By: Sydney Tyler
On Thursday, October 28th, Georgia State celebrated Cohort 2 of the Main Street Entrepreneurs Seed Fund as the university community, entrepreneurs, investors, and industry partners gathered at Center Parc Stadium for the 2nd annual Demo Day. 13 companies, led by founders from backgrounds typically underrepresented in entrepreneurship took the stage to present their business ventures with the hopes of taking home over $22,000 in prizes to advance their thriving early-stage companies. The signature event also included a business showcase, live radio interviews from Business RadioX and an awards ceremony and reception.
Special guest, M. Brian Blake, President of Georgia State University, was in attendance. President Blake had the opportunity to meet with many of the Main Street founders and learn about their companies during the business showcase. In his opening remarks he noted that “if you bring in students and smart scholars from different walks of life and backgrounds into an innovative instructional environment, the outcome is generating ideas which have never been considered or conceived before,” which, is in essence, the spirit of the Main Street program. Blake concluded his remarks with the thought that “these young leaders are going to reinvent our city, state, nation is truly inspiring.”
These founders went through a multi-step selection process—which included pitching in front of a set of experienced and established entrepreneurs—before being chosen from more than hundred applicants. They’ve spent the last six months participating in modules which cover the basics of starting a business, meeting with the program’s Entrepreneurs in Residence to outline and identify strategies to meet or exceed KPIs, and have been heavily practicing and preparing their pitch for the big day. Cohort 2 was made possible by the support of the Georgia Power Company and Georgia State alumnus, Ahmet Bozer (’83), a retired executive vice president at Coca-Cola.
Before they took the stage, Dr. Jennifer Sherer, Director of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute at Georgia State, noted: “It takes innovative minds and motivated entrepreneurs to address some of the world’s biggest problems.” Entrepreneurs in Residence, Jamine Moton and Musaddeq “MK” Khan (’00), moderated the event and introduced each of the companies and founders. These 13 companies exhibited this mindset with each of their unique pitches and value propositions, they certainly set the bar high for the next generation of Main Street entrepreneurs.
An elite panel of business leaders, alumni, investors and entrepreneurs served as judges at Demo Day, including Shila Burney, founder and managing partner of Zane Venture Fund, Cade Joiner, vice chairman for the Board of Regents and founder of Shred-X Corporation, Katherine O’Day, a partner at Atlanta Ventures, Paul (‘13) and Daniela Salamanca (’13), co-owners of Preferred Roofing Supply, and Joshua Tatum (’04) co-founder of Carputty.
After tallying the scorecards, four companies were recognized and received additional funding to support their business ventures. Congratulations to Rejess Marshall (’10 & ‘19) of Karaoke Noir for taking home first place and a $10,000 prize, graduate student, Ryan Johnson of Cxmmunity Gaming Co. for placing second with a $6,500 prize Yazdan Navabi (’20) of FoodUpcycles for winning third place and a $3,500 prize, and Elissa Russell (‘21) of READI Consulting LLC for receiving an Engagement Award of $2,500 for excellence in program participation.
A special thank-you to the community and industry experts who served as mentors and helped along the way, to the judges for giving their time and feedback, and to the many who attended in-person to network with and cheer on our Main Street Entrepreneurs Seed Fund founders.
To view livestream from Cohort 2’s Demo Day click here.