[Hartford Courant] And the Winner is…

April 1st 2012

By Ryan Crane

…MyStuDebt, a web-based platform to manage student loans.

I sat in as they practiced their pitch today and it was clear that they were a well-oiled machine.  The idea behind MyStuDebt is that it’s built for students and paid for by the schools.  Why would schools want to pay for this?  It’s simple: schools with excessive default rates risk losing federal funding.

The co-founders of MyStuDebt, two students at The Warton School, receive a total of $21,000 in services, including work space and legal counseling.

BeBeautiful, an online clothing exchange for people losing weight earned second, while AgriCommWeather, a web-based weather dashboard for agricultural commodity traders won third place.

Stamford’s first annual Startup Weekend was an awesome experience. I was privileged to meet and get to know a ton of smart and fascinating people.

When I sat in on the eventual winner, MyStuDebt, practicing their pitch on Sunday afternoon I was floored by how thorough their idea was. Their web-based platform to manage student loan focuses on providing borrowers with loan management tips, financial literacy information and repayment advice. There’s no question that the idea for MyStuDebt comes at a perfect time with the student loan debt recently surpassing $1 trillion dollars.

The founders of MyStuDebt, Michelle Larivee and Amee Patel, two students at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania have informed Stamford Innovation Center leaders that they intend on moving to Connecticut after graduating to work on starting their business.

Another team I tried to catch up with on Sunday afternoon was Enerknol, a user-configurable database providing aggregated energy policy data into a single website for energy traders and investors.

I caught up with one of Enerknol’s team members, Darrell DeMakes of Riverside, who believes that with the insight from their founder, Angelique Mercurio and her 10 years of energy experience, there is no limit to how successful Enerknol could be.

DeMakes gave his own 60-second pitch on Friday night revolving around The Internet of Things and using sensors to control objects in a wireless way. For example, if a family is vacationing for a week and is concerned about home security, they can use sensors that will tell their house lights to turn on when it gets dark to give the impression that someone is home. Cool stuff.

Aside from all the great ideas that came up throughout the weekend, the one thing I will remember most is how fraternal the entire event was. Even though technically people on different teams were competing with each other, I constantly saw teams helping each other out. Every team wanted to win, but no one wanted to see another team fall flat on their face.

“Winning is nice, but it’s not the only thing,” Frank Kuchinski, a member of the MyWebCard team, said. ”The best prize is the journey.”

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