Shark Tank: EWU Edition

Eagle’s Nest Pitch Contest brings entrepreneurship encouragement to EWU


Courtesy of the EWU entrepreneurship program

EWU senior Victoria Simboli holding her first place check of $2,500

By Logan Stanley, Copy Editor

In ode to the popular television show “Shark Tank,” which features hopeful entrepreneurs pitching their ideas to investors, EWU held its first Eagle’s Nest Pitch Contest.

The event was put on by the EWU entrepreneurship program—also in its first year of existence—and was held at Showalter Auditorium.

The contest was designed for students who had created their own business idea to present to a panel of judges. Bruce Teague, the director of the entrepreneurship program, said 35 new business ideas were created out of the contest.

Courtesy of the EWU entrepreneurship program
EWU seniors Bobby Johnson and Tu Nguyen created an app for a bike rental service

“I firmly believe that the ideas for new ventures come from everywhere,” said Teague. “If we want to support all of these tremendous ideas, then we need a way for the campus to become involved with innovation and entrepreneurship, and that means we need events that everybody can start trying this out with and see whether it’s something they want to do.”

Anybody was allowed to enter, regardless of major. This, like Teague mentioned, serves a dual purpose: bringing awareness to the entrepreneurship program while also encouraging students to be creative.

There were seven finalists who pitched their companies and each who went through a process that consisted of qualifying rounds prior to making it to the finals. From a virtual reality application that allowed users to preview an event in real-time before attending it to a workout program tailored to military veterans, the pitches and their uses were diverse.

The winner, EWU senior Victoria Simboli, pitched a wireless firewall device dubbed J.A.K.E. that protects users from any dangers that may arise while using public Wi-Fi. Simboli had a 3-D printed prototype for judges to view, alongside a slideshow presentation.

Simboli said the idea for it stemmed from a class project. With the assistance of an acquaintance, a former cyber security coding national champion, she discovered while researching online that there was virtually nothing available on the market for a device like this.

Conceived on a whim, the win brought surprise to Simboli.

“I was shocked,” said Simboli. “I didn’t think I’d win.”

Courtesy of the EWU entrepreneurship program
EWU seniors Bobby Johnson and Tu Nguyen holding a third place check of $500

For winning the contest, Simboli was awarded $2,500 by the entrepreneurship program. She said she will continue to seek this idea, as she mentioned multiple individuals expressed interest to her after her presentation. She will be graduating in June and is set to work in IT at an audit firm following graduation. Apple is Simboli’s career aspiration.

Second and third place winners also received monetary awards, with second getting $1,000 and third getting $500. EWU junior Christine Burns and senior Jessica Walker came in second with MissApp, a protective phone case for women that featured pepper spray and a covert emergency service option. Third place was awarded to EWU seniors Bobby Johnson and Tu Nguyen for their app, BikeNGo, that doubled as a rental service for bikes and an inventory tracker for bicycle shops.

In all, Teague said he was very pleased with the outcome of the pitch contest.

“I am doing backflips at this point about how it went,” said Teague. “For year one, from pure imagination to execution, to pull off the show the way it went. I am thrilled, absolutely. I want to take it up a notch every single year we do it.”

And that’s the goal moving forward — to continue the tradition of this event. Plans are already in motion for next year’s rendition, with the first two qualifying rounds scheduled for November 7, 2017 and February 13, 2018. Teague could not mention on the record a few of the items they plan to do as they are in the process of being confirmed, but he did divulge some details about what to expect.

“We want to start a ‘meet the entrepreneur series’,” said Teague. “What we’re envisioning there is bringing in entrepreneurs with different areas of expertise and we’ll bring in some food and have 30, 35 students come in. Everybody will have some food, and the entrepreneur will tell their story. Then we’ll just have a bunch of casual Q and A.”

That will be just one of the many things program organizers hope to implement in the future, all with the intent of pushing innovation on campus.