UD Summer Entrepreneur Program Sizzles with Hot Ideas

UD students Brandon Holly (left) and Kenny Eck co-founded Patient Sortal, a healthcare liaison service for children with chronic disease. They pitched their venture at the UD Horn Entrepreneurship Summer Founders Demo Day.

This summer was anything but sleepy for a select group of University of Delaware students, who stayed put in Newark to brainstorm brilliant new business ideas they hope to make a reality before they even graduate.

One of those ideas, Patient Sortal, is designed help thousands of chronically ill children by coordinating information from the many doctors they see and handling the organizational and administrative tasks that caregivers struggle with on a daily basis.

UD Seniors Nicholas Feconda, Deniz Hatiboglu and Karl Green showcased their Mindful Meeps business idea.

Another, EasyFinance, wants to be just that – a business that provides affordable and accessible loans to everyone who is deserving but overlooked for credit history.

And M&B Booking wants to help book young talented musicians in concert venues across the country.

These were just a few of the startup businesses that got a major boost this summer as they took part in the Horn Entrepreneurship Summer Founders program. The program is by invitation only – for students who have demonstrated during the school year that they are serious about launching a viable new business.  

The 12-week program provides student teams with resources and support from experienced entrepreneurs and faculty, plus free and discounted services from the Venture Development Center.

The students also receive a summer stipend to pursue their business ideas full time over the summer.

The program concludes with Demo Day, which took place this week at the Horn Entrepreneurship Center on campus. Eight teams with early-stage start-ups presented and pitched their ideas to other successful local entrepreneurs and alumni of the program with the objective of gaining investment in their ideas.

Amedeo DeLuca (’18) and his team were awarded $12,500 when they won the 2018 UD Hen Hatch competition in April for their on-site fueling company D150 Fueling. The team pursued their business venture at the Summer Founders program.

“This really is one of the most exciting days of the summer for me,” said 1313 Innovation’s Paul McConnell, who has invested in several businesses spawned from the Summer Founders program. “These kids have some incredible business ideas and have done solid research to back up their pitches. Many of these ventures can gain traction quickly with continued mentoring and business partnering,” he said.

D150 Fueling, a mobile on-site fueling and fuel marketing company, is already well underway with their business, selling it to busing, trucking, construction, farming and government industries. D150 Fueling brings a tank truck to commercial fleets during their off hours and fuels vehicle tanks directly, eliminating the need for employees to fill tanks. They’ve raised $300,000 in funding and have committed to working with six clients. 

DeLuca says he and his friends were watching TV’s Impractical Jokers when someone on the show threw out the new start-up idea of starting a gasoline delivery service. “We were all on the rowing team when we came up with this idea. None of us even had any entrepreneurial experience at all. So getting introduced to Horn was extremely helpful with strategy, wording our value, and getting our business off the ground.”

DeLuca founded the business with fellow students Bailey O’Brien and Sam Bacharach. DeLuca and O’Brien graduated this year with degrees in civil engineering. Bacharach (’19) will graduate with a degree in finance and economics.

Other 2018 Summer Founder presenters included:

Cinta Solutions – outsourced bookkeeping firm providing services to subsistence farmers/small business owners in East Africa

Davis Pfund (left) and Dylan Nunn of Metta Creative want to move students away from “binge drinking and binge studying” and inspire a more mindful experience through sustainable living and creative arts experiences.

EasyFinance – provides affordable and accessible loans using a peer to peer bitcoin lending platform,

M&B Booking – music booking agency start-up

Metta Creative– a creative space for people to come together, meeting the basic need of human connection and solving the problem of loneliness in communities

Mindful Meeps – a social venture working towards creating a conversation around wellness and removing the stigma around mental health on college campuses

Patient Sortal – service that provides assistance to patients and caregivers of chronically ill children, helping navigate the complex healthcare system

Urbinvest – creates pathways for well-deserving entrepreneurs of color through platforms such as pitch competitions and early stage accelerator programs in Wilmington

UD Senior Keith Obiero created Cinta Solution, a bookkeeping firm offering simple services to farmers and business owners alike in East Africa. He says the advising support at the Horn Entrepreneurship Summer Founders program was invaluable.

The Summer Founders program helped Keith Obiero of Cinta’s Solution generate 20 new clients just in the last month. The UD senior will graduate next spring with a combined degree Political Science and Entrepreneurship and Technology Innovation.

Obiero has a long list of ways the Summer Founders program supported his business.

“Their advising support was invaluable. Basically, teaching us what to look for, past mistakes of failed start-ups, helping us evaluate whether our business concepts are really tangible, making financial statements and marketing plans, making sure you’re asking the right questions of your customers, learning about the lifetime value of your customer to see whether this is a short-term, temporary thing or a viable for the foreseeable future” he said.

University of Delaware graduate student Garry Johnson (Urbinvest) is a social entrepreneur and community leader with a “passion for utilizing design thinking to build a better world.”

Obiero thinks that because of the intensive investment in his company at Horn Entrepreneurship, his company is “positioned to be here for at least 10 to 20 years.

Ben Rossman (’18), Matthew Hubner (’16)were trumpet players in the marching band when they started talking about the potential of marketing musical talent outside the confines of campus. “We agreed there was a lot of musical talent here at UD and that students really don’t know how to get themselves out there and get paid performance opportunities outside of the school,” said Rossman.

Rossman and Hubner, who now also works in programming at The Grand Opera House, launched M&B Booking in the spring of 2017, and the business has already booked several singer-songwriters and bands up and down the east coast and east of the Mississippi.

“Music booking is very specific. It’s very, very time consuming to book venues for artists. Finding the contacts is really hard,” said Rossman.

Ben Rossman and Jacob Tims took their business M&B Booking to the next level as participants in the UD Horn Entrepreneurship Summer Founders program.

M&B Bookings now has a database of over 10,000 venue contacts across the U.S. and 11 singer-songwriter and band clients, including Matthew Schuler, who placed 6thon The Voice five years ago. “We grow as our artists grow. Hopefully one of our artists makes it big and we ride with them to the top.”

Rossman recruited fellow marching band trumpeter Jacob Tims (’20) to assist with marketing at M&B Booking this past spring. The pair then applied to participate in this year’s Summer Founders program.

“I think that the Horn Entrepreneurship program is an essential part of us as a company,” said Tims. “It provides the space, the resources, the mentorship behind what we’re doing. Without the Summer Founders program, we wouldn’t have been able to progress as a company. Being able to pull from these outside resources allowed us to dig into the competitive environment for small music booking companies and helped us fine-tune our business model so we are in a great position going forward.”


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About the Contributor

Christy Fleming

Christy Fleming

The managing editor of TownSquareDelaware.com, Christy Fleming also supports a variety of non-profit initiatives in Delaware. Her background includes positions in public relations, advertising and journalism.