Students’ app wins startup pitch competitions
Living on a tight budget like most college students, three Carthage entrepreneurs brainstormed a way to make leftover food stretch as far as possible.
Their solution could benefit just about anyone with a refrigerator and an aversion to wasted food.
Designing a mobile app that serves as a kind of reverse cookbook, Celestine Ananda ’20, Tom Shannon ’19, and Nick Bartel ’20 won over the judges in a pair of recent business startup pitch competitions.
A panel of business executives and civic leaders awarded them first prize at the Southeastern Wisconsin Hatch finals Nov. 2 in Racine. Five days later, the students won a campus-wide pitch event organized by the Carthage chapter of Enactus.
The Hatch prize provides them $5,000 to develop the app, Quisine, which is designed to suggest recipes based on the ingredients a person has on hand. So far, it requires the user to manually enter those ingredients, but the trio is working to apply smarter technology that would identify food items from a photo.
“Quisine is a play on words between ‘quick’ and ‘cuisine,” Celestine explained, “because we wanted to make the process of deciding what to make quicker and easier but still tasty.”
Entrepreneurs throughout the region submitted a total of 46 business ideas for Hatch. The two-stage competition is sponsored by the BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation, a nonprofit that invests in startup companies, and professional networking group NEWaukee.
Three of the six finalists had Carthage ties. Besides the Quisine developers, alumna Erin Magennis ’18 — co-founder of the campus Innovation Club — and adjunct faculty member Benjamin Taft reached the finals.
Much like the “Shark Tank” TV show, finalists gave brief presentations touting the uniqueness of their products and potential markets.
“Many of the audience members in attendance came up to us after the presentation, saying that they would use the product and that they cannot wait until it is on the market,” Tom said.
All three members of the winning team are active in Carthage’s space sciences program. Through presentations for that NASA-funded research and various classes, Celestine says they gained “the confidence to present our app clearly and professionally.”
The students tentatively plan to use the prize money to advertise the app and integrate cloud-based services like storage of grocery receipts. Still, as newcomers to the startup scene, they’re openly seeking guidance from the College’s abundance of entrepreneurially minded faculty.