Posted on Thursday, March 13, 2014
Receiving a $10,000 award in start-up funding, Ato Bentsi-Enchill '17 was named the 2014 winner of The Stu Lieblein '90 Pitch, the Colleges' annual entrepreneurship contest facilitated by the Centennial Center for Leadership (CCL).
As winner of the third annual competition, Bentsi-Enchill landed top honors for his idea, RevisionPrep, an online educational service that combines exam preparation with gaming programs for students in Ghana. He is the first first-year student in the history of The Pitch to not only win the finals, but also to compete in the competition.
"I'm ecstatic about the win," said Bentsi-Enchill, following the spring semester competition that was held in the Vandervort Room before a standing-room only crowd and more than 200 viewers of a live video feed.
"It's been a very long and fruitful journey. I'd like to thank everyone in the HWS community, the Centennial Center for Leadership and everyone who has invested in my idea. I'd also like to congratulate the other finalists for their efforts and encourage them to move forward with their awesome ideas as well."
RevisionPrep is an alternative to traditional exam preparation in Ghana, where ninth-grade students take the Basic Education Certificate Examination, a standardized test that's required to get into high school. Test results can determine which school a student will attend. RevisionPrep uses gamification to engage students in the learning process, boosting critical thinking, creative problem-solving and analysis.
His business idea was selected by a panel of five alum judges including Horace Allen '85, founder and CEO of LegacyCreators; Jeffrey Burki '76, co-founder and LifeCare's vice chair and chief strategy officer; Rebecca Carr '86, P'17, chief marketing officer at CenturyLink Technology Solutions; Will Margiloff '92, CEO of IgnitionOne, and co-CEO and founder of IgnitionOne's parent company, Innovation Interactive; and Trustee Dr. Deborah Pilla '76, a pediatric dentist, affiliated with Lenox Hill Hospital and owner of a private practice.
At The Pitch, Allen encouraged students to "break through that wall" when they hit one in order to continue on to achieve their goals.
Other finalists included Morgan Bungerz '15, who presented his business idea of "Wrist Renegades," which is a wrist protection system that enables cross-training athletes to work out faster, more comfortably, and safely. John Darby '14 showcased "Guest Critique," which is an online learning management system that provides architecture students the necessary service for submitting designs and portfolios in order to receive constructive feedback from professors and peers. And Nicole Pastor '16 presented "Generation Y," which is a multi-faceted, web-based brand that gives young adults the capacity to achieve financial literacy.
Bentsi-Enchill said a lot of hard work and preparation went into developing his idea for RevisionPrep. He said he received lots of unwavering support throughout the process, crediting his business partner, Ike Kyei, a student at MIT; his Pitch mentor, George Schwartz '09, a senior associate with Interactive Project Manager at SapientNitro, and others.
"I could never have done this on my own," he said. "I appreciate the input and support from my friends and family, and I thank each and every one of them for being here with me throughout this process."
Backing The Pitch over the next five years, Stu Lieblein '90 generously donated the $10,000 grant awarded to each winner of The Pitch.
This year, Lieblein also supported the HWS IdeaLab, an idea accelerator program that leads into The Pitch. CCL Director Susan Pliner said The Pitch is a collaborative effort, and praised the dedication of the mentors, the panel of alum judges, the selection committee and the other members of the HWS community who made the program possible.
"The Pitch challenges students to expand their entrepreneurial horizons by offering a structured program and essential feedback that nurtures creativity and innovation, giving students the necessary tools to be successful entrepreneurs," Pliner said. "Whether they pursue for-profit or nonprofit endeavors, their ideas are powerful. That has been evident across the board with this year's competitors."
CCL Associate Director Amy Forbes said even though the competition has ended for this year, many contestants will continue to develop and advance their ideas, using the experience as a springboard for action.
"It's really obvious the ideas matured throughout the process and were incredibly impressive in this final round," Forbes said. "It's always great to see these students do their best at the end of a six-month journey. Now they have the opportunity to continue those efforts."
As a judge, Burki said The Pitch is an outstanding opportunity for HWS students to pursue their entrepreneurial goals.
"The contest is a wonderful effort by the Colleges for supporting students through a structured program that propels their ideas with an entrepreneurial spirit, whether their interests are in nonprofit or private entities," Burki said.