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Pitch it: Meet the entrepreneurs at the University of Tampa

Veronica Brezina



The incubator company winners of the University of Tampa Venture Expo include Menniti (left), Newport and State (center) and Kitchenery, which placed first. All photos are by Veronica Brezina.

A dog poop scooping robot, wireless kitchen accessories and tech built for teachers were among the business concepts University of Tampa students and incubator startups pitched during the annual New Venture Expo event Friday. 

Since its founding in 2017, the UT New Venture Expo, held inside the John P. Lowth Entrepreneurship Center, has showcased work from business students competing for monetary prizes alongside Spartan incubator and accelerator program participants. 

This year over 40 businesses pitched to a panel of 24 judges comprised of investors and company founders. 

The judges evaluated the startups and business concepts on metrics tied to the idea and likelihood of success, with perhaps the most telling criteria being whether the judges themselves might invest. 

And the winners are…

The winners were divided into two groups: the Spartan incubator/accelerator startups and the UT student companies. The first-place winners in the two categories took home a $3,000 monetary prize, while the second-place winners received $1,500 and third-place winners received $500. 

Incubator/accelerator company winners: 

  • Kitchenery, first place winner: Kitchenery develops inductive power transfer technology that allows kitchen appliances to be charged on an electrical pad. This allows appliances to function without a cord. The startup, co-founded by CEO Akshay Bhuva, has raised $100,000 through the crowdfunding platform Wefunder and is launching a second funding round to raise $500,000. 

Kitchenery’s induction pad and technology. Image provided by Kitchenery.

  • Newport and State, second place winner: Newport and State, founded by Julius Becker, is a sports marketing startup that targets up-and-coming collegiate athletes who want to develop their online brand. The startup creates content for athletes and manages their social media. 
  • Menniti, third place winner: Menniti, founded by Marcus Menniti, is a luxury clothing brand deeply influenced by the founder’s Italian cultural heritage, which is represented in the clothing through blending ancient symbols and colors into modern designs. 

The student winners include CoolCat (left), Ela’s Sweets (center) and iPaint. 

UT student company winners: 

  • iPaint, first place winner: iPaint, founded by Callahan Reynolds, is a photo-scanning app that calculates the amount of paint and materials needed for the paint job for exterior and interior walls. Painters can purchase the paint and other supplies directly from the app.   
  • Ela’s Sweets, second place winner: Ela’s sweets is a bakery business operating out of the accelerator. 
  • CoolCat, third place winner: CoolCat, co-founded by Maz Rizzo, is a battery-powered insulated beverage dispenser. To date, CoolCat has raised $150,000. 


Scenes from the New Venture Expo at UT 


Inside one of the expo rooms. 

Clusters of participating students and incubator companies set up tables in designated rooms and halls. 


CoolCat co-founder Max Rizzo pitches the cooler product to attendees. 

CoolCat co-founder Max Rizzo, who founded the company with his father Ben, tells attendees that he rolled out a small pre-order campaign and sold 50 CoolCat coolers. 

Twos co-founders Joe Steilberg (left) and Parker Klein (right). 

Twos co-founders Joe Steilberg and Parker Klein set up their table inside the center. Twos is a startup that has developed a notetaking app and sharing platform. Twos incorporates a calendar, planner, task manager and journal into one place where it can become organized. Twos, an incubator company, previously raised $1.4 million. 

Lucas Scordo a student at UT, pitches his iScoop product to event attendees. 

Lucas Scordo, a UT student, greets attendees at the event, asking them if they own a dog and are tired of picking up their pet’s poop. Scordo is creating iScoop, a mobile device similar to robotic vacuum cleaners that picks up dog feces in yards. Once the device picks up the poop, it delivers the poop to its home station. Scordo said he does not have a prototype of the device, but he is seeking an engineer to help bring his product to life. 

The judges ask questions to Newport and State founder Julius Becker. 

Student Julius Becker pitches his sports marketing company, Newport and State, to the group of judges.  

The Super Wedge head on displayed golf clubs.

Garrett Adams displays several golf clubs, showing his Super Wedge product, which has comb-like grooves on the heads of the clubs. He said Super Wedge’s grind allows the sediments, such as sand and grass, to easily flow through the club, helping golfers play on the roughest courses. Adams, who operates the startup out of the incubator, said he is moving his manufacturing operation from China to the U.S. 

Husband-and-wife duo Zac Herman (left) and Emilia, founders of Seed Classroom. 

Husband-and-wife duo Zac Herman and Emilia pitch their platform Seed Classroom to attendees. The platform provides schools with data showing how much time a student is spending outside of the classroom during school hours. Emilia, who is a teacher, explained how she was frustrated when parents questioned her about their child’s performance in the classroom. The app has an automated attendance capability. Students can scan a QR code as soon as they arrive to class. It also tracks hallway passes provided to students. 

The iTap Ring displayed and tested by attendees. 

iTap Ring founder Rocco Lepore displays ceramic rings at his booth, allowing visitors to wear the ring and sync it with their smart phones. The iTap technology in the ring collects the user’s contact and social media information. Once synced, the user can then tap the ring on other people’s phones, seamlessly sharing their personal information. 

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