Tag Archives: startup

19-Year-Old Co-founders Redefine Online Dating with Skippit, a Voice/Video Dating Platform

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Winnie McCabe & Marc Baghadjian, Co-founders of Skippit

Brown University student, Winnie McCabe and Babson College student, Marc Baghadjian, both 19, are one of this year’s competitors in the i.Invest National Youth Business Competition. Their startup, Skippit, is a dating platform that uses video and voice, and a slew of other features, to build intimate connections.

McCabe spoke with us about the business venture:

Tell us about your business.

Skippit is an iOS voice/video calling speed-dating platform for users ages 19-28 looking for an interactive experience that addresses the many shortfalls plaguing the incumbents in the online dating sector. Once two users match on Skippit, they have the option to spontaneously call or schedule a five-minute voice or video call with each other. If the call is successful, Skippit will suggest fun activities for their date based on their shared interests, then offer them insider deals on these activities for the date.

What inspired the creation of Skippit?

Marc and I both have had unsuccessful experiences using dating apps and are looking to solve a problem we have had firsthand. We were tired of the apps in the market and found that applications were built around prolonging the match process. We decided to reinvent the business model and build a dating application that condensed the match process. At first glance, one might not understand why the incumbents prolong the matching process but after evaluating their business models – which are contingent on users buying more swipes and using their dating applications for a long period of time – Marc and I decided to monetize in-person date interactions differently. We knew we had something special when we received positive feedback from polling users and individuals on our hypotheses.

How will Skippit impact the world?

Skippit facilitates introductions with individuals who would have never previously met. It assists in the match and meeting process, funneling people to do community gathering experiences through our integrated service providers. Skippit will enrich the communities on and between college campuses by offering individuals a way to streamline the first date process.

What are the next steps for Skippit?

Currently, we are looking to raise $150,000. We will use the funds to cover marketing costs, host the API’s to build the platform, contract developers and cover legal fees. Skippit’s target market is concentrated urban areas with large universities and business. We plan to start on the East Coast in the Boston area and reach an audience around the following schools: Harvard, MIT, Babson College, Wellesley College, Northeastern, Boston University, and Boston College.

To learn more about Skippit visit, www.skippitapp.com or follow them on social media: Twitter: www.twitter.com/skippit_app; Instagram: www.instagram.com/skippitapp/or Facebook: www.facebook.com/skippitapp. To mentor or provide support, email info@i-investcompetition.com.

Teen Entrepreneurs Develop Wearable Medical Device to Help People with Heart Conditions

Pulse Team
Meet the Pulse Wearables team: From left to right – Anna Pertl, 17, Richa Krishna, 17 and William Barkoff, 16.

Richa Krishna, 17, of Los Altos, CA along with her team members, William Barkoff, 16 of New York, NY and Anna Pertl, 17, of Munich, Germany are one of this year’s competitors in the i.Invest National Youth Business Competition. The team, who met at the 2017 MIT Launch Entrepreneurship Program, are the co-founders of Pulse Wearables, a startup company working to develop a potential life-saving wearable patch that will give people limited by heart conditions peace of mind.

We spoke with Krishna to learn more about the business venture:

Tell us about your business/product.

The Pulse Wearables device is a non-invasive patch that is easy to use, inconspicuous and does not require any companion devices, such as smartphones to operate. For patients who have been diagnosed with a heart condition, our wearable technology will positively change the way they monitor their heart health. Pulse Wearables allows people who experience dangerous arrhythmias – 16 million people in the US alone – to live their lives to the fullest. The user inputs the heart rate levels recommended by their cardiologist through a mobile app. When their heart exceeds the maximum safe heart rate, the patch vibrates gently to notify them to adjust their activity levels to better suit their heart.

What inspired you to start Pulse Wearables?

Pulse Wearables was inspired by my personal need for a reliable and an inconspicuous device, which I could wear to keep my heart rate in check. I was a high-performing ballet dancer when I was diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM), a heart condition in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick, causing the heart to have a dangerously high frequency of irregular heart rhythms, called arrhythmias, at high activity levels. Having HCM meant every time I was dancing and training, my heart rate could reach levels that caused dangerously irregular rhythms. Too many arrhythmias meant a high risk to my life, which led me to give up spots in prestigious performances, competitions, and training events. There were no devices available that allowed me to take more control of my activity, and that’s what inspired the need to create one. Additionally, my co-founder, William, has Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT), a heart condition also related to dangerously high heart rates that can lead to arrhythmias and therefore, understands this need as well.

How will Pulse Wearables impact the world?

1 in 500 people is diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, the heart condition that is the leading cause of sudden death today. People who have been diagnosed with this condition often have to put an end to active lifestyles because of the high risk of heart failure. Pulse Wearables is addressing this problem by putting the control in the hands of the user and in doing so, giving them peace of mind.

Our product will allow users who are more-active to increase their activity at a reasonable level to suit their personal ability, instead of abstaining out of fear and uncertainty. For users who are less-active, our product will allow them to be conscious of their restrictions when performing daily tasks that require physical exertion.

What are the next steps?

We currently have a grant from the MIT Launch entrepreneurship program (now called LaunchX) and a monetary award from the Diamond Challenge. We are additionally seeking $60,000 to roll out the initial 200 units for beta testing and initial sales. We plan to use various captive marketing channels such as Cardiomyopathy, sports, dance, and heart-specific health blogs to put our product in front of potential users. We plan to target HCM patients in the year 2019 and will expand to people with other forms of arrhythmias in 2020.

We are very excited and motivated to see the impact we can make with Pulse!

To learn more about Pulse Wearables visit their website, www.pulsewearables.com or follow them on Instagram @pulsewearables. To mentor or provide support, email info@i-investcompetition.com.

i.Invest National Youth Business Competition Application Submission is Now Open

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 1, 2018

NEW ORLEANS, LA – i.Invest is pleased to announce that the 2018 National Youth Business Competition is accepting applications. Aspiring entrepreneurs, between the ages of 13 – 19 years-old, with a demonstrable product or service can apply until May 1st for the six-month web-based program.

Now in its third year, the program has attracted applicants from across the U.S. Winning individual entrepreneurs and teams receives a share of up to $10,000 in cash and in-kind prizes and the opportunity to be mentored by top business and academic leaders. In addition, entrepreneurs who complete the program receives on-going assistance, post-competition, to help them reach their personal and professional goals.

“i.Invest opens the doors for entrepreneurial-minded students to learn about business development,” said Michelle Jackson, i.Invest Executive Director. “Regardless of their GPA, geographical location or school affiliation, we look for innovative students with great products and services. The program’s goal is to empower the best young business minds to connect, collaborate and compete.”

To qualify, applicants must submit a concept profile, executive summary and pitch video. The application fee is $29. Scholarships are available for students from economically underserved communities through LifeSkills Foundation, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating for youth and youth entrepreneurs.

All application submissions, mentoring and scoring are done virtually. To apply, go to www.i-investcompetition.com. To become a sponsor or to learn more about the program, email info@i-investcompetition.com.

POC: marketing@prsolutionsllc.org

2017 i.Invest National Youth Business Competition Winners Announced

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i.Invest first place winner and founder of PrepUP, Akhilesh Khakhar, 17

PR Solutions LLC today announced the winners of the second annual i.Invest National Youth Business Competition. Five teams consisting of youth entrepreneurs, 13 to 19 years-old, walked away with cash and in-kind prizes after successfully completing a six-month web-based competition that included three rounds of scoring, group virtual coaching, one-on-one mentoring and a finale pitch event.

This year’s winners are:

  • First Place – PrepUP. Developed by Akhilesh Khakhar, a 17-year-old Brooklyn, NY high-school student, the free test preparation app brings students together on social media platforms to study for the SAT and ACT college preparatory exams. The app offers an interactive, live, head-to-head match between its users. Prize: $2,000 non-equity investment, title of i.Invest 2017 Youth Business of the Year and a one-hour consulting session with Don Morrison, serial entrepreneur and chairman of deal flow at BlueTree Allied Angels and former president and CEO of American Eagle Outfitters.
  • Second Place – Face the Facts. Created by Jason Kao and Chauncey Lau, both 17, of New York, NY, Face the Facts creates apparel for environmentally conscious consumers and display graphics in a way that supports a social issue while raising awareness. Prize: $1,000 non-equity investment and a one-hour consulting session with Don Morrison, serial entrepreneur and chairman of deal flow at BlueTree Allied Angels and former president and CEO of American Eagle Outfitters.
  • Third Place – Software Flow. Daniel Mousavi, 14, of Great Falls, VA., along with his younger brother, designed a board game and interactive game app – Immigrant’s Nightmare and Immigrant Challenge – to address the immigration crisis around the globe.  Prize: $500 non-equity investment.
  • Community Investment Award – Official Clutch Band. Birmingham, AL musicians, Timothy Huffman, 19, and his brother, Wesley Huffman, 17, help form the ensemble, Official Clutch Band. Performing a wide genre of music ranging from bebop, jazz, smooth jazz, R&B classics and Motown hits, the band released its first cd in 2016. Prize: $250 non-equity investment.
  • i.Invest ‘Rising Star’ Award – HoverHouse. Riley LeHane, 13, of Rhinebeck, NY created a hoverboard party pop-up and equipment rental company. Prize: $100 non-equity investment.

In addition, all the winners will receive a one-hour marketing consultation with PR Solutions LLC, a strategic marketing and public relations firm; the opportunity to be a vendor and/or speaker during the #EYECON Youth Conference in May 2018 at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD; and, the chance to participate in a “Ask the Start-Up Attorney” no-fee virtual consulting session with Cherin Law Firm located in Pittsburgh, PA.

“The i.Invest competition was an amazing learning experience,” said first-place winner, Khakhar. “What really makes it different is that, over the course of six months, the companies progress and iterate while being guided by mentors. i.Invest provides the mentorship and feedback young start-ups need when they are initially pivoting and choosing a track to follow.”

To download PrepUP: The New SAT and ACT Prep App for free, go HERE. To view the virtual finale pitch event, go HERE.

The 2018 i.Invest competition will open for online applications, March 1 – May 1. Applicants must be between the ages of 13-19 and have a demonstrable product or service to compete. The application fee is $29. To receive event updates and for sponsorship information visit, the i.Invest website or contact Michelle Jackson at mjackson@i-investcompetition.com.

Special thanks to our Silver-level Sponsor, On The Set Youth Film Camp and the i.Invest 2017 Judges & Mentors:

Andre McGregor, Director of Security, Tanium/ Former FBI Agent & Current FBI and Technical Consultant for the TV Show Mr. Robot

Artis Keith Turner, President, TurnGroup Technologies, LLC

David Tucker, Jr., Founder & Executive Director, On The Set Summer Film Camp

Dennis Martin, President and CEO, Martin Financial Solutions, LLC

Desiree Young, Founder, Venture Walk

Don Morrison, Chairman of Deal Flow, BlueTree Allied Angels

Dr. Alain Briancon, CEO and Co-founder, Director, Kitchology Inc.

Dr. Chadd D. Carr, Managing Partner, 6massive Holdings, LLC

Dr. Mansur Hasib, Professor and Author, University Maryland University College (UMUC)

Dr. Tamecka Knight, CEO & Owner, Premier Pediatrics of Houston

James Parren Courtney II, Owner, Courtney Consultants, LLC

Jeremy Hunnewell, CPA, CFO & Business Strategist, ZEHNDER Communications

Ketaki Desai, Executive Director, eCenter@LindenPointe

LaToya Staten, Chief Collaborator, LaToya C. Staten & Associates

Matthew Miessau, Analyst, Epidarex Capital

Mike Capsambelis, Product Manager, Google

Mojdeh Bahar, Assistant Administer for Technology Transfer, USDA

Natasha Muhammad, Program Director, Urban Alliance & Executive Director, EYE for Change

Omar S. Muhammad, Director of the Entrepreneurial Development & Assistance Center (EDAC), Morgan State University

Professor Jim Liew, Johns Hopkins Carey Business School

Regina Tillery, Director and CIO, Maryland Department of Commerce

Rex Willis, Founder & Information Technology Consultant, Hi-Tek POS

Roger London, CEO at Corporate Links

Ryan Makhani, Founder, BuildMyIdea.org and Mentor, Good Works Houston

Shrenik Jain, Founder, Beacon Health –  i.Invest 2016 Youth Business of the Year

Timothy Taylor, CPA

Vernon Lee, Founder, Brightwood Management Partners, LLC

About PR Solutions LLC

PR Solutions LLC is a strategic marketing and corporate event planning firm that specializes in working with new and established ventures to build viable business models and to integrate innovative marketing tools into for-profit and non-profit business strategies. PR Solutions is the parent company of the i.Invest competition. To learn more, visit http://www.prsolutions123.com.

 

PR Solutions CEO discusses New Orleans’ Workforce in September Issue of Biz New Orleans Magazine

Michelle D. Jackson, CEO, PR Solutions LLC

Michelle Jackson, CEO of New Orleans-based PR Solutions LLC, discusses the Big Easy’s economic drivers, including workforce development and the emerging tech start-up community, in the September issue of Biz New Orleans Magazine. 

Click to read her article, The Sweet Spot.

More on Michelle Jackson:

Jackson is the owner of PR Solutions LLC of Louisiana, a strategic marketing and corporate event planning consulting firm, Founder of the i.Invest National Youth Entrepreneur Business Competition and Executive Director of LifeSkills Foundation, a 501 c3 organization dedicated to advocating for youth entrepreneurship. Before moving to New Orleans, Jackson worked for six years for the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) where she held the positions of Director of Federal Facilities, Director of Boards and Commissions and Director of the Office of Strategic Industries and Innovations, the agency’s first department dedicated to working with start-up companies in high-tech industries. Jackson led the policy development effort to create the InvestMaryland program, a first-of-its-kind legislative initiative that raised $84 million for seed and early-stage ventures and the InvestMaryland Challenge, Maryland’s first international business competition for advanced technology startup companies. Jackson is a military wife and published author. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from The University of Alabama and Masters of Public Administration from Central Michigan University. 

Meet i.Invest Judge and Cybersecurity Expert, Dr. Chadd Carr

Chadd Carr
In 2017, Dr. Chadd Carr, Managing Partner, 6massive Holdings, LLP joined i.Invest as a judge and mentor. Bringing with him over 18 years in the fields of cyber investigations and intelligence, Carr has also founded and exited several services and product-based companies. His extensive experience in business development and dedication to youth entrepreneurship has been an asset to helping i.Invest prepare the next generation of business leaders.  
Tell us about your current position, why you do what you do and how it prepares you to mentor youth and youth entrepreneurs?
6massive is a company focused on conceiving, developing, and taking to market those technologies that the world will want tomorrow.  As a Partner at 6massive, I am directly responsible for a portfolio of up to 10 technologies, each with its own development cycle and market strategy, all operating in parallel.  My portfolio ranges from advanced cyber threat intelligence tools, to career apps based on artificial intelligence, to learning and certification services for federal contractors, to socially-driven mobile apps.  Usually, to expedite the go-to-market timeline, we often seek outside investment capital, which means I spend a great deal of my time pitching angel and accredited investors.  I am also a college Professor dedicated to teaching, motivating, inspiring, and mentoring the next generation of industry giants.  I have found success in converting this experience into a roadmap our younger generation can consider as they set out to capture their dreams.
What was the very first business you started and why? 
I’ve been an entrepreneur for as far back as I can remember.  I’m sure my parents can go even further back. From buying a bag of candy and selling handfuls to classmates in elementary school, to borrowing lawnmowers from neighbors and sharing a percentage of revenue with friends who actually cut the grass, to buying and re-selling things on eBay, I’ve always had a passion for entrepreneurship. And it was never (and still isn’t) about how many dollars I could collect that motivated me.  It was the actual process of creating value where value didn’t exist before.  One of my favorite quotes came from one of my favorite TV shows, Discovery’s Gold Rush, is  “You’re already millionaires.  The only thing is, you gotta get it out of the ground.”  With imagination, perseverance, and insane work ethic, there are almost infinite paths to success, however you define it.
What three things should all young entrepreneurs be prepared for before they create a business?
#1 It’s hard work.  Really hard.  Entrepreneur Lori Greiner [from TV Show Shark Tank] said it best, entrepreneurs are “the only people who work 80 hour weeks to avoid working 40 hour weeks.”  It’s a lifestyle, not a profession.
# 2  It can be lonely.  Successful entrepreneurs are the ones trekking paths others don’t see value in.  A lot of what they do doesn’t make sense to others, therefore, a lot of feedback and guidance they receive from others aren’t necessarily positive.  Non-entrepreneurs like to classify outcomes as either a “success” or “failure.” Entrepreneurs typically classify something as “that worked”, or, “it didn’t work… that time.”
#3  Commit to building yourself, before you build your product.  Your best brand–your most important brand–is yourself.  Investors do not invest in businesses or technologies.  They invest in the people behind them.  Build credibility through personal and professional relationships, education, and proven history of hard work.  Those three components provide the nutrients from which your “product” will eventually grow from and thrive.  Also, the product you begin with, most likely, won’t be the same product you will end with.  However, the two constants throughout that evolution, will be your health and your family.  Protect those.  Nurture those. Despite whatever path the product takes, in the end, what you will value above all else, will be those two things.
Tell us about your biggest business failure and success.
I don’t believe in failures.  Even though I’ve had things that didn’t work at a particular time, under a particular set of circumstances, I’ve also walked away smarter and better prepared to tackle the next challenge.  Success… failure… both are part of the journey, but neither are a destination.  My wins are simply byproducts of an amazing, resilient, and incredibly patient family. If I had to name one success, it would be that I’ve been able to strike a healthy balance between my entrepreneurial insanity and helping foster a loving family.
Why is nurturing entrepreneurship important to you?
How does the saying go… in society, 97 percent of people who said it could not be done, work for the 3 percent who said it could be done?  Something like that.  As a father, I’ve always told my kids, “you can either spend your time aiming for the corner office or some fancy title (which someone else has built), or,  you can spend your time creating those corner offices and titles.”  Both paths have their own pros and cons, but I wanted my kids to grow up in a world where both were interchangeable and equally possible.  Only through observable entrepreneurship can that happen.
Special thanks to Dr. Carr for his dedication to i.Invest Competitions. To learn more about the competition visit, www.i-investcompetition.com.

18-Year-Old Philadelphia Entrepreneur Seeks to Revolutionize travel in Guinea, West Africa

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Tarata Konneh, 18, of Philadelphia, PA, is one of this year’s competitors in the i.Invest National Youth Entrepreneur Business Competition. Tarata’s enthusiasm for travel spun the globe before landing in Guinea, West Africa, where his company, Konneh Transports, will help traveling entrepreneurs reach their destination.

Tell us about your business.

Konneh Transports’ concept is based in solving the problem of easy and convenient 520-mile travel between Conakry and N’zerekore for entrepreneurs on business trips. The company’s mission is to provide comfort and a healthy traveling environment with licensed, up-to-code drivers, and inspected vehicles as well as enhance opportunities and accessibility in the Guinea region of West Africa.

What inspired the creation of Konneh Transports?

Konneh Transports was created after I took several trips to Guinea. While traveling like a local, I experienced harsh conditions in unreliable vehicles, and heard the laments and complaints of fellow travelers varying from dangerous conditions in the beds of trucks, overcrowding, and sanitary concerns.

How will Konneh Transports impact the world?

Konneh Transports’ accessibility will help expand the job market, create jobs, help natives secure employment, as well as invest in their community.

What are the next steps for Konneh Transports?

The company is seeking to raise $65,000 to purchase a vehicle, video monitoring inside the vehicle and to cover other expenses. In the coming years, we will work to expand services throughout the countries in West Africa, including Liberia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, and Mali.

To learn more about Konneh Transports, visit: www.konnehtransports.com

To stay abreast of Konneh Transports’ progress in the i.Invest Competition, sign up for our newsletter at www.i-investcompetition.com. To mentor or invest, email info@i-investcompetition.com.

Good luck, Tarata!

i.Invest 2016 Winner, Beacon Health, Raises $225K in Pre-Seed Funding

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Founders, Shrenik Jain & Ravi Shah (center & right); Chief Data Scientist Satya Prateek Bommaraju (left)

In 2016, 19-year-old founder of Beacon Health, Shrenik Jain, took home the top prize from the i.Invest National Youth Business Competition with his mobile app designed to help people struggling with mental illness. Since winning the competition and being named the i.Invest 2016 Youth Business of the Year, Jain, Co-Founder Ravi Shah and Chief Data Scientist Satya Prateek Bommaraju, have diligently worked to transform their innovative idea into a successful health IT business.

Beacon Health’s mobile app has captured the attention of investors and customers from public and private sectors. The platform allows users to create an anonymous profile, search for the issue most relevant to them and instantly be connected with other Beacon Health members with similar mental health challenges as well as trained professionals. The platform offers anonymity and support by utilizing a natural language processing algorithm that can detect vulgar or malicious content and therefore prevent cyber bullying.

Since winning the i.Invest top prize which included $2,000 cash and a host of in-kind awards last October, the Beacon Health team has raised $225,000 in pre-seed funding. They will open a seed round with the goal of raising $600,000 in May-June. The ideal investors would be focused in healthcare and bring potential deployment sites in addition to capital.

The current backers include, the National Institute of Health (NIH), Johns Hopkins University and the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO). NIH is mentoring the team in an effort to help them secure SBIR grants.

The Beacon Health staff has also grown. They currently have 10 employees, and are considering opening a second office in Boston, which will focus on research and development. They have signed 9 LOIs, some from major cities such as Denver and Nashville, to deploy their product once the pilots conclude.

Beacon Health’s app is live at several pilot sites, including Johns Hopkins University and Mindoula Health.

For more information on how to connect with Beacon Health email info@i-investcompetition.com or go to, http://www.beaconhealth.co/.

Congratulations, Shrenik, Ravi & Satya!

Meet i.Invest Judge and Entrepreneur, Dr. Tamecka Knight

In 2016, Dr. Tamecka Knight, owner of Premier Pediatrics in Houston, Texas, volunteered as an i.Invest National Youth Business Competition judge and mentor. In 2017, she expanded her role to include joining the board of directors for the LifeSkills Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing resources for i.Invest Competitions. In her own words, Dr. Knight discusses why she supports youth entrepreneurship.
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Tell us about your current position, why you do what you do and how it prepares you to mentor youth and youth entrepreneurs?
I am CEO of a rapidly growing pediatric medical practice in the Houston Metropolitan area. Not only do I own the practice; I also provide care to about 4,000 patients yearly. Because I work exclusively with pediatric patients, I see the creativity, the entrepreneurial spirit and the need for mentorship.
What three things should all young entrepreneurs be prepared for before they create a business?
Know your vision! Know how to handle failure. Simply, work hard.  In order to grow a business you have to know your growth potential. Have a plan, follow that plan, but be amendable to change when the plan does not go as planned. Failures during some aspects to the business development process will and need to occur to keep you growing. Surmount it and continue towards your vision. Lastly, work hard towards your vision. Hard work pays off every time. Failure is not an option.
Tell us about your biggest business failure and success.
My biggest failure was believing everyone would understand my vision, and therefore, everything would fall into place. You must know your vision and be able to sell it to everyone. Knowing that failure is not an option is the key to success.
Why is nurturing entrepreneurship important to you?
Entrepreneurship must be fostered early on in our youth. Our youth have the most creative minds and vision than any other generation. Equipping them with an entrepreneurial mindset encourages not only self-development in the youth, but serves to build the community and the economy.
Name the educational classes, business programs or real-world experiences that played a key role in your success and why.
Attending the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Starting Your Own Business classes allowed me to network with like-minded people who were on the same journey of learning the technical side of making our dreams and visions become reality.
Special thanks to Dr. Knight for her dedication to i.Invest Competitions. To learn more about the competition visit www.i-investcompetition.com.

Calling All Youth Entrepreneurs 13-19 Years Old!

Interested in showcasing your product or service and having your business idea evaluated by leading professionals from organizations like Google, John Hopkins University and BlueTree Angels? Sign up for the i.Invest National Youth Entrepreneur Business Competition. Online registration will open March 1-May 1, 2017. To compete all you need is a computer and a great business idea. To learn more, visit www.i-investcompetition.com or email info@i-investcompetition.com.

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