At Trinity’s Louis H. Stumberg New Venture Competition, students from diverse backgrounds and disciplines get a chance to pitch their solutions for a better future.
Whether the idea is as big as a new health care delivery system, or as small as a pack of mouth-cleaning gum, Tigers have launched dozens of companies through this annual competition, held over each spring, summer, and fall.
After pitching their ideas to a panel of accomplished judges in the spring, a handful of finalists earn $5,000 in seed money, secure a spot in the summer accelerator program with a summer stipend, and progress onto the finals in October, where a $25,000 grand prize is at stake.
With the 2021 Seed Round upcoming, let’s look back at how past Stumberg participants impressed the judges.
Tara Lujan ’22 and Zachary Taylor ’20
Sapphire is a water bottle lid that tracks water consumption automatically and connects wirelessly to devices such as phones and smartwatches.
Lujan, a student-athlete for Trinity’s soccer team, originally came up with the concept, but “I thought we’d have to hire out engineering and software skills,” Lujan says. But meeting Taylor, an engineering major at Trinity, proved to be a perfect fit for the startup.
The product started as a smart bottle, Taylor says, “but we started thinking, why make an entire bottle? We can be the first smart lid.”
“If someone has that shared sense of entrepreneurial spirit—not everyone just wakes up and says ‘I’m starting a business today, let’s take a risk’—if you find a partner like that, they’re going to be constantly checking in on you, pushing you, supporting you,” Lujan says. “That’s the environment at Trinity that I love.”
Bobby Magee ’21 and Chris Stewart ’21
LuxTurn is a projected turn signal for motorcyclists that flashes a powerful LED light onto an adjacent lane.
Magee and Stewart, both Trinity football teammates, focused their creative drive on solving a major challenge to motorcycle safety. “Having a projected turn signal, that’s something that’s never been done before,” Magee says. “We’re hoping it will catch people’s eyes, and maybe realize there’s a motorcyclist right there.”
“This is an $8 billion industry,” Stewart adds.
Neither Stewart or Magee are engineers, so “going through all that prototyping was a big challenge for us,” Magee says. “Chris and I had to go through and teach ourselves how to use softwares, how to design and 3D print.”
“We didn’t even have to leave campus for the most part,” Stewart adds. “And when we did have to go, Trinity had the resources and connections that we could use, and it was a pretty smooth process.”
Chikanmah Ibeh ’22
Storyspread is a platform aimed at giving children ages 5-15 the ability to create digital stories and comics, no matter their drawing ability. Users can create avatars, create their own scenes and backgrounds, and eventually receive ad revenue if their work receives a certain amount of traffic.
“I’ve had this idea since seventh grade, so it’s been a process of waiting for the right moment to act on it,” Ibeh says. “And I feel like Trinity has given me the right moment to act on it, through the entrepreneurship program and through Stumberg.”
This software, Ibeh says, aids in reading-writing development in line with Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills standards.
“As an author, your stories are very personal to you, especially because you grow up with these same stories, waiting for the opportunity to tell these stories to the world,” Ibeh says. “Visual storytelling is the best way to tell your story.”
Quick Sip Coffee: 2018
Jacob Hurrell-Zitelman ‘20 and Selena Davila '21
Quick Sip is a specialty cold brew coffee startup, with their own brewing, manufacturing, and bottling facility right here in San Antonio. Hurrell-Zitelman started the business as a first-year, teaching himself how to brew and bottle specialty coffee.
“Not every company wants their employees chugging energy drinks,” Hurrell-Zitelman says. “We’re framing Quick Sip as a safer, healthier alternative—and cold brew coffee is the movement behind that.”
Hurrell-Zitelman and Davila raised money by selling coffee out of their own backpacks. Quick Sip soon became a campus sensation at Trinity. “Seeing people buy my product every week, that was the moment where I said, ‘I can do this,’” Hurrell-Zitelman says. “People like what I’m making.”
And through the Stumberg process, Hurrell-Zitelman says “I took complete ownership of my company, reorganized our staff, and prepared us to expand. You can’t just learn entrepreneurship in the classroom—you have to be out in the field, trying to start your own business.”
PATCH Technologies: 2018
Andrew Aertker ’21 and Gavin Buchanan ’20
Patch Technologies has a patented, smart pill cap that promotes safety and accountability within case studies through specialty pharmacies, and it also runs PatchRx, an app that helps individuals remember to take their medications and allows friends and family members to participate in their health.
“PATCH is basically where a gumball machine meets the internet,” Buchanan says. “We’re combining medicine with real-time data.”
Originally envisioned as a way to prevent opioid overdoses, the Stumberg Competition prompted Aertker and Buchanan to pivot PATCH to a more niche approach of working with clinical trials. Trinity’s high-tech resources also gave them a chance to build their product from scratch.
“We were down at the 3D printer in Academic Technology for months on end, and we probably spent about 1,000 hours down here,” Buchanan says.
“We’re just excited about what we’re doing,” Aertker says. “We feel this is of great need to the clinical trial industry.”