May 27, 2024

As a critical care nurse, Mildred Diggs MBA ’24 saw her patients, especially those from underserved communities, struggle to follow medication regimes or diets prescribed by their doctors to treat chronic conditions.

Now the culturally conscious digital platform she developed to help people manage diabetes and cardiovascular diseases will get a $25,000 dose of support as the winner of the University of Maryland’s 2024 Pitch Dingman Competition. She told an audience of students, judges, faculty and staff at Thursday’s event that Journiy offers individualized nutrition and wellness support, augmenting the care of doctors who, she said, lack the time and resources to tailor every patient’s treatment plan.

Diggs, a U.S. Army veteran, founded Journiy in 2022 to crunch data provided by patients and their medical records and create an easy-to-follow care plan that considers their cultural backgrounds. It provides recommendations to keep patients on track with their goals and alerts providers when patients require additional support or urgent intervention. It also offers in-depth educational content based on patient demographic data, including nutrition plans centered around relevant ethnic cuisine.

“People struggle to deal with chronic diseases because of a lack of education, access to resources or because their cultural background is not taken into consideration; and how we manage our health has a lot to do with our culture,” said Diggs. “Being able to address those issues and knowing the impact I can make with this has been my driving force.” 

The competition, now in its 14th year, is hosted by the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the Robert H. Smith School of Business and was held at the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center. The final round saw 10 student teams from a pool of 107 venture applications compete for a share of $170,000 in cash prizes and another $130,000 in in-kind prizes, the most support in the event’s history.

“This competition isn’t just about startups, competition tracks or even who wins money,” said Mike Hoffmeyer, managing director at the Dingman Center. “It’s about strengthening bonds in our ecosystem and weaving a tighter fabric of support for entrepreneurs of all ages across Maryland.”

Teams with scalable, tech or tech-enabled ventures that already have traction competed in the David and Robyn Quattrone Tech Track. Journiy also earned a lifetime subscription to Clerky, a legal paperwork software service, and access to Soma Capital, a venture fund that invests in early-stage software and technology. Diggs will use the prize money to speed up platform development, increase its health education content catalog, scale partnerships with clinics, and attend conferences and product showcases.

Vyne, a Tinder-like thrifting application that connects sellers with buyers to promote sustainable fashion around college campuses, earned second-place honors in the track. Founders Shaurya Saran ’25 and Vaughn Hatfield ’25, both computer science majors, plan to use the $10,000 prize to expand the venture’s university network, fund an ambassador program, cover marketing costs and implement user interface improvements.

Rodrigo Sandon ’24, a computer science major, and Marie Brodsky ’24, a mathematics major and 2023 finalist with WISE Cities, took the $1,000 third-place and audience choice prizes for Engauge, a widget for college students that syncs course lectures with note-taking platforms and offers features enhancing student participation in the classroom.

The winners posing with their big checks.
Congratulations to the winners of UMD’s Pitch Dingman Competition! From healthcare innovation to sustainable fashion and beyond, these entrepreneurs are shaping the future with their groundbreaking ventures.

The Main Street Track focused on small businesses with initial customers and a minimum of $1,000 in revenue but with less emphasis on scale. Winners included:

  • First prize, $20,000 and the opportunity to sell wares at Shop Made in Maryland’s College Park retail location: StreetLoveDMV, launched by Jeffrey Kyei-Asare ’25, a finance and information systems major, has over 2,000 customers engaging in its online marketplace and on-campus pop-up shops where it sells vintage and streetwear clothing. It also holds clothing drives to support low-income families in Silver Spring, Md.
  • Second prize, $8,000 and $1,000 audience choice winner: Dawson’s Detailing, founded by James Dawson ’24, a business management major, is a direct-to-consumer car detailing service for Washington D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia residents. It offers two base detailing packages with available add-ons and has worked on over 1,200 vehicles.
  • Third prize, $1,000: Cookies By Drew is a stuffed cookie and cookie cake business created by Drew Haas ’24, a communications major. Founded in 2019, it provides event catering services and sells its products online and through local bakeries.

All Main Street Track and Quattrone Track ventures that advanced to the semifinals received a $500 prize and $6,500 in Amazon Web Services Activate credits.

The new Alumni Pilot Track, created in partnership with the UMD Alumni Association, showcased alum-founded ventures and ideas of any industry and stage.

  • First prize, $15,000: BrightWave Partners, created by Paula Henry ’84, Tim Shaw and Ken Peretti, offers photobioreactors that cultivate algae and seaweed to produce renewable feedstocks with a minimal carbon footprint.
  • Second prize, $10,000: JUUCE, a portable phone charger rental kiosk and digital signage service for venues and events, was founded by Jake Taub ’20, Pouya Susanabadifarahani ’19 and David Greenfield ’20.

Making its return following last year’s debut, the All Stars Pilot Track included finalists and winners within the last two years of University System of Maryland entrepreneurship competitions. Bradley Hennessie of Towson University took home the $20,000 grand prize for NextStep Robotics, which offers accessible robotic rehabilitation tools for neurorecovery efforts, including stroke and neuroplasticity training.

Towson University’s Adeola Ajani received the track’s $15,000 second-place prize for Fem Equity, an AI-powered platform creating solutions and providing customized coaching services for women and underrepresented professionals experiencing pay or professional gaps.

The Joan and Chester Luby Idea Track (previously the Idea Track) consisted of early ventures, ideas to “change the world” or ventures of any industry that did not meet the Main Street and Quattrone Tech track qualifications. The 14 finalists pitched their ventures during Terp Town, held right before the competition.

MyUniventure, launched by Brandon Fung ’24, Jake Blum ’24, Caleb McClatchey ’24 and Megan Nee, was awarded the track’s $4,500 best-in-show prize for its online platform enabling prospective college students and their families to book one-on-one experiences with current college students.

Six other teams each earned $3,000 prizes in the Luby Idea Track: Matching Students Abroad, Maryann Vazhapilly ’24 and Miranda Song ’24; Cloudula, Yifan Zhang ’27; Strapt, Emily Ciardiello ’24; Nerve Systems, Cartor Hancock ’26; Exchange Roots, Evie Scott ’26; and M’Elyon Organics, Adeuwnmi Agagu ’25.

Thomas Noh ’24, an immersive media design major and Pitch Dingman semifinalist, won the $1,000 prize for Tom’s Industrious Entrepreneurship Award. His venture, Sociable AI, is an AI-powered social media management platform that allows users to automate interactions, such as DMs and comments on social media platforms like Instagram.

This year’s competition was sponsored by David Quattrone MBA ’05, co-founder and chief technology officer of CVENT, and his wife, Robyn, along with Chris and Vidya Ballenger ’89, Tom Parsons ’93, MBA ’10, Parsons Ventures and AWS Activate. Joan and Chester Luby, the Alumni Association, Matthew Fishlinger ’07 and the Fishlinger Family, xFoundry@UMD, Soma Capital, Clerky and Shop Made in Maryland also sponsored the event.

Quattrone, Parsons, Fishlinger and Chris Ballenger, founder and CEO of APEX Strategies, served on the judging panel for the Quattrone Tech and Main Street tracks. They were joined by Stacey Price, co-founder and chief localist for Shop Made in Maryland, and Vishal Khera ’00, founder and managing director of Khera Ventures.

Judges of the All Stars and Joan and Chester Luby Idea tracks included Shelly Kapoor Collins ’93, founding partner of the Shatter Fund; Alex Castelli, managing partner in emerging industries, CohnReznick; Sarah Miller, vice president of economic development, Terrapin Development Company; Paul Mudahar ’06, co-founder and CEO of Bobtail; Markus Proctor, executive director, Innovators of Progress; Bryan Swann ’07, vice president of enterprise data risk at Capital One; Harry Alford ’08, sales and go-to-market lead at Portal; Rick Rudman ’84, co-founder and CEO of Curbio; Brian Ludwig MBA ’00, senior vice president of sales at CVENT; and Akash Magoon ’18, co-founder and CEO of Adonis.

– This article originally appeared in Maryland Today and is republished here with permission. Written by Pablo Suarez; photos by Ross Lewin.


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