Startups focus on motor safety, interactive art, music, comics, and skateboard security
by Jeremy Gerlach
The 2019 Stumberg Venture Competition has selected five unique, new Trinity startups.
The Stumberg Competition, now in its fifth year—with $215,000 in seed money handed out and 21 startups founded, including companies such as Coldeclara, Quick Sip Coffee, and PATCH—selected this new cadre of budding companies at its 2019 preliminaries March 26.
These startups, StorySpread, heARTful, ProjecTech, La Escuela de Estella, and Skate Cuff, represent an incredibly diverse set of products, services, skills, and interests. Each of these five budding companies impressed the judges enough to earn $5,000 in seed money and a spot in Trinity’s Summer Accelerator program, which comes with summer housing and funding to pay startup employees $10 per hour for up to 10 40-hour workweeks, as well as guided instruction and networking opportunities.
These five new startups also progress onto the Stumberg finals in October, with one $25,000 grand prize at stake. Now, meet the finalists:
Chikanma Ibeh ’22
The StorySpread software gives users this ability to create—and monetize—digital stories and comics, no matter their drawing ability. Users can create avatars, create their own scenes and backgrounds, and eventually receive ad revenue if their work receives a certain amount of traffic.
“I’ve had this idea since seventh grade, so it’s been a process of waiting for the right moment to act on it,” Ibeh says. “And I feel like Trinity has given me the right moment to act on it, through the entrepreneurship program and through Stumberg.”
Ibeh plans to double major in finance and economics, with a minor in entrepreneurship. She’s passionate about her startup because it makes the art of visual storytelling more accessible.
“Visual storytelling is the best way to tell your story. As an author, your stories are very personal to you, especially because you grow up with these same stories, waiting for the opportunity to tell these stories to the world. So, (the) visual gives you the most control over how your story is told.”
Nia Clements ’22, Bradley Sykes ’22, and Chryslyn Perkins ’22
With heARTful, the first-year trio of Clements, Sykes and Perkins have created a nonprofit organization that aims to create new ways for people with disabilities to experience art. The group plans to connect these people with exhibits created by local artists—with pieces such as a “magnet maze” version of Van Gogh’s Starry Night.
“Really, this is about allowing people with special needs to interact with themselves, with others, through the art itself,” Clements says. “Now, a parent and a non-verbal child can communicate in a new way.”
“Or,” Sykes adds, “we can create a ‘mobile’ that takes multiple people to balance correctly.”
Perkins explains: “Now, you have a way for multiple people to experience the art, while working together.”
Robert Magee ’21, Christian Lee ’21, Chris Stewart ’21, and Parker Lewis ’22
ProjecTech aims to increase safety for motorcyclists and bicyclists by increasing cyclists’ visibility to other motorists with an augmented turn signal. This signal, designed to be used in conjunction with standard equipped turn signals, will illuminate the ground with a flashing, amber equilateral triangle to signal a turn or lane change and increase visibility during morning, dusk, or nighttime rides.
“I’m a motorcyclist,” Magee says. “So everytime I ride, my greatest fear is cars. Motorcyclists die every day because cars don’t see them. So I set out to create something that would make motorcycles more visible to cars. I taught myself some engineering, set out to work with my friends, and now we’re seeing a lot of potential.”
At ProjecTech, Magee is working with more than friends: he’s joined by football teammates Stewart and Lewis.
“We’re good at communicating with each other, holding each other accountable,” Stewart says. “And we’re not afraid to yell at each other—if we need to.”
“Having that strong bond really helps,” Lewis adds. “When you’ve worked together on the field, you already know what you’re getting off of it.”
Estella Frausto ’21, Victoria Shirey ’21, and Marlee Jackson ’21
La Escuela de Estella encourages mariachi students to continue their careers as musicians and strengthen the mariachi culture and community in Southwest ISD. The company plans to provide affordable group and private lessons, form a community mariachi band in which students and alumni may participate, and establish a strong network of musicians, as well as paid teacher positions (preferably for Trinity alumni).
Frausto graduated from the Southwest ISD, and was a mariachi performer from middle school through high school.
“I want the high school mariachi program to be better at getting students to the next level in college,” Frausto says.
Shirey, who met Frausto through Trinity’s summer bridge program, says the two come from different backgrounds, but both are excited to find ways to make high-level music education more accessible to area youth.
“Every person deserves to have a creative outlet, and we want to give (high school) students the skills to move on and continue their passion for music at the next level.”
Andrew Koob ’22
Skate Cuff is a lock that allows users to secure their electronic vehicles (such as scooters, skateboards, and even small skates) to bike racks, poles, and other available objects. The company hopes to eventually offer other products such as lights and external batteries, and also plans to one day release its own models of electric vehicles.
“Electric skateboards are great: they’re fast and they have long range. But you can’t secure them from theft in an efficient manner,” Koob says. “So I’ve created a lock that uses the board’s shape to your advantage: it’s actually part of the board, and even balances out the motor on the back of the board better.”
Koob, a Houston native, started work on the Skate Cuff project after finding out his parents wouldn’t let him take his car to San Antonio.
“I wanted to find a substitute with electric skateboards, which are great for urban commuting,” Koob says. “And while there are a ton of electric skateboards out on the market, I realized that no one’s really creating accessories for them.”