ENGINEERING NEWS

Groupon’s Andrew Mason, VC Peter Barris Address Entrepreneur@NU Conference

Entrepreneurship is seeing explosive growth at Northwestern University, with the number of student start-ups doubling in the past year. That trend was celebrated on May 23 with Entrepreneur@NU, an annual entrepreneurship conference that featured a keynote fireside chat with Groupon founder and CEO Andrew Mason (’03) and Peter Barris (’74), managing general partner of the venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates.

The conference, held at Northwestern’s Norris Center, offered panel discussions such as “Paths to Running Your Own Company,” “Chicago Funding,” and “Finding Talent on a Team,” with speakers from a range of start-ups and University positions. A legal clinic, resources clinic, and “Venture Capitalist and Angel Office Hours” were available throughout the day.

Entrepreneur@NU also included the final round of the Northwestern Venture Challenge competition, a three-round competition in which student teams competed for a $15,000 prize for the best business plan in five areas: Internet and social media, software and information technology, green energy and sustainability, health care and nanotechnology, and social enterprise and nonprofit.

McCormick Advisory Council member Robert Shaw and Omar Farha of NuMat, winner of the Northwestern Venture ChallengeWinning the top prize was NuMat Technologies, a clean-tech company that computationally designs and synthesizes high-performing nanomaterials for gas storage and separation applications. The company – which recently won nearly $1 million in the competitive Rice Business Plan Competition – is based on technology developed in the lab of Randall Snurr, professor of chemical and biological engineering at McCormick.

The prize of 2nd Place Overall went to two teams, Brideside and SafeSnips. Brideside is an online inspiration and shopping platform for designer bridesmaid dresses that provides an e-commerce platform for dress designers who have traditionally relied on brick-and-mortar sales channels. Born out of the 2011-12 NUvention: Medical program, the patent-pending SafeSnips™ team designs intelligent surgical devices that assess risk factors associated with intra-operative decision-making.

Winning in the category of Best Undergraduate Pitch was Learnerator, a vertically integrated AP exam prep platform that combines content developed in-house with an innovative learning platform for high school students. In this highly underserved market, Learnerator aims to be the leader in innovation by developing value added content on par with textbooks while making our content dynamic and interactive.

And in the category of Best Social Enterprise Pitch, the winner was Dine for Charity, a reservation system for sought-after restaurants that raises money for charity. The team created an auction-based system for a select number of reservations for each restaurant where the profit goes to a charity selected by the restaurant.

Among the organizers for the Entrepreneur@NU conference is the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, a resource for Northwestern students and faculty based at the McCormick School of Engineering.