By Susan Scherreik,
Director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies  Pirates Pitch-2015 winner

In Seton Hall University’s own version of “Shark Tank,” three student teams won $10,000 in prizes and business services at Pirates Pitch 2015, the fifth annual Seton Hall University Venture Fund Competition.

At the contest, held on April 10 in Jubilee Hall Auditorium, five student teams pitched ideas either to start a business, or to expand an existing student-run venture.

Stillman Freshman Ryan Skolnick, a member of the Leadership Development Honors Program, won the $6,000 first place award for Aveho (pronounced A-Way-Ho) Learning, a business idea to create a video-game format to teach

Chinese and other foreign languages to elementary and high school students.

The three-member team of Stillman Junior Mike Gavela, Diplomacy School Junior Brian Wreckler and Arts & Sciences Sophomore Johnil Quezada, who majors in computer science, won the $3,500 second place award for Cthroo, a business idea to develop a discovery engine based on personal data collection.

Additionally, the $500 Audience Participation Award was snagged by the two member team of Stillman School Juniors Aziz Syed and Brent Ciccarino. Their business idea, Service Station, is for a mobile and website application to help consumers find reliable contractors for home remodeling projects and car repairs.

“Pirates Pitch is a wonderful way of showcasing entrepreneurship and innovation,” said Pravina Raghavan, a Senior Advisor in the U.S. Department of Commerce and one of the contest’s judges. “It allows students to get their ideas launched in the real world while benefiting from the intense mentorship and support from Seton Hall.”

The other judges were Sunny Bathla, Vice-President, Virtusa, & Founder, OSB Consulting, Patrick Cozza, a retired group CEO at HSBC, Ray Hoffman, Producer and Host, CEO Radio on WCBS News Radio 880 and CBS Radio Network, Michael Lucciola, CEO of the Firefly Group and a Seton Hall University Regent, and Kim Wales, Founder, Wales Capital and an expert in crowd funding.

The judges evaluated the student ideas for business ventures based on several criteria, including originality, viability and growth potential.

Joyce Strawser, the Dean of the Stillman School of Business, said, “I am very impressed by the creatively and range of the ideas that were pitched this year.  It is clear that the teams put a great deal of thought and research into their plans, and the quality of the actual pitch presentations was top-notch.”

She added, “I could not be more proud of our participants and the wonderful way they represent Entrepreneurship at SHU.”

“Every year, Pirates Pitch just keeps getting better and better,” remarked Susan Scherreik, Founding Director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, which sponsors the event.

She praised all five Finalist teams for their outstanding “pitches” made to the judges and an audience comprised of more than 100 students, faculty members, family members and friends.

“The judges really had a tough time selecting the winners,” she said. “Any one of our Finalist teams could have won the event.”

First place winner Ryan Skolnick reflected on the competition, “I am very excited that my business pitch was well received by the judges. The entire competition was a great experience. It provided me with an opportunity to work with mentors and refine my business idea.”

When looking towards the future, Skolnick added, “The next step will be to launch my startup and the prize money and business services I will receive as part of the award will help me to do that.”

Ideas of past winners included a solar-powered mobile phone charger specifically designed for use in developing countries, an online music data search engine, and a web-based business that seeks to make public relations and social media services more accessible to small businesses.

Based on this year’s roster of intuitive business ideas, the competition congratulates all participants, and looks forward to seeing a new set of creative ideas that would be pitched during next year’s Pirate’s Pitch competition.