Ansary Entrepreneurship Competition
The Ansary Entrepreneurship Competition features student teams in a high-stakes contest to persuade prospective investors to help them turn their Senior Design Projects into effective businesses. Students deliver elevator pitches as they compete for the Ansary Prizes for Entrepreneurship, totaling $17,500.
Prizes for the competition are provided by the Cy and Jan Ansary Foundation, which supports education, entrepreneurship and other philanthropic causes. The foundation was established by Cy and Jan Ansary in 1983 to support educational opportunities for promising economically disadvantaged students and to promote interest and teaching of entrepreneurship and business concepts. The Ansary family are prominent international lawyers, financiers, entrepreneurs, educators, authors and philanthropists. The Cy and Jan Ansary Foundation has supported the Ansary Entrepreneurship Competition and Prizes at the Stevens Innovation Expo since 2016, establishing an endowed fund to support the competition and prizes in 2018.
An elevator pitch is a short presentation made by an entrepreneur raising money for a venture. The term describes a pitch that is short enough to be given during an elevator ride during which an entrepreneur has his or her only chance to talk with a potential investor. In the Ansary Entrepreneurship Competition, senior students take their design projects and pitch them to judges as potential businesses.
The competition consists of three rounds:
A live quarter-final that takes place within each participating academic department. Course instructors choose top teams, which then advance to the next round.
A semi-final in which 45 teams compete and are scored by a panel of judges, with the top 10 advancing to the final.
A final round the week of the Expo, in which judges evaluate the 10 selected teams' recorded pitch videos based on presentation, business plan, value proposition, viability and the quality of their request.
The top three teams are announced and celebrated on Innovation Expo day.
President & CEO, TechUnited:NJ
Aaron Price is the CEO of TechUnited:NJ (formerly the NJ Tech Council), the largest regional community of innovators, entrepreneurs, investors and professional providers. Previously, Price served as the founder and CEO of Propelify, a media and events organization that united thousands of entrepreneurs who propel ideas into action. Propelify was acquired by TechUnited in 2019. Together, TechUnited:NJ and Propelify provide the tools, resources and community to empower entrepreneurs, innovators and instigators to build a better future for all. Dubbed by Forbes as the “SXSW of the Northeast,” the annual Propelify Innovation Festival unites more than 8,000 innovators for talks, tech, exhibitions, drones, VCs, VR, music, food, drinks and more. Propelify was inspired by Price's award-winning NJ Tech Meetup, a technology and entrepreneurial community with more than 7,000 members. Price has served as the tech community expert for the White House under the Obama Administration, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, Fast Company, Entrepreneur magazine and The Wall Street Journal, to name a few. A serial entrepreneur, Price has founded several technology startups, including deliverU, effordables, weCraft and livecube. Additionally, he served as the entrepreneur-in-residence at the New York City venture capital firm, DFJ Gotham. A born entrepreneur, Price started his first commercial venture in high school after he was awarded a patent for a weight lifting device. Price lives in Hoboken with his wife and the startups of which they are most proud, their two daughters and dog, Milo.
Executive Director, Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty, Health and Sustainability Lab
Birnur K. Aral oversees all testing and applications for the Good Housekeeping Seal, the Green Good Housekeeping Seal at the Beauty, Health and Sustainability Laboratory at the Good Housekeeping Institute. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from Bogazici University (formerly Robert College and the oldest American college abroad) in Istanbul, Turkey, followed by a master of engineering and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology. She recently obtained a post-graduate certificate in sustainability analytics from Columbia University. She is a member of the scientific advisory board for Made Safe and a mentor to young entrepreneurs at Chobani’s H.U.G. initiative, and she served as judge in numerous awards programs in the beauty space. Aral is a lead organizer of Good Housekeeping’s annual Raise the Green Bar Sustainability Summits. She also spearheads Good Housekeeping’s annual Sustainable Innovation Awards. She is most proud of her work on investigative pieces such as, “Is It Safe to Heat Food in Plastic?,” “Is Your Tap Water Safe?” and “Keratin Hair Treatments.” She is also a proud mom of two adult daughters and resides in West New York, N.J., with her husband.
President and CEO, Go!Foto
Simin Cai serves as president and CEO of Go!Foton, an optics/photonics technology company he founded in 2009 through a management buyout, with operations in the United States, Japan, the Philippines and China. Go!Foton brings innovation to the market with its expertise in optics and photonics to solve real-world problems for its customers. Cai’s strategy of vertical integration downstream with core competencies helped Go!Foton grow rapidly in the optical communication market, serving brand-name customers ranging from equipment vendors to tier-one service providers. Go!Foton also serves customers in the medical devices market. Before creating Go!Foton, Cai joined NSG America as a regional sales manager, in January 1998, and worked in various sales, marketing and business development positions before being promoted to president and chief operating officer in 2001, then chief executive officer in 2005. Prior to joining NSG, he had worked for several startup companies involved in optics and optical instrumentation and participated in the founding of Avanex, now part of Lumentum after several mergers and acquisitions. Cai started his career with China International Trust and Investment Corporation in 1988. He also served two terms on the corporate associates committee, and later a two-year term as chair of OIDA, now the Corporate Engagement Council at OPTICA, formerly known as the Optical Society. He also served a term on OPTICA’s board and its finance council. Cai holds a Bachelor of Science in Applied Physics from Shanghai Jiao Tong University and a Master of Engineering in Engineering Optics and a Ph.D. in Physics, both from Stevens.
Director and Managing Associate General Counsel, Verizon
Khurram Nasir Gore is a director and managing associate general counsel at Verizon, where he leads the legal team for technology and product development. He works closely with emerging technology teams to launch new use cases and business models in innovative and rapidly evolving areas such as edge computing, AR/VR, computer vision, blockchain, quantum computing, robotics and connected vehicles. An alumnus of Stevens Institute of Technology, Gore has also served as a senior advisor to Hudson Space Systems, a SpaceTech startup founded by Stevens alumni; and as an entrepreneur-in-residence at the Stevens Venture Center. Before joining Verizon, he was general counsel and chief strategy officer at Personal BlackBox, a New York City-based public benefit corporation focused on consumer privacy. Gore holds degrees from Temple Law School, Stevens and New York University, and earned his law degree while working as an engineer at Lockheed Martin. He and his family reside in his hometown of Staten Island.
Chief Executive Officer, Sitetracker, Inc.
Giuseppe Incitti is the CEO of Sitetracker, Inc., a leading enterprise software company whose software is used by companies such as AT&T, Vodafone, Google Fiber, Ericsson, ChargePoint and other leading providers of critical infrastructure. Sitetracker has raised $92 million of venture capital from leading investors such as New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Salesforce Ventures and others and has won numerous industry awards.
President, Consolidated Edison Company of New York
Matthew Ketschke is president of Con Edison of New York, with responsibility for the safety, construction, planning, design and reliability of Con Ed’s energy systems serving more than nine million New Yorkers with electricity, natural gas and steam. Ketschke previously served as senior vice president of customer energy solutions, with areas of responsibility that included energy efficiency, electric transportation and grid modernization. Before becoming a senior vice president, he served in a series of positions of increasing responsibility at Con Edison, including vice president of distributed resource integration, vice president of Manhattan electric operations and vice president of Staten Island electric operations. He joined Con Edison in 1995. Ketschke holds a Master of Business Administration from Columbia University. He also holds a master’s degree in management and a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology. He currently serves on the board of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and is a Rockefeller Fellow.
Business Development Director, Choose New Jersey
Bill Noonan is the business development director at Choose New Jersey, New Jersey’s leading nonprofit economic development organization. Noonan manages a team of business development officers and oversees the technology, financial services, film and television and gaming sectors to identify growth opportunities, nurture client relationships and develop strategies to promote interest in New Jersey as an ideal business location. Noonan has deep connections within New Jersey’s technology ecosystem including the Jersey City-Hoboken startup community. Prior to joining Choose New Jersey, Noonan served as the senior director of SPHERE Technology Solutions, an IT company specializing in cybersecurity, where he was responsible for marketing, sales and business development. Noonan’s extensive experience in the financial services industry includes leadership roles at HSBC, TASC, Gevity and NeoVision Hypersystems, Inc.
Partner, Spherical Cow Group
Laura Paglione has more than 25 years of experience across a range of organizations, from startups to Fortune 100 companies, including both commercial and not-for-profit organizations. Her career has included positions in industries across technology commercialization, software development, global research infrastructure, not-for-profit management, mentorship, broadcast and automotive enterprises. She is a thought leader on the topics of persistent identifiers, innovation, technology commercialization and research infrastructure, and she frequently speaks at conferences and contributes to print publications both domestic and international. Paglione was the second employee of ORCID, a global not-for-profit that addresses name ambiguity for researchers and serves as a gateway to connect research activities from disparate sources. As ORCID’s founding technical director, Paglione launched and directed ORCID’s member and user offerings for the platform, which grew to serve more than five million users in its first six years. Paglione joined the Spherical Cow Group consultancy in 2018. Her project work helps organizations make dramatic impacts via strategic analysis and development of business and organizational models, new organization/product launch and innovation and complex problem-solving. She earned her MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management, her Master of Science in Computer Science from Brown University and her bachelor of engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology. Paglione serves on the Trust and Identity Program Advisory Group and the Steering Committee, as vice chair, of InCommon, the United States identity management federation for research and education institutions.
Executive Director, New Jersey Commission on Science Innovation and Technology
Judith Sheft is the executive director of the New Jersey Commission on Science, Innovation and Technology. The commission's mission is to accelerate economic development in New Jersey through science, innovation and technology, including stimulating academic-industrial collaboration and encouraging and supporting entrepreneurs and inventors. Previously, she was involved with regional economic and cluster development, with responsibilities at the New Jersey Innovation Institute at New Jersey Institute of Technology for the HealthIT Connections entrepreneurial cluster development program, the NJIT I-Corps Site and the Procurement Technical Assistance Center. She has been engaged with technology, IP innovation and commercialization efforts, working with faculty and students to create startup companies and establish licensing relationships with corporate partners. She advised external startups at NJIT’s high technology/life sciences business accelerator/incubator. She is on the board of advisors of the NJIT Murray Women’s Center and serves as a mentor and coach to students and faculty. She is a former member of the NJ-Israel Commission and serves on the boards of the Greater Newark Enterprises Corp., StartUp Newark, the Women’s Center for Entrepreneurship Corporation, Einstein’s Alley, SheTek, the Research and Development Council of New Jersey, the New Jersey Big Data Alliance and the NJEDA Technology Advisory Board. She was a co-chair of Gov. Phil Murphy’s Transition Advisory Committee for Technology,Government and Innovation in 2017.
Partner, SOSV and Chief Science Officer, HAX
Susan Schofer is a partner at SOSV and the chief szience officer at HAX, the world’s premier venture program accelerating early-stage hard-tech startups. She works with startups via early-stage investment, defining key milestones and go-to-market strategies, and is responsible for scientific oversight to support portfolio companies. Prior to joining HAX, Susan served on the leadership team at Modern Meadow as senior vice president for business development, developing innovative, sustainable materials and leading product, partnerships and go-to-market strategy and execution from ideation through to first commercialization. Before that, she spent 10 years in Silicon Valley in roles spanning research and development, product development, product management and business development for Amyris (a pioneer of synthetic biology) and Symyx Technologies (automated, robotic high-throughput tools and workflows to accelerate new material discovery and commercialization). Her passion is working with innovators to bring scientific breakthroughs to market to make a positive impact on people and the planet. Schofer was a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow at Stockholm University, developing artificial photosynthesis. She holds a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Caltech and an Sc.B. in Chemistry from Brown University.
Principal Analyst for Impact Sourcing and Sustainability, Everest Group
Rita N. Soni is Everest Group’s Principal Analyst for Impact Sourcing and Sustainability. She delivers a triple bottom-line lens of people, planet and profits to global services market research, beginning with an in-depth examination into impact sourcing. Before joining Everest Group, she was CEO of NASSCOM Foundation when the term "impact sourcing" was coined and she continued to evolve the field as an advisor to B2R Technologies. Soni also held the role of country head of responsible banking at YES Bank, where she led an award-winning business approach to CSR and Sustainability. She grasped these economic development issues in earlier positions at the Ford Foundation and the American India Foundation after beginning her professional journey with General Electric and NBC. Her initial start as an engineer instilled in her a strong passion for the catalytic role of technology in solving social and environmental challenges in the private sector. Soni serves on the Board of Sapna NYC and is an active mentor at the New York Academy of Sciences. She holds a master of international affairs from Columbia University and a bachelor of engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology.
2023 Competition Winners
These three teams took home $17,500 in prizes at the 2023 Ansary Entrepreneurship Competition.
First Prize ($10,000): Maritime Security — Reva Grover, Dehan Kong, Laura Mathews, Daniel Wadler, Samantha Weckesser ‘23
The team developed AI that scans incoming container cargo data at port facilities and flags potentially hazardous items.
Second Prize ($5,000): No-Till Drill — Dolcinea Carroll, Justine Schleuss, Stephen Schmidt, Jack Staub, Aaron Stultz, Peter White
These students developed a drill arm that creates consistent and precise furrows in farm fields without disturbing surrounding soil.
Third Prize ($2,500): VoFix — Andre Faubert, Susan George, Matthew Halvorsen, Rachel Pinho, Carter Rosen
The VoFix wearable samples sounds and motions from a speaker’s larynx, determining vocal quality and signaling when the speaker may need to take a break.