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Montclair State students win prizes in statewide contest

Posted in: Events, Uncategorized, Young Entrepreneurs

Two students and professor hold oversized prize check.
Sirawar Matin, left, and Iffat Siddiqi, center, celebrate their UPitchNJ prize win with Prof. Jason Frasca.

A team of Montclair State students was among the winners of the third annual UPitchNJ, an innovative statewide collegiate business model competition showcasing the Garden State’s top young talent.

Sirawar Matin, a sophomore Athletic Training major, and Iffat Siddiqi, a junior Computer Science major, won third place in the contest with a $500 prize. Their team was NeatSweeps, and they invented specialized slippers that use augmented reality and interactive games to entice children to move more.

Matin and Siddiqi, who are EOF Scholars at the university, also won the Audience Choice Award, which included a $100 gift card. The students were taught and mentored by Prof. Jason Frasca as they completed the Feliciano Center’s Certificate of Entrepreneurship.

Montclair State is the only school to win a prize every year in the contest.

Watch NeatSweeps, and 13 other Montclair State teams, compete for $80,000 in prizes on May 2 in Montclair State’s fifth annual pitch contest, the BulbHead Inventors Day for Aspiring Entrepreneurs, generously funded by AJ Khubani, founder of TeleBrands and BulbHead.

Student onstage talking.
Iffat Siddiqi explains NeatSweeps to the UPitchNJ judges.

Winning the first-place $2,000 prize, which was sponsored by PNC Bank, was Rutgers’ team, LivingWaters. The second-place winner for $1,000 was League of Lifeguards, NJIT’s team. The Best Early-Stage Startup award, for $1,000, went to Dowie Corp, a team from Rider University.

The event was held April 20 at Montclair State University. Princeton and Rutgers universities hosted the contest in prior years.

The competition is sponsored by the New Jersey Collegiate Entrepreneurship Consortium, which represents the entrepreneurship education programs at New Jersey’s four-year colleges and universities. Fourteen universities competed in the third annual competition: Drew University, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Monmouth University, Montclair State University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Ramapo College, Rider University, Rowan University, Rutgers University, Saint Peter’s University, Seton Hall University, Stevens Institute of Technology, and William Paterson University.

Student holding prototype slippers.
Sirawar Matin holds a prototype of the slippers during their pitch.

Judging the students’ pitches were: Jessica Gonzalez, founder & CEO of InCharged; S. Philip Kennard, CEO of Futurestay; Elizabeth Vilchis, founder & CEO of latinoTech; Ed Villa, tax partner at EY; and Kimberly Weisul, editor-at-large at

Tom Wisniewski, managing partner, Newark Venture Partners, delivered opening remarks, after Dennis Bone, director of the Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship at Montclair State, and Susan Scherreik, director of Seton Hall’s entrepreneurship center, welcomed the crowd.

“UPitchNJ showcases the best and brightest young entrepreneurs from all over the Garden State,” said Bone. “When a company decides to relocate to New Jersey or remain in the state, one of their top criteria is the Garden State’s well-educated workforce, especially people who possess innovative problem-solving skills. These students are excellent examples of that.”

Each university sent a student team that has launched a startup or a new venture in development to compete for the prizes. Student teams were judged on the innovativeness and originality of their startup idea, and the quality of a written executive summary and oral presentations. The contest judges also looked for creative and innovative thinking about markets, products and services. The teams were evaluated on their perceived ability to execute the idea and turn it into a viable, profitable business, and/or venture with significant social value.

The competition’s aim is to highlight the ingenuity and creativity of today’s college entrepreneurs, whom are increasingly launching businesses from their dorm rooms. The contest also gives the entrepreneurial students the opportunity to network with other students, mentors and potential investors.

Crowd of people on stage.
Many of the student teams, the judges, and the organizers gather on stage after the contest.

The prizes included coaching sessions, as well as cash:

First place (sponsored by PNC Bank): $2,000 award plus Coaching Session with Mario Casabona, founder, TechLaunch; Coaching Session with David Sorin, McCarter & English.

Second place: $1,000 plus Coaching Session with the NJ Innovation Institute at NJIT; Coaching Session with NJ Tech Council.

Third place: $500 plus Coaching Session with entrepreneur David Stengle, Startup Grind.

Best Early-Stage Startup: $1,000 Plus Coaching Session with entrepreneur Greg Olsen, Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Princeton University. This prize is for an innovative idea that is in an earlier stage of development.

Audience Choice Award: $100 gift card.

Besides the PNC Bank sponsorship of first-place prize, the event’s other supporters include Withum, New Jersey Technology Council, TechLaunch, Startup Grind Princeton, New Jersey Innovation Institute, Inc., McCarter & English, and American Entrepreneurship Today.