iChallenge event allows young entrepreneurs to present ideas to experts


Andrew Dunklee

Rachel Davis presents her idea to attendees at the iChallenge event in Carter Auditorium. Davis won first place in the competition with her idea for face recognition on handguns.

On Nov. 12, the St. Edward’s Student Entrepreneurship Club hosted the 9th annual iChallenge on the Hilltop: Ideas for Innovation competition. Students from across St. Edward’s were encouraged to pitch their business, idea, app or product for a chance to rank in the top 15 and move on to the next round where they will possibly be able to win money to fund their idea.

Students had only two minutes to make an elevator pitch to a panel of four judges that included notable members of the Austin and St. Edward’s Business Community, such as Gordon Daugherty (President of Capital Factory and Founder of Shockwave Innovations), Ruoyun Xu (St. Edward’s Alumni and founder of C3nami), Linus Akanoh (St. Edward’s Alumni, Senior Manager of Strategic Risk Marketing Group at Deloitte & Touche, Member of the St. Edward’s Board of Trustees, and Adjunct Professor at St. Edward’s), and Ashley Winscott (St. Edward’s Alumni and founder of Simply Sold Austin).

Morgan Buyse, President of the Student Entrepreneurship Club said, “Entrepreneurship is so important. It’s creative and critical thinking wrapped into one. It encourages people to think in ways that they never would have before.”

Many students competed in iChallenge with pitches covering a wide variety of topics ranging from promoting music and arts to trying to address housing issues in the city of Austin. 

When it came to the top three pitches this year, women were well represented. In third place was Sierra Jarnagin with her pitch of pasta sauces that would cater directly to vegan and flexitarian diets. In second place was Laurel Maynard and her partner Andrew Jusbasche (who wasn’t able to attend), who pitched an app that would translate and teach American Sign Language for people on the go.

First place this year went to Rachel Davis who pitched a facial recognition lock for handguns that could be used to safely secure firearms in homes.

“I believe there is a big problem with gun safety in our country, currently, and I’m not really seeing a whole lot of changes in that industry,” Davis said. “We can’t all agree on what should be done with guns themselves, but I think we can all agree that guns should be locked up, that they should be safe and that they should be kept in the right hands.”

When iChallenge judge Gordon Daugherty was queried on what he looks for in a good pitch, he advised students to focus on the actual problem that needs to be addressed.

“I would always focus on the problem that is being solved. There are a lot of problems in the world that don’t need to be solved, meaning they’re not serious enough to warrant a major investment of resources. New entrepreneurs should always ask themselves how serious is the problem that needs to be solved,” Daugherty said.