ultimately, crown an entrepreneur as victor and award him or her $25,000.

Among those present at the final will be Kevin Plank, one of the judges, and Maryland Governor O’Malley. Thankfully, Simon Cowell’s invitation got “lost in the mail”—can you imagine how disastrous the ceremony could get if he were among the judges?

Each and every one of the entrepreneurs is experienced and unique in that he or she has gone beyond writing a business plan and either operates or owns his or her own business. And yet, despite this similarity, the entrepreneurs and their businesses couldn’t be more different. Who are the contestants?


Ali Von Paris, a current UMD senior, created a few Terrapin themed shirts with her friend back in 2010 and ended up having her own business, Route One Apparel, after demand for the shirts sky-rocketed. The icing on the cake? Her work may end up on MTV. Not bad for someone who hasn’t even tossed a graduation cap in the air yet.



While currently working towards his Ph.D, Adam O’Donovan launched Visionics—a spinout from his research at UMD that enables realistic 3D audio for music, movies and gaming in standard headphones. Having graduated with a degree in computer science in 2006, he has brought to the competition an idea that could be as innovative as the iPad.


Ryan Hogan’s Reed Street Productions operates Run For Your Lives, a zombie themed adventure in which participants race against each other…and zombies. It is, essentially, taking the zombie craze of recent years to a whole new level and making it a much more interactive experience for those who can’t wait until fall for season three of The Walking Dead. To find out if the 5K horror obstacle course is coming to a city near you, check out the website and register. Only $10 to be part of the running dead!


When you hear 10G Systems, what first comes to mind? The system on which all mobile devices will be running on in the near future? Contrary to that belief, 10G Systems, established by Geoff Milsom in March 2010, provides software and professional services to improve operational processes and reduce transportation costs for mid-size shippers. We’re talking about coordinating 1,000 pound shipments, not that Kindle or second season of Breaking Bad you’re expecting to arrive at your doorstep next week. With over a dozen customers in the Mid-Atlantic region alone, 10G is slowly but surely expanding its unique offering—especially with the media coverage comes from the Cupid’s Cup.


Thanks to Ryan Shain, who founded Food Safety Administration with his dad a few years after graduating from College Park in 2008, you can trust the managers of over 6,000 restaurants across America (including certain Starbucks, KFC’s or McDonald’s) to provide you with the best accommodations possible while keeping your safety in mind. How do you know? Well they have to take a day-long course and two hour long test to become a manager or chef—a course which Shain’s business now provides. The aim of this is to prevent foodborne illnesses, among other safety hazards, from affecting your experience with the restaurant. Instead of forcing aspiring restaurant managers or chefs to sit in a classroom for hours at a time, FSA allows people to take the course online and then show up to a secure location for the exam, just like the SATs. Upon completing the exam on a computer, the manager-to-be (or not to be, depending on how they did) will instantaneously find out the score. So if you’re hoping to be a manager one day, be sure to bring a bottle of champagne with you to open right after the test. If you win, you celebrate. If you lose, you drink your sorrow away. It’s a win-lose-win situation.


As you can tell, the contest can really go any way: each and every one of these entrepreneurs were innovative in the way that they created their own business and in regards to what it is their business does. These five students, or ex-students in the case of a few, are exemplary of what every college student should aspire to be. To each and every one of them, “may the odds be ever in your favor.”

To see the games competition in action, go here –> http://ter.ps/mar30invite

Junior > Journalism and Architecture > University of Massachusetts Amherst

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