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Siena Provides Spark to Ignite Student Businesses

Monday, November 04, 2013

By Mary Barrett '14

On ABC’s critically-acclaimed reality show Shark Tank, a panel consisting of highly successful businesspeople known as the “sharks,” listens to pitches from entrepreneurs who want help financing and developing their money-making ideas. The sharks ultimately decide if the products and businesses are worth their investment. Siena students with the entrepreneurial spirit recently participated in the College’s version of the show, a contest called Spark Tank.

Any Siena student, or group of students, was eligible to enter the Spark Tank competition, which generated a large response. The Siena College Entrepreneurship Organization selected the top 10 ideas. From those, the David ’73 and Christine Spicer ’75 Stack Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship leadership team whittled the competition down to the five that were presented to a board of Stack Center judges who evaluated each idea’s originality, marketability, financial potential and difficulty of launch. The judges also used their own discretion when considering the most viable options.

“These ideas are just the beginning,” said Stack Center Entrepreneurship Lead Ken Williams. He said that events like Spark Tank engage students and encourage them to start working with the Stack Center or enroll in his entrepreneurship classes.

Many excellent ideas were presented, but after deliberation, the judges declared computer science and creative arts major Kathleen Rotondo ’15 the winner of Spark Tank.

Rotondo’s idea is to create a website “for musicians, by musicians.” Much like Pandora, her site would allow music lovers to choose what they want to hear. The difference is that Rotondo’s website would give starting musicians the chance to gain recognition and avoid piracy, a huge problem in today’s music industry. It would let up-and-comers upload their own material and link it to established artists with a similar sound.

Rotondo’s idea started out as a joke with her brother, a musician who is looking to release his songs in an affordable manner. When Stack Center Innovation Lead and Assistant Professor of Computer Science Sharon Small, Ph.D., provided information about Spark Tank, Rotondo mentioned that she had an idea but didn’t know how to turn it into a viable business venture. She was encouraged to pursue the idea anyway. As Spark Tank’s champion, Rotondo will receive $150 and the support of the Stack Center team. “I’ve really been pushed by the support I received from Professor Small and the (Stack Center) group,” Rotondo said.

Marketing major Joao Bruno Soares ’14 was Spark Tank’s runner up. His idea is to develop special brands of clothing that, when sold, will generate money to help specific charitable causes. Soares will receive $50 along with the support of the Stack Center team to help make this idea come true.

The ideas presented by Soares and Rotondo sound like they have potential. They certainly hit the right note with the judges. As for individuals or teams that were not chosen, the Stack Center’s annual Jumpstart Innovation Workshop will help them hone their creativity and further develop their ideas.

Click here for more information about Siena College’s Stack Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Contact: Ken Jubie
Contact E-mail: communications@siena.edu

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