DEN hosts Dartmouth Entrepreneurs Forum

by Joe Regan | 4/3/16 6:31pm

The DEN forum took place all day on Friday.
by Seamore Zhu / The Dartmouth

In a sold-out Alumni Hall, the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network Innovation Center hosted the Dartmouth Entrepreneurs Forum last Friday, a bi-annual conference and startup competition that takes place at Dartmouth in the spring and San Francisco in the fall. This year’s attendance had to be capped at 380 people, in what Jamie Coughlin, director of the DEN, called “a tremendous response” in comparison with last year’s attendance of 312. At the event, there were 32 speakers and two keynotes, as well as 50 contestants in the competition.

In the startup competition, Bill Hudenko, psychiatry professor at the Geisel School of Medicine, won the $25,000 first place prize with Proxi, a platform designed to improve the delivery of mental healthcare. Lidia Valdes ’14 Th’15 won the $10,000 second place prize with Lodestone Biomedical, a smart wand that detects iron deficiencies in a non-invasive way. Valdes also won the People’s Choice, an additional prize of $2,500. In third place was Raghav Gupta Tu’16, who developed Magic, a DIY bluetooth low-energy based marketing, ordering and payment solution for restaurants.

The all-day conference began with a keynote speech from Emil Jattne Tu’05 and Joe Santos ’95, Tu’00, the co-founders of the small-batch distillery Brooklyn Gin. Langley Steinert Tu’91, the founder of both TripAdvisor and CarGurus, delivered an afternoon keynote. In between, panels were held on a wide variety of topics, such as arts and entrepreneurship, venture capital simulation and early-stage financing. Several alumni — Bill Loginov ’85, Joe Boswell ’06, Mark Stein ’83, Mike Gonnerman ’65 — hosted workshops on intellectual property, sales and marketing, legal formatting and accounting, respectively.

Peter Mathias ’09 Tu’16, one of 12 semi-finalists in the startup competition, said he found the arts and entrepreneurship panel to be particularly interesting. A member of the band Filligar and now the co-founder of Heartstring — an app that pairs cinematic quality music with any video, slideshow or photo you take with your smartphone — he went to the event because he has been developing his own start-up.

“Art is oftentimes not thought of as entrepreneurial,” he said. “But musicians like Bach or other classical painters had to be self-promoting.”

Mathias found the event to be a great opportunity to meet with people with both similar and divergent perspectives.

Alec Tarantino ’16 said he heard about the event through the DEN and is interested in consumer products and business, nothing that he found the Brooklyn Gin founders’ keynote enjoyable.

“[Brooklyn Gin didn’t take] the traditional tech path, but the same principles still apply for what it takes to be successful with that venture,” he said.

Bilal Gutu ’19, a DEN resident and attendee at the event, has been participating in entrepreneurial competitions and events since high school.

“I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur because I think most problems can be solved by the application of business models,” he said.

Calling the forum a great opportunity to network, Gutu said he is interested in developing a startup at some point.

“It’s not about being the starter, about being the founder — it’s about being a contributor,” Gutu said. “The idea might not be 100 percent from me, but having a team is a big thing here.”

Coughlin said the event was intended to focus on “the growing diversity of startup ideas, that they are not just profit-based.”

Formerly called Dartmouth Ventures, the second Dartmouth Entrepreneurs Forum will be taking place in San Francisco on Sept. 9. Coughlin said that Jeff Crowe ’78, a founding donor of DEN, has done a lot of work to make that possible. Crowe is a venture capitalist and managing partner at Norwest Venture Partners, which is headquartered in Palo Alto, California.

“When you have to close reservations because you basically sold out, that is a good problem to have,” Coughlin said. “It was a terrific day.”