Duke Students Place 1st and 2nd at Athgothon 2015

Published: 5 years ago | 0 comments

11896496_10153578140789292_3354813257830992158_oAthgothon 2015 took place at the World Bank in Washington, DC from August 12 – August 14. Participating teams had three days to develop a startup idea. After the forum came to a close, concepts with the most potential were awarded first, second, and third place prizes. Duke I&E’s Social Entrepreneurship team selected five students to attend this year’s forum.

Ivonna Dumanyan, one of I&E’s Melissa & Doug Entrepreneurs, was part of the first place team, Gusto Gum. The team created an iron-infused gum and was awarded $3,000 for their first place finish.

11894056_10153578157524292_1961471192738494697_oLiz Colavita, a member of our DukeEngage Detroit program this summer, was part of the second place team, Round Up. The team’s venture was intended to facilitate integrate donations and positive impact into their daily. The Round Up team was awarded $2,000 for their first place finish.


Are you interested in learning more about Athgothon? See

Check out what our participating Duke students had to say about their experiences!

Sachin Gupta: Having a passion for entrepreneurship, I realized early on that the best way to cultivate it is by stepping out of your comfort zones and by exploring new avenues. Credits to Duke I&E initiative for providing such an opportunity by inviting us to attend Athgo innovation forum at World Bank HQ.

This 3 day event was very well thought-out and structured where they not only brought some amazing world leaders who shared their perspectives, but also gave an opportunity for us to have a hands on experience in getting our startup ideas into something executable. Working in a team of budding entrepreneurs coming from various background to create something in 3 days was thrilling and the sense of satisfaction on pitching your startup idea in front of successful entrepreneurs/ leaders was definitely a big confidence booster.

Overall, Athgothon was an impactful program where I met many like-minded passionate people and made some beautiful memories.

Justin Wang: It has been an amazing three-day experience participating in Athgo 2015 – such a great networking platform for talent students with entrepreneurial mindset all over the world. For me, a few takeaways would be:

1) Give back to the society: Successful entrepreneurs will remember to give back- solving poverty, improving education, sharing ideas with youngsters. This is what World Bank is doing, and what UN foundation and Mutombo Foundation are established on.

2) Networking: whether you want to start a business of find a job.

3) What makes a great start-up idea: I used to think that technology that is unable to copy is a necessity for a successful start-up, but the Judy Zhu’s start-up pitch inspired me a lot. The idea of share economy was just a fancy yet disruptive business model itself; there is not much fancy technology. A great start-up idea could enter the market in an unexpected way, or create a new market by itself.

Liz Colavita: I was in the midst of planning my road trip from RI to NC when I got the invitation to go to Athgothon in DC. The three day startup competition and conference was happening smack dab in the middle of my road trip. Originally, I was planning on dawdling in NYC and Philly during those days, but I figured going to Athgothon would be a cool opportunity to learn from brilliant peers and mentors. I didn’t have anything remotely close to a startup idea, all I had was a car full of stuff for my move back to Durham and a sunburn from my weekend in the Poconos.

Sitting at lunch the first day with the four other Duke students, I quickly realized I had the most nonchalant attitude about this conference. Discussion ranged from our own startup ideas, startup experience, or the speed with which we responded to the email invitation. It was determined that I had responded first, but I’m assuming that I also received the email before the rest of the listserv as a participant of the DukeEngage Detroit program. I responded “sure!” to an email invitation to a listserv whereas every other conference participant wrote a full application.

I came with only the expectation to learn and the assumption that I didn’t have too much to offer a startup. We were randomly assigned to teams to create our startup, and my team struggled to come up with even a viable idea until halfway through the second day. As we learned from the speakers, obstacles aren’t a reason to quit; they’re a reason to pivot. From the guidance, feedback, and support of the speakers and mentors we figured out how to make our idea work. We figured out everyone brought something useful to the team. Ultimately, we convinced the judges that our idea had potential and were awarded second place and $2,000 for our startup. While Round Up, our mobile app that integrates donating into everyday life, may not continue (our team is scattered across the country), I learned that I can contribute even if I’m not the most experienced or smartest in the room. My expectation to learn was correct, and, most importantly, I learned my assumption was completely unfounded.

Ivonna Dumanyan: This weekend, I truly had the opportunity to apply and showcase the skills attained at Duke to create, validate, prototype, and pitch a new solution to a 10 judge panel. It wasn’t until I began working with my 4 teammates, that I truly got to appreciate the quality of education and the value of the experiences offered to me within the Duke I&E framework. With congratulations of our victory, came the following from it’s founder: “you have something unique and powerful…what you did changed, if nothing more, the face of the conference”. We are truly becoming innovative thinkers in an extraordinarily exciting time. We are truly learning how to make a change in a world where we might otherwise feel so small. I never would have had this opportunity without Duke I&E or the Melissa & Doug program. I am so grateful.

We are going to start our company and do our best to make an impact on rates of anemia accross the globe. I am currently working to acquire funding for our low-dose, slow-release, vitamin-fortified gum, and looking to recruit a food scientist to join our venture. I’ve made a great connection with Women4Empowerment, Athgo, USAID, and the World Bank and hope to leverage these resources to help bring an end to anemia. Lets show how one small tweek can change the world.

Judy Zhu: The Athgo Innovation Forum was an excellent platform for ambitious, entrepreneurial-minded college students to come together to create something powerful. I was very fortunate to be one of 5 selected Duke students to attend this conference this year. As soon as I walked into the World Bank in DC, I could feel the place buzzing with ideas. In the short span of three days, I heard some of the most innovative, influential speakers talk about their paths in leadership, in investments, in success, in constant pursuit. At the same time, I was placed in a group of three other student innovators, and created a startup that was sought out by multiple speakers at the conference; one of these speakers became an angel investor for the company. I have a theory on life, where there are mysterious forces in the universe pushing us towards our strongest desires. The push that Athgothon gave me helped me create a startup, and I can still feel its push long after the conference concluded.

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