Skandalaris Center

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Celebrating Alumni and Student Entrepreneurship at the Washington University Innovation & Entrepreneurship Awards

Nancy Nigh
November 17, 2021

It was a night of celebration as the Skandalaris Center presented The Washington University Innovation and Entrepreneurship Awards on November 17, 2021. WashU alumnus, Chuck Cohn (BSBA ’08), was awarded the Alumni Achievement in Entrepreneurship Award to recognize his entrepreneurial success and the commitment he continues to make to St. Louis and Washington University. 

2021-11-17 — Washington University Innovation and Entrepreneurship Awards presented by the Skandalaris Center

Cohn graduated from WashU in 2008 and started Varsity Tutors (now Nerdy) while studying finance and entrepreneurship. According to II Luscri, Managing Director of the Skandalaris Center and Assistant Vice Provost for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at WashU, “Chuck has been a long-time supporter of the Skandalaris Center and serves on our National Council. Throughout the years Chuck has generously volunteered his time by connecting with our students through programs like the Skandalaris Center’s Innovation Conversations.”

When asked what he might do differently if he were a student today, Cohn responded, “I would have sought out more resources and feedback, just to get to the right answer faster–to inform my perspective based on collective wisdom. It’s very tempting to just put your head down and work hard, but there are other people out there who have more perspective that can really share a lot of resources. I’ve seen entrepreneurship programs developing more formal programs for facilitating that interaction than I think existed 15+ years ago. So I hope that everybody in this room takes advantage of those resources.”

The excitement continued with the announcement of the winners of the Skandalaris Venture Competition (SVC). After eleven weeks of working with the Skandalaris Center and mentors from the entrepreneurial community, the SVC finalists gave their final presentations to a panel of distinguished judges, who evaluated each team on their startup’s idea, target customers, value proposition, industry trends, minimally viable product of service, financial modeling, traction, team, and overall presentation. 

Through the generous support from Skandalaris Center National Council member, Kishore Kanakamedala, three winners were awarded a combined total $22,500 to help fund their startup businesses.

2021-11-17 — Washington University Innovation and Entrepreneurship Awards presented by the Skandalaris Center

First Place and $10,000 was awarded to ClosetSwitch, an online clothing trading platform made for college and high school students, founded by Chiara Munzi (LA ’23).

Second place and $7,500 was awarded to Oystar, a startup that improves traditional university recruiting strategies and how students find educational opportunities, founded by Lungile Tshuma (MBA ’21), Kevin Ko (MBA ’21), Tim Brandt (MBA ’21), and Abhinav Gabbeta (MBA ’20).

Speak Information Technologies (Speak IT) received third place and $5,000. Speak IT is a software solution that advances current dictation technology to include speech to action in medical charts, founded by Kai Skallerud (MD/MBA ’23), Maxwell Popper (LA ’22), Chris Callan (MBA ’22), Quan Khuc (EN ’23), Afam Obioha (BU ’22), Mitchell Sampson (EN ’25), Ajla Salic (BU ’22), Maddy Singleton (LA ’24) Issa Cook (JD/MBA ’22/23), Julian Lu (LA ’24), and Michael Cafiero (LA ’24).

“We really appreciate all the teams who participated. Our goal is to increase and grow entrepreneurship here at WashU. ” said Luscri. “If you have a venture or new idea that we can help you with, reach out to us and get to know our team, so we can make those important connections for you” he stated.

Applications for the Spring 2022 Skandalaris Venture Competition will open on November 30. All current WashU students and all WashU alumni within one year of graduation with an early-stage venture or idea are encouraged to apply.