UMBC’s student innovation competition winners share tips for aspiring entrepreneurs

Published: May 25, 2022

UMBC's campus from a bird's eye view
UMBC's campus.

Student teams recently gathered at Betamore, a Baltimore-based entrepreneurship and coworking space, to battle in the final round of UMBC’s annual Cangialosi Business Innovation Competition. Greg Cangialosi ‘96, English, founded the competition in 2014 to provide UMBC student entrepreneurs with a chance to pitch innovative ideas to a panel of judges, and to get advice and support in developing their concepts. 

This year’s competition included two distinct tracks: technology and innovation, and social impact. The top three ideas in each track received funding to help move their ventures forward. 

The live event included competitors from all three UMBC colleges who pitched a diverse range of ideas. Here, some of the participants share advice for other students who are interested in entrepreneurship but may not be sure where to begin.

Tip 1: Pursue what you love

Mahmoud Shalby ‘23, computer science, says that in order to be a successful entrepreneur you have to be passionate about your concept to stay motivated through challenging times. Shalby and his collaborator Faheel Kamran ‘22, computer engineering, took first place in the technology and innovation track for their idea Haven, which is an encrypted, privacy-focused cloud storage service. 

Mahmoud Shalby and Faheel Kamran at the event. (Alex. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship.)

“The best tip I’d share about entrepreneurship is to love what you do. It might seem simple and intuitive, but it’s a necessary component of the entrepreneurial journey that you have to consciously take into account,” Shalby says. “There’ll be countless sleepless nights, functions you have to miss, friends that you won’t see. The only way you can endure all of that is to fully love what you do.” 

Tip 2: Don’t fear failure

Basil Udo ‘22, biochemistry and molecular biology, placed third in the technology and innovation track for his idea Xeddy, a marketplace for digital assets, coupons, and collectables. Udo explains that entrepreneurship provides learning opportunities, often when things don’t work out as expected. 

“Learning from experience means you need to experience. Let go of the fear of failure because growth requires failure,” he says. “The earlier you start”⁠—even if you aren’t initially successful—“the sooner you win.”

Tip 3: Match a problem with a solution

Michael Chapman ‘23, mechanical engineering, took first place in the social impact track for his idea Seeker. It’s a toy that provides individuals with dyspraxia—a common neurological disorder affecting movement—the ability to participate in activities that their peers enjoy. 

Michael Chapman, center, at the Cangialosi Business Innovation Competition. (Alex. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship.)

Chapman says that the world is full of problems to be addressed. “Entrepreneurship is simply the discovery of the one problem that resonates with you and its accompanying solution,” he says. “If you are able to find a way to market your solution for a problem people experience, then you are well on your way to becoming an entrepreneur.”

Tip 4: Know your value

Kayla Massey ‘22, dance and information systems, placed second in the social impact track for her idea Pennies for Pointe, which works to increase the participation of underrepresented populations in dance. She says that in order to be a successful entrepreneur, you have to believe in your idea fully, and see it as valuable. 

Kayla Massey, right, with Greg Cangialosi after the event. (Alex. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship.)

“How you see yourself and your organization is how other people see you,” Massey explains. “Always believe that your idea is valuable, and be certain that no matter how many people are doing something similar to what you want to do, there is nobody who can do it quite like you.”

Massey has experience expressing that confidence in sharing her work, beyond the entrepreneurship competition. Her dance piece Between You and Me was selected to be performed at the American College Dance Association’s virtual gala event held in early May. The American College Dance Association is an organization that promotes the talent and creativity of prominent college and university dance departments. A panel of judges selected Massey’s piece for performance out of more than 50 submissions. 

Tip 5: Take action

Tamara Buchanan M.S. ‘22, health information technology, earned third place in the social impact track for PlusOne Technology, which allows individuals to search for transportation for medical appointments. She explains that a solid idea matters, but taking action on that idea is essential. 

“It’s great when an idea comes to your mind and you believe in it. But the worst thing you can do is to sit on it and never bring it into fruition,” she says. “Someone is waiting on your business to help change or elevate their life. So take action. Seek help and utilize all the entrepreneurship resources available to you at UMBC. Start today. You can do it.”

Other award winners at the event included Talon Schroeder ‘25, and Noah Masri ‘25, both studying computer science. They took second place in the technology and innovation track for their idea Crypto Briefcase, an all in one place to do anything web3.

Students interested in exploring entrepreneurship opportunities can explore the Alex. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation to learn about upcoming events and competitions.

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