Engineering students’ ideas take off after marathon 3 Day Startup session

Xavier Ryan (BME'17), right, listens to other students' 3 Day Startup pitches after pitching his own. (Photo: Heidi Hall)

On Friday afternoon, the five teams of students had a lot of amorphous ideas.

By Sunday night, they had potential companies.

That’s the idea behind 3 Day Startup, an international nonprofit that sends representatives with a proven curriculum to campuses to run weekend entrepreneurial camps. It’s a brutal marathon that includes killing off bad ideas and spending hours vetting good ones on the street, checking them against both potential users and competitors.

Robert Zettler

Twenty-three Vanderbilt University students, nearly half from the School of Engineering, worked on five teams to develop their ideas and Shark Tank-style pitches — although, unlike the popular TV show, there were no winners or losers.

There were, however, plenty of tough questions from a panel of startup gurus serving as judges. Those included Robert Zettler (CE’12), co-founder of GiveToken; Yiaway Yeh, Metro Nashville’s chief innovation officer; and Robbie Goldsmith, Nashville Entrepreneur Center’s community engagement director.

The startups were:

  • Ouvert, a service to ease international students into U.S. life.
  • PopMap, an app to make universities more efficient using real-time crowd tracking.
  • Common|Res, a web-based program to streamline applications for both potential hires and hiring managers.
  • Joan’s Arc, a clothing manufacturer aimed at protecting buyers from EMF radiation.
  • Karma, an app that lets users earn points for good deeds and cash them in for favors.

The Vanderbilt Innovation & Entrepreneurship Society coordinated the event. Max Shore, an economics and cognitive neuroscience major and 3DS chair, said the idea is to help participants leave with attainable business ideas. This is the second year 3DS has come to Vanderbilt.

Xavier Ryan (BME’17) said he’s definitely moving forward with his startup, Joan’s Arc. He and his team pitched themselves as “health nuts” concerned about EMF radiation from cell phones, televisions, and radio towers and said they believe they can tap into a market that wants to protect children from it.

“No matter what happened at 3 Day Startup, we were going to pull the trigger on this idea,” Ryan said. “We wanted to get as much help as we could. We learned how to approach the problem of carving out a niche in the market.”

Daniel Aronowitz

Daniel Aronowitz (ES’16) joined the PopMap team and, even though the app wasn’t his idea, gained benefits from 3 Day Startup they he’ll apply to his own companies, he said.

“First and foremost, it introduced me to people with a similar mindset and entrepreneurial interest, and it set the pace of what business development is supposed to be like,” he said.

“I’ve been on slow-going projects done on the side — that’s not my style. This was an environment that told us this isn’t 9 to 5, this is 9 to midnight.”


Engineering students in 3DS

Win Wang (CS), Chandler Barnes (CmpE), Allen Ballway (CS/Math), Christopher Lee (CS), Xavier Ryan (BME), Daniel Aronowitz (CS), Akshay Soni (CmpE), Jonathan Tari (ME), Karl Morcott (ME)

3 Day Startup participants developed their ideas at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center and pitched them in Featheringill Hall on Sunday night. (Photo: VINES)


Heidi Hall, (615) 322-6614
On Twitter @VUEngineering