Fast Company magazine founder Bill Taylor '81 delivered the keynote remarks at Tigerlaunch 2012. (Photo: Emily Trost '13)
The challenge: seven minutes to make a pitch, convince the judges, and win a slice of $20,000 to start a company.
On April 7, Princeton students competed at the TigerLaunch Startup Challenge, a competition now in its 13th year that encourages young entrepreneurs to envision and develop their own companies.
Organized by the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club, the competition attracted more than 60 teams composed of 110 students who proposed ideas for start-up companies in either a general entrepreneurship or social entrepreneurship category.
In the general entrepreneurship track, ideas incorporated student-designed technology and ranged from improving mapping for urban development to enhancing the social media experience. The social entrepreneurship projects sought to apply students’ entrepreneurial spirit to address global issues. Student-proposed projects included providing necessary sanitary options to those in developing countries, highlighting sustainable production in goods, and creating social networks to tackle unemployment.
TigerLaunch 2012 prizewinners
General entrepreneurship
First place ($5,000)
Tony Xiao ’12 and Jordan Lee GS
Collections, which unifies various software programs and simplifies the user experience on any personal computer
Second place ($3,000)
Andy Kaier ’12 and Peter Maag ’12
Waiter d, a restaurant seating program
Third place ($1,000)
Santhosh Balasubramanian ’13, Matthew Kann ’13, and Patrick Renschler ’13
QualTraxx, a smartphone application designed to measure quality of life
Social entrepreneurship  
First place ($5,000)
Rebecca Scharfstein ’12, Aunna Wilson ’12, Ashley Eberhart ’13, and Alexandra Deprez ’12
Pasand, an organization dedicated to distributing feminine hygiene products to young women in schools in India.
Second place ($3,000)
Christine Blauvelt ’12, Arielle Sandor ’12 and Eric Kuto ’12
DUMA, a cellphone application that connects job-seekers and employers in Kenya
Third place ($1,000)
Hazma Aftab ’12, Farhan Abrol ’14, Amanda Coston ’13, Faaez Ul Haq ’12, Zeerak Ahmed ’13, Richard She ’12, and Shreshth Singhal ’13
BeneTag, designed to “bring out the invisible story” of sustainably made products
Eighteen semifinalist teams competed individually in a private round, but only seven were selected to present their ideas in Dodds Auditorium before a cast of judges invited for their expertise and experience in entrepreneurship.
For competitor Christine Blauvelt ’12, the experienced professionals in the audience provided an exceptional resource for students exploring entrepreneurship. “The mentorship that you get at these competitions is so crucial,” she explained, emphasizing the importance of conversations she has had with professionals as she and her team (DUMA) work to connect job-seekers and employers in Kenya through a cellphone application.
After the finalists made their presentations and awaited decisions, founder of Fast Company magazine Bill Taylor ’81 spoke to the group about the start-up experience and “how to unleash long-lasting value in fast-moving times.”
Taylor stressed the importance of having the proper mindset for getting involved in a start-up by drawing on his own experience starting Fast Company, a magazine dedicated to highlighting innovation in business. 
“We really weren’t entrepreneurs,” he explained, describing himself and his business partner. “We were really passionate, not so much about a company, but about a cause, a point of view — something we saw that was happening in the world that we wanted to help happen faster and better.”
With that idea fresh in the competitors’ minds, TigerLaunch announced this year’s winners, giving them the means to begin expanding on their own start-up ideas. Software dominated the list (see column at right), with five of the six winning entries related to applications for computers or phones.
For members of the DUMA team, which placed second in social entrepreneurship, the event provided a means to expand the Princeton experience and use their education in the real world to effect positive change for the unemployed in Kenya. “Entrepreneurship here has given us the opportunity to experience Princeton in a way that we would have never experienced otherwise,” said Blauvelt.
Eric Kuto ’12 is eager to bring his Princeton experience and DUMA home to Kenya with the help of competitions like TigerLaunch.  “I’ve been here for four years,” said Kuto. “I’ve been learning computer science, but I really need a way to give back and actually translate the opportunity Princeton gave me to something useful. So here’s a huge need, and here’s a great opportunity.”

Emily Trost ’13 is a geosciences major from Huntingdon Valley, Pa.