Making Waves in the Shark Tank
Posted 04/12/2017 02:11PM

A wave of energy surged through the normally quiet A. E. Studzinski Library yesterday afternoon, when eight groups of student entrepreneurs pitched new business ideas before a panel of judges during the Prep's Shark Tank event. See photos from event here. 

The teams were poised and polished as they described ideas that ranged from several different apps to an innovative new design for the traditional pop tent. The students presented a “rocket pitch” – three minutes, three slides – for ideas that solve a problem in the students’ communities and are actionable within six months.

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.

It was clear that the students, looking professional in jackets and ties, had done extensive research to refine their plans. There was talk about manufacturing costs in the United States and overseas, as well as patents, prototypes and online advertising strategies. 

After making their formal presentations, students responded to questions from a panel of judges, who challenged the students to further articulate the merits of their innovations.  

After the last of the presentations, students talked quietly among themselves as the judges deliberated nearby. When they returned, the judges had selected two teams to go on to  compete in the Babson Boston Cup at the end of the month.

The Shark Tank was the culmination of the 10-week entrepreneurship program at St. John’s. The program was recently renamed the Ryan Shaw ’15 Entrepreneurial Education Program to honor a bright young grad who passed away last year.

Economics teacher David Hennessey '83, who leads the program, was impressed with the way students approached the project. "Once again, the students fully embrace the challenges and hurdles that entrepreneurs in the real world experience on a daily basis. Their resilience and adaptability in creating truly feasible outcomes to identifiable problems was outstanding, which is as much a life skill as it is a required component for success in this program," he said.

Curt Dalton '92, who acts as an advisor to program, shares his own experiences with students throughout the process. "This program gets better every time I see it," said Dalton. "All of the ideas today were competitive. I'm proud of how composed they were. It's hard to get up there and present like that in front of judges.”

The Ryan Shaw ’15 Entrepreneurial Education Program is designed to foster entrepreneurship and new venture creation among high school students worldwide.

Congratulations to all of the entrepreneurs who participated in the program:

•      Trans-Up: Robbie Dinsmore ’18, Michael Johns ’19, Thomas Pendleton ‘18

•      Job Ardvark: Walker Anderson ’18, Nat Boyce ’17, Arthur Thu ’19, CJ York ‘18

•      Res-U-Maker: Robby Brandano ’18, Will Sheehan ’18, Chad Swigor ‘17

•      Don8:  Brian Brennan ’18, Conrad Cacciola ’19, Joe Emilius ’18, Keegan Wehrwein ‘19

•      Bloom: Youssef Baba ’18, Jonathan Bowers ’18, Liam O’Connell ‘18

•      P.O.P. Tents: JP Collins ’19, Aidan McCool ’18, Sam Meurer ’18, Dan Taylor ‘18

•      Campus Light: Diego Farrell ’18, Bill Sheehan ’18, Ruthvik Yenisetti ‘19

•      Learning Lenses: Parker Burtnett ’18, Nik Patel ’18, Bill Wang ‘18

Many thanks to the judges: Anne Gamer of the Mathematics Department; Cindy Fanikos, Assistant Head of School/CFO at St. John's; Joe Biondo, Trusted Innovators Inc.; Joe McNamara, Babson College Youth Program Director; and Michael Shanahan P’03 ’03, SJP Trustee Emeritus.

Good luck to the teams in Boston! Last year in the Boston competition, a team from St. John’s Prep – High Serve group of David Kobrosky ’17, Robbie Lemons ’17, Fred Lu ’18, and Chris Speicher ‘18 – took home first place. #goeagles

For more information on the Babson Boston Cup visit