2023 TIA Entrepreneur Showcase Highlights New and Returning Student Ventures

During Colgate University’s 11th annual Entrepreneur Weekend, part of the larger Arts, Creativity, and Innovation Weekend, Thought Into Action (TIA) hosted an Entrepreneur Showcase on Saturday, April 15 to highlight the work of student entrepreneurs. Ventures ranged from familiar on-campus businesses to software design companies, all of whom received mentorship and feedback from the TIA program.

The event, held in the Hall of Presidents, opened at 11 a.m. with a walk-through of each venture’s table, later transitioning into an elevator pitch-style competition in the afternoon.  

Some of the ventures have an established presence on campus, such as Raider Rides, ‘Gate TVs and Hami-Down. Sophomore Avery Johnson, a member of the Hami-Down team, spoke on how the business has connected with the Colgate community. 

“We’re an online platform for the Colgate community to officially buy and sell goods in a sustainable way that reduces cost, increases efficiency and minimizes carbon impact. Our platform is an Instagram, and people submit items through the link in our bio, and then we’ll find those items online for [pictures] and post them on our Instagram,” Johnson said. 

Johnson also discussed the benefits of working with TIA, noting the helpfulness of engaging with other student entrepreneurs.

“We’ll sit in our small groups and the other teams will give us their advice, which is a really cool perspective because they are students on campus using [our] platform, so we get good advice from them. But, also, seeing what the other ventures are doing has been really awesome,” Johnson explained.  

One new venture at the event was Cha’Gate, a bubble tea company founded by first-years Vivian Jiang and Bill Luo. Cha’Gate was one of five projects chosen to take part in the TIA Summer Accelerator program, where teams are given a $10,000 grant of startup capital to work on their ventures over the summer. The other teams chosen were Everlasting Tech, Geeckon, Homieg and Rude Strength. With their grant, Cha’Gate is planning on opening a push-cart to regularly serve bubble tea on campus. 

“So far, we’ve loved the experience. We think that the connections, the mentorship — it’s all been really helpful. Also, we’re provided a lot of funding for our big projects, so I think without TIA, we wouldn’t be here the way we are right now. We’re really grateful,” Jiang said.

Within the TIA process, students are able to work with various projects throughout their time in the program. Junior Natalie Rong, a new member of the returning ‘Gate TVs venture, worked at its booth over the weekend.  

“I had a different venture [but] it’s on a break this year. I joined GateTVs a year ago, taking on the Creative Director role where I manage social media, marketing and visuals. It’s good to go to the workshops because there’s the Colgate alumni network — which is so great,” Rong said. 

Another returning company was Redshift Studios, a company centered on improving virtual reality video games. Senior and Co-Founder Cole Ventresca shared that the TIA program has undergone many changes over the past year, which he believes are for the best.

“The differences between my first and second year were actually massive, but that’s because the staff of TIA has been changing — I think it’s been changing for the better,” Ventresca said. 

He also spoke about how the TIA has changed how they recruit people and have become more flexible in terms of how they operate. 

“It’s recruiting more and more people with new and interesting ideas and also has a much more free-flowing design that helps people build out their ideas for their businesses, as opposed to sticking with a more rigid structure that the program started out with. I think it’s heading in a great direction as it’s growing,” Ventresca said.  

One of the most prominent ventures doing work off-campus is Everlasting Technology, whose aim is to improve the fuel used for cooking in Sub-Saharan Africa through solar technology. Everlasting Technology recently placed in Texas Christian University’s entrepreneur competition and continued that streak at last weekend’s TIA event, where they took third place — and $2,000 — in the elevator pitch competition. 

A video game development project, Far Out Studios, started by senior Kai Davis, took second place and $3,000 in funding. In first place was RUDE Strength, founded by seniors Riley Decker and Emily Untermeyer to solve the lack of protective lifting gear for women. The other teams who pitched — Cha’Gate, Geeckon and Raider Rides — all walked away with $500.

Decker and Untermeyer decided to start RUDE Strength after bonding over shared passions of lifting and entrepreneurship during study abroad. Decker noted how their efforts have been supported by TIA.

“Our experience in TIA has been really, really great,” Decker said. “We have awesome mentors, we’re lucky to have a team of really powerful, really knowledgeable women — it’s really great to have a female team because we’re a female-focused venture. Our mentors have been awesome, we’ve made a lot of progress and gained a lot of confidence in ourselves through the program.” 

TIA also highlighted the spirit of entrepreneurship in the broader Colgate and Hamilton communities. Before the pitch competition, Flour & Salt founder Britty O’Connor ‘12, MA‘13, won Entrepreneur of the Year for her many businesses in the Hamilton community while also serving on this year’s panel to judge current TIA ventures. A speech from Colgate University President Brian W. Casey highlighted the new Office of Entrepreneurship’s advancements since last year’s Entrepreneur Weekend, including the hiring of Travis Millman as entrepreneur in residence. Casey also noted how the university is “doubling down” on developing its entrepreneur programs for undergraduates, especially in the midst of new Middle Campus developments.