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Melissa Bernstein ’87 speaks with Sarah Houston ’24, founder of Aurganics Skincare
Melissa Bernstein ’87 speaks with Sarah Houston ’24, founder of Aurganics Skincare

Strolling from table to table at the 2023 Duke Startup Showcase in April, you could sample authentic Middle Eastern drinks from Nuba, founded by Gina El Kattan MBA ’23, get a demo of peer-to-peer language learning platform Zoom Across Borders, founded by Valencia Hochberg ’25, and even pet a friendly dog—the guest of Diego Silva MBA ’23, founder and CEO of Truffa. 

Truffa (“dog snout” in Spanish) is the first tech company in Latin America working to improve veterinarians’ mental health and optimize veterinary administrative practices. It was one of 30 ventures founded by Duke students on display at Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship’s Startup Showcase, a celebration of student entrepreneurship from across Duke. Truffa was also selected as one of the event’s top three ventures by audience vote, along with CONTACT Line—a platform co-founded by Aishani Saha ’23 and Ying Yu ’23 to enable crisis de-escalation via human connection—and Allergood, whose founder and CEO, Michelle Addison MBA ’23, is on a mission to make shopping and dining out safe for those with food allergies. 

“The Startup Showcase was the perfect culmination to my entrepreneurial journey at Duke,” Addison said. “The fantastic turnout of students, alumni, and others in the Duke and Durham community led to valuable connections with supporters, investors, and other founders.” 

“It’s inspiring to see not only the breadth of the students’ ventures—they’re innovating across industries, from med tech, to agriculture, to e-commerce, and beyond—but also how they’re leveraging the resources here at Duke to advance their companies,” remarked Amy Linnane, Managing Director of Experiential Programs for Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship (Duke I&E). 

Jaylen Coleman talks about his venture at the 2023 Duke Startup Showcase
Jaylen Coleman E’25 discusses his product, the Infinity Portal

Linnane pointed to Jaylen Coleman BSE ’23, founder of Infinity Portal—who created his customizable LED displays in Duke’s Innovation Co-Lab—as an example of a student making the most of Duke’s wide range of resources for entrepreneurs. 

Many of the student founders built their companies with support from co-curricular programs such as the Melissa & Doug Entrepreneurs accelerator, as well as in through courses such as New Ventures: Develop, taught by Duke I&E Director Jamie Jones. 

Sarah Houston ’24, founder and CEO of Aurganics Skincare, assembled a team in New Ventures: Develop. “It’s only been one semester and Aurganics has already grown so much,” Houston said. “I’m grateful to Dr. Jones and [co-instructor] Max Stern for their hands-on, head-first approach to entrepreneurship and unwavering support in New Ventures: Develop. I feel more than equipped and excited to build our team this summer!” 

“At the Startup Showcase, I was inspired to see how students are applying what they’ve learned in Duke courses and programs, as well as how they’ve benefited from connections with our amazing alumni network,” Jones said. “I look forward to following their journeys as they use their entrepreneurial mindset and skills to make the world safer, healthier, more productive, happier, and more sustainable.”