Vanderbilt Innovation and Entrepreneurship Society highlights winners of 48 Hour Launch 2021

Executive Board Members of the Vanderbilt Innovation and Entrepreneurship Society share insight on their 48 Hour Launch event and discuss goals for expanding Vanderbilt’s entrepreneurial presence.

An+%22Anchor+Down%22+wrap-up+of+Day+1+of+the+48+Hour+Launch+event+held+by+VINES+%28Austin+Wei%29

An “Anchor Down” wrap-up of Day 1 of the 48 Hour Launch event held by VINES (Austin Wei)

David Cohen, Staff Writer

The Vanderbilt Innovation and Entrepreneurship Society (VINES) presented its yearly 48 Hour Launch event last weekend, an opportunity for Vanderbilt students developing unique ideas or launching businesses to pitch and compete against each other. 

All teams required at least one member to be Vanderbilt affiliated, although students from other institutions, including Harvard and Princeton, participated as well. Attendees engaged in expert-led workshops with mentors to develop their business plans on Saturday, April 10 before pitching their ideas in front of a panel of judges with various venture backgrounds. With the help of partner and sponsor Contrary Capital, a nation-wide venture fund, the organization awarded a $1500 grand prize to the winning team to jumpstart their business as well as access to accelerator resources. 

“We’re arranging a deal with administration to use our [fiscal] account to support the winning team with whatever purchases are necessary to help them grow and expand going forward,” VINES President senior Austin Wei said. “We also had a few prizes for activities we did over the weekend, including a scavenger hunt, and prizes for individuals who provided good feedback for the event.”

According to Wei, the winning team consisted of first-years Rishabh Saran and Sujan Rachuri and sophomore Alvin Eizner. The trio pitched their business VapeMate, which provides a tool to help mitigate vaping dependency through the use of a tracker on an e-cigarette. The product attaches to vape pens and employs a pressure sensor that detects nicotine levels when inhaled. 

Some of the other finalist projects included an algorithmic website for stock trading as well as an informal trading platform for items on Vanderbilt’s campus, a language learning platform for African tribe languages and an instantaneous therapy platform for quick and efficient matching with therapists. 

“Essentially, the projects weren’t limited to just start-ups, but also a lot of different services and social entrepreneurship ideas. The companies were all at different stages and we welcomed ideas that were in their infancy,” Wei said. “Some ideas were developed, like Ready Dress Go, and the founders instead used the event as a platform to get feedback.”

Despite the difficulties in arranging people due to pandemic restrictions, VINES was successfully able to provide a transformative experience for eager students.

“I helped invite a lot of mentors and judges and I really enjoyed the process of connecting with Nashville entrepreneurs, Vanderbilt alumni and others throughout the nation,” VINES Executive Board member junior Sophia She said. “They were very enthusiastic about coming to Vanderbilt and helping out with the event.”

The event also featured a keynote speaker, William Hurley, who is a five-time serial entrepreneur and was a big inspiration for contestants throughout the competition, per Wei. He provided helpful advice for how individuals can plan out what their future would look like going into entrepreneurship if they are interested in that field.

Not only does VINES offer opportunities for students to showcase their ideas, but the organization also fosters entrepreneurship mentoring, aiding passionate innovators in the execution of their ideas by providing resources, education and an entrepreneurial community. One branch of this is VINES’s six week long Cohort program which prepares students for pitching events like the 48 Hour Launch. 

“The Cohort program is one of the new programs for this year at VINES, it’s a start-up accelerator created by students, for students,” Wei said. “We created that program to prepare interested students who had ideas and wanted feedback for this competition. We managed to incubate a few successful companies.”

These efforts are all natural extensions of VINES’s goat at inception: to ensure students could obtain the alumni and community connections they need through a program that previously was non-existent for entrepreneurs on campus

“There are some other entrepreneurial based resources on campus including the Wond’ry Innovation Center, but there’s a lack of social components. There’s no community of students that you can reach out to on a regular basis about your passions and interests,” VINES Vice President junior Fateen Rafid said. “We are trying to create a community of like-minded students who can regularly stay in touch and work on their ideas so they can stay accountable on projects and find motivation from each other.”

Although VINES has only operated on campus for a few years, the organization hopes to expand its presence in the future. 

“We look forward to partnering with more organizations and interfacing them more with our school,” Wei said. “We have already connected with other entrepreneurial societies in colleges but we want to place Vanderbilt entrepreneurship on a national level.”