CLEMSON — What do wild yeast, IT training and a social media app have in common? They are the winning business ideas at the Clemson University MBA program EnterPrize Awards presented by CertusBank.
The first-place prize of $20,000 was awarded to Even Skjervold and SouthYeast Labs. SouthYeast captures wild yeasts from fruit, plants and such other objects as historic buildings. He reproduces the yeast strain in the lab using a proprietary process and sells it to breweries and home brewers.
Unique yeasts are in high demand in the craft brewing industry because they enable brewers to create distinctive beer recipes. With a client roster of more than 20 regional breweries and new customers being added every day, Skjervold has been struggling to keep up with demand in his makeshift home lab. He plans to use the prize money to build a larger laboratory and scale up the business significantly.
The second-place $6,000 prize was awarded to Darryl McCune’s nonprofit Community Bound. McCune aims to equip the next generation with IT skills to help them obtain one of the projected 1.4 million IT jobs that will be available in 2020.
He does this via summer camps and after-school programs that teach students programming skills and professional development. McCune also trains teachers how to teach the skills to middle and high school students.
Community Bound already has had a big impact at Greenville’s South Side High School, where it taught IT skills to 800 students who went on to win $10,000 in technology for their school. Community Bound plans to roll out additional summer camps and programs throughout the Southeast.
Third place and a prize of $4,000 was awarded to Ryan DeMattia for his social media app Voice, which will launch this summer. Deemed the “free speech app,” Voice is designed to bridge the gap between large social media sites that keep a permanent record of users’ posts and those where users are anonymous.
The app is location-based, means that someone posts something everyone within range who also has the app will see it. After 100 posts are in the feed, the post disappears. A unique feature of Voice is Echo, which allows users to share relevant posts from other users. Each time a post is echoed, it moves back to the top of the feed and the range expands slightly. With enough Echoes, a post could be seen around the world.
Clemson’s MBA in Entrepreneurship Program, now in its third year, hosts the three-city EnterPrize road show each year as the capstone course, with escalating cash prizes at each of the three events provided by presenting sponsor CertusBank. In addition to the money, students develop presentation skills and receive feedback from the judges in each location.
The finale was held at Greenville ONE. The top-10 students from the previous two weeks presented three-minute pitches of their ideas to a panel of judges, which included influential business owners, entrepreneurs and investors.
The judges narrowed the field to five finalists who were then grilled in a “shark-tank” style Q&A session. The judges selected the winners based on the presentations, viability of their ideas and the potential financial or social impact.