Xavier students victorious at entrepreneur competition

Written By Joseph Cotton, Campus News Editor

Seniors Tucker O’Neill and Beck Apple won the second prize of $350 while representing Xavier at the virtual 2021 Big East Startup Challenge last Thursday. 

O’Neill and Apple are co-founders of Environmental Solution Technologies (EST) which is the idea that was presented at the competition. 

EST’s mission is to revolutionize the way forest fires are tracked, analyzed and extinguished in order to decrease environmental and structural damage and protect people from the dangers they present. O’Neill and Apple plan to ‘detect, protect and serve the world’ by building industrial lots composed of complex sensor systems and high resolution camera footage to communicate real time data and statistical analysis. 

The competition is not unlike the ABC show Shark Tank, in that undergraduate student entrepreneurs were required to pitch their innovations and products to a panel of judges. The panel included experienced entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, business investors and Big East alumni.

Competitors were judged on many qualities, such as market need, value proposition, feasibility, passion and presentation. 

Because of COVID-19, this year’s event took place on Zoom. 

The first part of the pitch competition — the five minute presentation —is pre-recorded. After that, a live Q & A session took place that lasted about three to four minutes. 

“We wouldn’t be where we are unless we had really the mentors, the advisors from Xavier and Cincinnati area to really help us along the way,” O’Neill stated.

Photo courtesy of Xavier University

Mike Halloran, a management and entrepreneurship professor, described the Big East Startup Challenge: 

“The (challenge) was the first academic event among the Big East schools that they created… in 2019,” Halloran said. “Casey Smith from the class of 2019 represented us, and he won the event back in 2019. Then, in 2020, the event was all ready to go… but was postponed because of COVID and never happened.”

Halloran commented that Xavier is dedicated to fostering innovation and providing entrepreneurship opportunities for students and that the wins at this competition are a reflection of that. 

“We’re doing good things here at Xavier as it relates to innovation and entrepreneurship,” Halloran said. “We came in first the first time and second the second time so I’m proud of our teams (and) what we’re doing as a university.”

On April 13, there will be a Xavier pitch competition with a cash prize of $1,000 for first place. This competition will also have a format similar to Shark Tank and is open to any Xavier student. More details are forthcoming.