WolfieTank — Stony Brook’s premier cross-campus pitch competition that showcases innovative business ideas — returned to an in-person format on November 3 at the Charles B. Wang Center. Inspired by the popular TV show “Shark Tank,” WolfieTank is now in its seventh year.
After opening remarks by David Ecker, director of Stony Brook’s iCREATE, which sponsors WolfieTank, Master of Ceremonies Arlene Alvarez, a senior psychology/business management double major, led the teams through the competition, entertaining attendees and tossing T-shirts to the audience along the way.
Five teams delivered presentations featuring the following business ideas:
- Nota Bene — an agency to help improve communications in the STEM sciences
- CICaidA — a device for individual crisis aid monitoring
- AVIOT — technology for early glaucoma detection and home monitoring
- EZEduTunity, Inc. — a service for matching high school students with internship opportunities
- Soulo – a device to help elderly people clip toenails
This year’s alumni judges included Bob Williams, engineering ’83, president of IV Matters Inc.; Derek Peterson ‘88, CEO and founder of Soter Technologies; and Jim Keane ’08, entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Airfoil Corp.
In-depth Q&A discussions followed each presentation. After the final presentation, the judges deliberated and EZEduTunity, Inc. was named the winning business idea, taking the top prize of $2,500.
Winning presenter Satyam Talele, a senior at the SBU Honors College studying biochemistry, got the idea for his company after talking to local high school students.
“From our surveys with high school students, most of them found it difficult to find internship and volunteer opportunities,” he said. “And from our surveys with organizations, most of them found it difficult to find high school interns. Thus, EZEduTunity was born. This platform is important because it is the first one that’s core function is to connect high school students with opportunity providers.”
Talele’s younger brother Mayur, a high school senior, is a partner in the company and co-presented at WolfieTank.
“I was nervous to present to the judges and the audience because they were more experienced than me,” he said. “But I believe that life starts at the end of our comfort zones, which is why I signed on for the presentation. It felt great that I could help present our business and win the top prize. I hope that this inspires high school students to try activities that might make them nervous at first, because they might end up being rewarding in the end.”
The brothers believe their company can continue to grow at a rapid rate because of its current traction.
“EZEduTunity has acquired a student user base of around 2,100 students and an opportunity provider user base of around 350 organizations,” said Satyam Talele. “This shows that the market is receptive to our platform. Our plans moving forward consist of acquiring more students through school partnerships and social media marketing, acquiring more opportunity providers through LinkedIn Messaging, and developing our business model.”
Joshua Zhu, a second-year medical student in the Renaissance School of Medicine and creator of Soulo, was named runner-up.
“I’m a big fan of SharkTank and have always wanted to pitch in that type of environment, and this competition replicated the atmosphere well,” said Zhu. “The judges were a perfect mix of critical and encouraging, and the other teams that were competing were all inspiring to watch.”
Zhu said the idea for Soulo stemmed from observing his grandparents’ struggles.
“They had always played a huge role in raising me and giving me my independence, but over the years I saw them gradually lose their own ability to perform daily tasks,” said Zhu. “One thing that I saw them struggling with was toenail trimming, and that really surprised me because it was so essential but forgotten in our everyday lives.”
Neila Bakija, public administration ’22, won the Social Entrepreneur Award for her Nota Bene communications agency.
“I was so delighted by how well it turned out,” said Ecker. “WolfieTank 2021 highlighted the best and the brightest entrepreneurs at Stony Brook, and the participants were well prepared and passionate about their ideas. The judges were especially impressed by the in-depth research Satyam Talele and his brother conducted, and also with the fact that they have already partnered with five schools to implement their program.”
“We feel honored to have won the top prize in WolfieTank this year,” said Satyam Talele. “It felt great knowing that a panel of esteemed judges saw so much value in our platform as well as in its traction. We hope that our story can inspire others to take the leap of faith and start a business, generate traction, seek mentorship, and apply for pitch competitions.”
— Robert Emproto