News Releases

Alumna Wins Top Prize in LaunchU Pitch Competition

February 2, 2016

Communications Staff

OBERLIN—LaunchU, a venture incubator for Oberlin College student and alumni entrepreneurs, has selected three winners in its annual pitch competition.

The grand prize ($20,000) was awarded to Alesandra Zsiba ’10 for the Identity Project, an innovative program that uses documentary arts to address poverty-related barriers to identity development in underserved youth. Through a specialized curriculum in documentary storytelling, performance, and project-based literacy learning, The Identity Project empowers marginalized young people with an invaluable opportunity for self-actualization and self-advocacy through an applied empathy practice.

The second-place award ($15,000) was given to team members Brendan McKenna, Matthew Fox, and Soren Zeliger ’15 for Storybook, a consumer-oriented mobile app that enables users to enjoy real-time documentation, sharing, and storage of picture and video media from multiple perspectives. The app focuses on sharing experiences in a collaborative fashion, and creating a platform where users can access memories forged with friends and family in a single, centralized location.

Third-place winner Bryon Skvor received $10,000 for Humble Grounds Roasting Company, based in Oberlin. Skvor’s venture looks for exceptional coffees that have the potential to be used to create stable economies in farming communities around the world. The coffees are brought to Oberlin to be roasted and served locally and supplied to like-minded wholesale partners.

LaunchU takes place over three weeks in January, during Oberlin’s winter term. The program guides entrepreneurs through a business-model innovation curriculum, developing their skills and understanding in preparation for launching their ventures. The third week focuses on one-on-one mentorship, pitch prep, and getting ready to launch. Following a preliminary pitch competition, qualifying teams will pitch before a panel of potential investors and judges. Prizes include funding, hands-on mentorship, and extensive in-kind services.

Contact: Elyzabeth Holford, director of entrepreneurship, (440) 775-8567,

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