CSUN Bull Ring Final Event preview

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The audience from last year's Bull Ring final event on May 2 2017. Photo courtesy of Ryan Holbrook

Five teams will be competing in a “Shark Tank”-style event for the finals of this year’s Bull Ring New Venture Competition next week. Each team will have seven minutes to pitch their start-up business ideas or products in front of four judges followed by a Q&A portion.

Bull Ring is a competition for start-up companies to launch their products and services to the market. The event is in its third year and provides mentorship, coaching and exposure to potential investors.

“During the semi-finals, the judges deliberated for over an hour,” said Ryan Holbrook, director of the entrepreneurship program. “There were teams that have a lot of potential but didn’t make it to the finals.”

Here are the finalists.

Bookmark

Bookmark is a college ecosystem that provides course information, study groups and textbook subscription.

It started with an idea of creating a cheap textbook subscription service that would lower the cost of books for college students.

Bookmark textbook subscription allows students to acquire all of their textbooks for the semester at a low monthly rate. Students just need to send their class schedule and Bookmark will deliver all the textbooks they need for that semester.

Founders Tyler Valentine and Adam Rodriguez started a pre-launch test group at the start of this semester. The feedback they got from the test group led them to develop a mobile application that will allow students to share professor ratings, course syllabi and interact in study groups.

The application will also reward students coupon credit, depending on how much and how helpful their contribution is, that they can use toward their textbook subscription service.

This is the first time they joined the Bull Ring competition. The Bookmark team is happy that they made it all the way to the finals.

“We got a lot of mentorship in the competition,” Rodriguez said. “They validate our ideas and motivate us and we got to refine key aspects of our business.”

The team is confident in their ability to place well in next week’s finals.

“We are aiming for first place,” Valentine said.

Campus Runner

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Team Campus Runner showcases their business idea at the Bull Ring semi-finals. Photo courtesy of Campus Runner

Campus Runner is a campus-based application that aims to help students, faculty and staff get food and supplies delivered directly to them.

“We want to make it convenient for students to get food and supplies,” co-founder Sarah Shapov said. “It will also allow them to make money in their free time and benefit the university.”

This mobile application will be exclusive to a college and campus members can sign up for free to order food and school supplies from locations inside campus and the surrounding area.

Campus Runner will have a detailed campus map so that orders can be delivered to your exact location. Deliveries will be done by other students who signed up to earn some extra money.

The idea started out when Shapov, a graphic design student, pitched a similar idea to one of her classes. Her professor liked her pitch and urged her to join the Bull Ring competition.

She gathered a team of her peers, adding computer science major James Tam and two marketing majors, Joey Ramirez and Yvette Ravaee, to the team.

They started conceptualizing and developing the app at the start of this semester and they are aiming to launch a beta phase in CSUN by summer.

“We put a lot of work into this and I think that this is a really great idea,” Shapov said.

Moontalk

Moontalk is an online community for cryptocurrency enthusiasts. It provides the latest news, articles and prices for cryptocurrencies.

It is a way for people to interact and share market insights with fellow enthusiasts. It also allows users to track and share their portfolio.

Co-founder Dushan Perera is a software developer and a computer science graduate student.

Quadlets

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The Quadlets team during the Bull Ring semi-finals at the Oviatt Library. Photo courtesy of Quadlets

Quadlets is a social marketplace on a mobile platform that connects consumers and freelancers. It is a mobile application where people looking for work to be done can be matched with freelancers in their area.

“I want to help other people get more work faster,” Quadlets Founder Julian Thomas said. “I know how hard it is to get jobs as a freelancer.”

The application is primarily targeted to artists, such as photographers and musicians, in the Greater Los Angeles area.

Thomas is a marketing major and a musician who owns a music company that is involved in production, marketing and conducting music workshops. He developed this idea because of his experience in doing freelance work.

He started developing this venture nine months ago and recruited members for his team from his own network connections.

“We are fortunate enough to make it to the finals,” Thomas said. “It’s a great opportunity to put the product in front of people and to gain experience and mentorship.”

They will launch a beta version of the application next month which will be available for two months to a test group of 500 people. They are aiming to launch the full version by fall.

Wheelchair Assist

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Wheelchair Assist Team, one of the Bull Ring finalists, shows off their product — a patient lift device. Photo courtesy of Wheelchair Assist

Wheelchair Assist is a team of engineering students who designed a new type of patient lift device to help patients and their caregivers.

The team’s second prototype is a modification of a standard wheelchair that is comprised of a deployable “paw” to provide stability, a manually deploying rail that the patient can hold on to, and an automated seat lift to assist the patient out of the device.

“We believe we have a really great project that is capable of winning this competition,” co-creator Steven Meza said. “We feel that there is a strong need for this in the market especially for the healthcare system.”

The idea started when they learned about a professor’s friend who suffered from multiple sclerosis, a disease that can disable its victim.

“We wanted to build something that would help him out,” Meza said. “Even though he has passed on since then, we still wanted to do something for other people.”

They are currently testing their third prototype which is an add-on to an existing wheelchair. Their target would be to manufacture their products by the end of the year and market it to hospitals, assisted-living places and nursing homes.

“Bullring has been challenging but at the same time rewarding,” Meza said. “We enjoyed working with everyone and people have reached out to us, offering assistance and feedback in our device.”

The first place winner will walk away with $20,000 to launch their business while the second and third place winners will get $10,000 and $5,000 respectively. There will also be $30,000 of additional in-kind prizes waiting for the top three teams.

This year’s judges are: Jane Wurwand, co-founder of Dermalogica; Michael Stoppelman, a venture investor in successful companies such as Lyft and Wish; Steve Fazio, president and CEO of Fazio Enterprises; and Sarah Kunst, CEO and founder of Proday.

The Bull Ring Finals will be on April 24 from 3-6 p.m. at the USU Grand Salon. Brian Lee, co-founder of The Honest Company, will give a keynote speech at the event. It is open to the public but seats are limited and students need to register at www.csunbullring.com.