St. John’s students dove into the shark tank and won at the Babson Boston Cup last weekend. It was a pool of 16 teams from eight schools, who competed in this battle of the ventures hoping to seize the coveted trophy along with $1,000 in seed money for their idea. The Prep’s team of David Kobrosky '17, Robbie Lemons '17, Chris Speicher '18 and Fred Lu '17 came away as this year's winners of the cup for their website “High Serve!” And a second St. John’s team of Mason Sagan ‘17 and Jackson Sayre ‘17 had a strong showing, finishing in fourth place, with their website “Condolence Connector.”
“It was a great job by both teams in the morning pitch and the final round. We have a big cup coming back to SJP for the trophy case, too! Very proud of all the young men,” said Curt Dalton ‘92, who is one of the advisors that works with students on the program. The Shark Tank is the culmination of the Babson Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy, a 10-week program that has been offered at St. John's since 2013. Economics teacher David Hennessey '83 leads the program.
Swimming With The Sharks
Just days before the competition in Boston, St. John’s held it’s Shark Tank competition on campus. Here nine student teams presented their new business ideas to a panel of judges. Parents, teachers and classmates filled the A. E. Studzinski Library for this exciting afternoon of creativity.
The proposals, well researched and persuasively presented, outlined everything a potential investor would want to know: the problem the product addressed, development costs, potential markets, competitors in the same arena, estimated revenue and long-range goals. Each presentation ended with the all-important “ask” for start-up funding.
After making their formal presentations, students responded to questions from a panel of judges, who challenged them to further articulate the merits of their innovations. The judges included: Art Coviello ’71, venture partner at Rally Ventures; Andrew Frates ’06 a Bentley College grad and alumni programs manager at St. John’s; Jay Greenberg ’04, co-founder and CEO of LexShares; Janai Mungalsingh of the Babson Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy; and Sarah Schwartz from the Lewis Institute Youth Programs.
"High Serve" was one of the standouts with a confident presentation style by its four-member team. “High Serve” is a website designed to streamline and improve the process to sign up for community service and submit the required parent permission and site coordinator verification forms. It will all be done online, eliminating the need for multiple paper documents. The developers see it as especially valuable for students applying for the National Honor Society, where community service must be documented.
"Condolence Connector" the other winner at the Prep Shark Tank who moved on to the Boston competition, created a website designed to bring families who have lost a love one together with supportive friends and vendors of food, flowers, and other gifts. They designed the site to make the gift process smoother and more efficient.
Both teams agree that taking part in the Babson program was an experience that helped them grow in many ways. “Being part of the Babson entrepreneur program was a great honor, and above all, gave us an inside look on how to pair social innovation with entrepreneurship,” said David Kobrosky.
David’s teammate Robbie Lemons echoed that gratitude. “The Babson Boston Cup program gave me a great understanding of what it's like to start up my own company. From modeling our service, to standing in front of an audience trying to get funding for our project, the experience taught me valuable lessons about how to turn ideas into action.”
The “High Serve” team plans to have their website fully functioning with everything from lists of service opportunities to sign-up forms and a service hours log with signatures. “High Serve plans to implement the new design in schools across the North Shore within the next few years, and to continue our drive to promote community service,” David said.
Mason and Jackson also hope to get their website active. “The Babson Cup competition was a lot of fun as we were able to present our business idea to real judges. Just to be able to make it that far was really amazing. Clearly people think there is a need for our service. My plan is to start this website this summer and get the ball rolling on it,” Mason said.
Leadership from the top down
The teams agree that they would not have made it to the Babson Boston Cup finals without the guidance of their mentors. “Mr. Hennessey and Mr. Dalton are the reason that we were able to win the cup. Throughout the entire process, starting months ago, they both worked with my group on creating an idea and how to calculate whether or not it was feasible, whether we had a large enough target market or not, how to organize our slides, and even stayed after school for an entire week to help us hone our presentation skills. Without both of them, our idea would never have been able to become a reality,” Robbie said.
Mason felt the same way about their experience; “I absolutely loved working with Mr. Hennessey and Mr. Dalton, as they are two people who know the business world inside and out. It was a true honor to be able to work with them throughout the whole program.”
For more information on the Babson Boston Cup visit their webpage here.