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Drexel’s Startup Fest is an annual hit with students | The Triangle

Drexel’s Startup Fest is an annual hit with students

One of the highlights of this year’s Startup Fest was Hidden Gems, the avocado seed-based beverage created by Drexel students. (Photograph by Medha Gupta for The Triangle.)

The Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship held the seventh annual Startup Fest and it was packed with local Philadelphia celebrities, student-run startups, alumni judges, sponsors and spectators in Grand Behrakis Hall. The November 14 Startup Fest had no shortage of entrepreneurial spirit. The Startup Fest aims to be an exhibition for young innovators across Philadelphia complete in pitch competitions, see keynote speakers, and participate in roundtable discussions.

Some highlights of the year’s biggest entrepreneurship event were the $70,000 in prizes  and the 35 “fast-pitch” competitors, gaining over 2,500 website views. The event also included  20 sponsors and nine award winners.

Starting at 10:00 a.m., the day kicked off with an entrepreneur’s expo. It featured local, alumni, and students’ startups that ranged from simply making homemade bread to developing completely new video games.

Drexel student Sheetal Bahirat and her partner Zuri Masud worked together to create a drink using the avocado seed. As a food science major, Masud said that the idea came to her as she was trying to think of a way to reduce food waste. Since the fruit is more seed and peel than pulp, the two partners were looking for a way to put the waste to use. The product was Hidden Gems, an avocado seed brew that comes in three different flavors.

Michelle Silberman and her friend began their quest as inventors at a seventh grade sleepover while having cookies and milk. Today, her innovative cross between a cookie and shot glass, Snackadbra, is being sold in stores across Philadelphia. Michelle says that staple flavors like Chocolate Chipster, Birthday Cake and Mocha Dream were the result of “heaps of flour” and “many chocolate chips.”

Aside from Drexel students, avid alumni were also in attendance, sharing their projects. One of them was Shawn Deeds, who created Emergency Information Systems, a method of standardization for first responders during emergencies in schools and buildings.

Shortly after, the fastpitch competition where students gave elevator pitches to multiple judges in hopes to advance to the final round and eventually win $500 took place. Donna De Carolis, the dean of Drexel’s Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship, shared her remarks and encouragement as well.

Following lunch, a “Women in Food” panel took place featuring Marti Lieberman, founder of Mac Mart; Michelle Silberman, founder of Snackabra; Nicole Marquis, founder of Hip City Veg and Sheetal Bahirat, creator of Hidden Gems. When asked what brought about all of these innivators to the food industry, they shared a unanimous desire for bringing about change in their passion whether it was mac n’ cheese, food waste, or veganism.

At the end of the event, the award winners were announced. Taking home the grand prize of $12,500 was freshman Harrison Hertzberg who introduced the idea of Aeropest. An aerial drone precision spraying system, Aeropest, will target hard to access elevated areas with a method of pest prevention. Taking second place was a women-created and owned kombucha brewery, Camino Kumbcha, interested in reinventing the drink to make it accessible for all. In third place was Phoodie, a food ordering app that provides discounts to customers during off-peak hours, increasing restaurants return on investments.

Overall, the Startup Fest showcases both Drexel’s and the region’s innovations for the future.