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.
2022 Competition Winners
These three teams took home $17,500 in prizes at the 2022 Ansary Entrepreneurship Competition.
First Prize ($10,000): Real-Time ASL Transcription — Brianna Garland, Jayden Pereira, Chloe Sharpe
This team’s American Sign Language (ASL) translator captures a user’s hand motions in real time and instantly transcribes their ASL into English text.
Second Prize ($5,000): MOD Filter — Cielo Abe, Shea Bontempo, Keeley Coval, Katie Foster
Lead in drinking water is a major issue. While there is a large market for drinking-water filters, many of them don't effectively remove lead. This project aimed to create a cutting-edge filtration method that is accessible and affordable.
Third Prize ($2,500): SuperLU-FPGA — Abdullah Hyder, Grant Simmons
SuperLU-FPGA improves on existing solutions for matrix LU decomposition by implementing a custom hardware architecture to accelerate the decomposition of matrices using an FPGA.
These business and community leaders volunteered as judges for the 2022 Ansary Entrepreneurship Competition.
Aaron Price is the CEO of TechUnited:NJ (formerly, NJ Tech Council), representing more than 500,000 innovators and some of the largest tech companies in the country. Previously, Aaron was the CEO of Propelify, since acquired by the NJTC, one of the largest entrepreneurial communities in the country. Together, TechUnited:NJ and Propelify provide the tools, resources and community to propel ideas into action and to strengthen our collective technology ecosystem at all stages of growth. The annual Propelify Innovation Festival welcomes more than 10,000 innovators to Hoboken for talks, tech, exhibitors, drones, VCs, VR, music, food, drinks and more. Propelify was inspired by Aaron'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 venture capital firm DFJ Gotham. A born entrepreneur, Aaron started his first commercial venture in high school after he was awarded a patent for a weight lifting device. Aaron lives in Hoboken with his wife and the startups of which they are most proud, their two daughters.
Stephen C. Crouch graduated from Stevens Institute of Technology in 2010 with a B.S. and M.S. in physics. He then moved to Bozeman, Montana, where he attended Montana State University and subsequently co-founded Blackmore Sensors and Analytics, in 2016. He led the company as its chief technology officer. In 2019, Blackmore was acquired by autonomous vehicle startup Aurora Innovation, where Crouch led the companies' long-term sensor strategy. In early 2022, he founded Volair, a stealth-mode startup. Mr. Crouch enjoys outdoor adventures, cooking, traveling and spending time with his better half, Märtha.
Brian Donohue '11 is a director of engineering and New York City site lead at DoorDash, leading the teams that build products to expand DoorDash beyond food delivery. Previously, Donohue was the director of product engineering at Pinterest, which he joined after selling his startup Instapaper, an app for saving articles to read later, to Pinterest in 2016. After graduating from Stevens with a degree in computer science, Donohue made the decision to start his own company and jumped right in, securing $250,000 in angel investor money. The product didn’t take off, but he learned how to manage a business and a team. He took those skills to Betaworks, the New York-based startup studio that owned Instapaper, where he was quickly promoted to general manager of the app. He then helped change Instapaper’s payment structure from an entirely paid service to freemium (a business model where basic services are free and premium services are paid), became the CEO of the company and eventually guided the acquisition by Pinterest. Donohue remains active in the startup community, providing mentorship to startup founders and making the occasional angel investment.
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.
Christine Ann Miller has served as president and chief executive officer and as a member of the board of Melinta Therapeutics since August 2020. Miller is a global pharmaceutical veteran with more than 20 years of experience in life sciences. Most recently, she led the global and U.S. product portfolio for Sandoz, a $10 billion division of Novartis, where she was accountable for transitioning the portfolio toward rapid-growth and higher-margin segments such as complex generics and value-added medicines, while continuing to build the branded generics business. Miller has directed more than 50 product launches that generated more than $300 million in new annual revenue, closed numerous business development acquisitions and built a robust five-year development and acquisition product pipeline. Before joining Sandoz, Miller spent more than a decade at Actavis (now Allergan) and its predecessor Watson Pharmaceuticals, where she led the preparation of numerous product launches and held leadership roles in both research-and-development operations and supply chain management. Miller’s leadership focus combines her passion for building and leading high-performing teams with goal-driven operational rigor. She articulates a clear mission, vision and strategy that engages people to cohesively work cohesively toward creative problem-solving and innovative solutions. In addition to her role at Melinta, Miller serves on the board of IVERIC bio, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery and development of novel treatments for retinal diseases. Her board committee assignments include the Research and Development Committee and the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee. She is also an advisory board member for the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association and is a frequent panelist and speaker at industry events. Miller started her career at Merck as a chemical engineer and procurement analyst and earned an MBA and a Master’s in Technology Management at Stevens Institute of Technology and a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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 speak at conferences and contribute 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 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.
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 member of the NJ-Israel Commission and serves on the board of the Greater Newark Enterprises Corp., StartUp Newark, the Women’s Center for Entrepreneurship Corporation, Einstein’s Alley, SheTek and the NJEDA Technology Advisory Board, working to assist early-stage tech and life sciences entrepreneurs to foster regional economic growth. She was a co-chair of Gov. Phil Murphy’s transition advisory committee for Technology Government and Innovation in 2017.
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.
Chris Tully has served in the New Jersey General Assembly since 2018. He currently serves as a deputy majority leader; the chairman of the Science, Innovation and Technology Committee; the vice chairman of the Aging and Senior Services Committee; and as a member of the Health Committee. He also serves as a board member of the New Jersey Commission on Science, Innovation and Technology. Tully is a former council president and chair of the finance committee in Bergenfield. During his tenure, borough debt was reduced and responsible budgets under the tax cap were delivered while improving vital borough services were improved. During his time as a councilman, his local community's progress was recognized by numerous publications; it was was cited as one of New Jersey's safest communities (2013) and as one of the best communities in New Jersey in which to raise children (2011). The son of Irish immigrants, Tully was born and raised in Bergen County. He is a proud graduate of Bergenfield High School and a cum laude graduate of Northeastern University. Currently, Tully serves as the borough administrator for the Borough of Dumont. His public service experience includes serving as district director to for Representative Josh Gottheimer in New Jersey’s 5th Congressional District and serving as an aide to former Senator Frank Lautenberg, former Governor Richard Codey and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.
Garrett Winther is a partner at HAX, the world’s premier venture program early-stage hard tech startup. He works with new startups via early-stage investment, defining go-to-market strategies and continuous development of HAX’s global ecosystem of founders, partners and investors. Prior to joining HAX, Garrett spent eight years with IDEO, a global design and innovation firm, where he led large innovation programs and global client relationships across a diverse portfolio of automotive, healthcare, retail and consumer electronics businesses. During his time at IDEO, he and his teams influenced over $80 billion in clients' annual revenue, launched corporate ventures and formed new innovation organizations in America, Europe and Asia. Winther has launched several hardware startups of his own and holds a degree in mechanical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is currently building up the HAX locations in Newark and New York.
State Senator Andrew Zwicker is a physicist and a member of the New Jersey State Senate, representing Central New Jersey's 16th Legislative District. He serves on the Budget and Appropriations, Higher Education, Labor, and Military and Veterans' Affairs committees. Additionally, he is a member of the Manufacturing Caucus; the Disability Caucus; and the New Jersey Commission on Science, Innovation and Technology; and was vice-chair of the New Jersey Biotechnology Task Force. He served in the New Jersey General Assembly from 2016-21, where he was the chair of the Science, Innovation and Technology Committee. His legislative focus includes the role of research-and-development as an economic driver, addressing global warming and voting rights. A lifelong New Jersey resident, Zwicker is head of communications and public outreach at Princeton University’s Plasma Physics Laboratory, a world leader in developing an advanced form of energy known as fusion. He has taught classes in bioethics and writing, and led plasma physics workshops for faculty and students. The American Association of Physics Teachers named him as one of the 75 leading contributors to physics education in the United States. Zwicker was raised in Englewood, where his love of learning and passion for science came from his mother, a public school English teacher, and father, a chemical engineer. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Bard College and a master’s and Ph.D. in physics from Johns Hopkins University. Zwicker and his wife Barbara, an elementary school educator, raised three children and one pitbull-boxer mix named Rocky.