CSE students win Start Something 48-Hour Challenge

Feb 16, 2018      By College of Business

The winning team, novocAI, from left to right: Joshua Jones, Trevor Fellbaum, Jenny Wynn and Jon Pynes. Photo courtesy of the College of Business.
The winning team, novocAI, from left to right: Joshua Jones, Trevor Fellbaum, Jenny Wynn and Jon Pynes. Photo courtesy of the College of Business.

Ideas flowed and plans came together for University of Nebraska–Lincoln students at the Start Something 48-Hour Challenge held Friday, January 26 to Sunday, January 28. Hosted by the Center for Entrepreneurship at the College of Business, more than 50 students spent their weekend developing business ideas together.

The competition began with students pitching their ideas and then voting for the best. When only eight ideas remained, teams organically formed based on which idea appealed to them. The teams then began “fleshing out” their ideas, which included creating prototypes, talking with potential clients or doing market research.

Dr. Sam Nelson, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and assistant professor of practice of management, noted how students from different colleges came together to compete and create.

“We had more nonbusiness majors than we have ever had and continue to get more nonbusiness majors at events like this. When students from different colleges collaborate, the ideas that come out are very impressive. This year’s teams did a great job of self-selecting into diverse teams,” he said.

The competition concluded Sunday night with team presentations in front of a panel of judges. Some of the ideas shared were an Asian convenience store, a community housing nonprofit, an affordable student housing complex and a geolocation-based mobile app that helps find deals for consumers.

The winning team included Trevor Fellbaum, a sophomore computer science major from Bellevue, Nebraska; Joshua Jones, a junior economics and computer science major from Omaha, Nebraska; Jonathan Pynes, a junior undeclared major from Lincoln, Nebraska; and Jenny Wynn, a junior agricultural engineering major from Trenton, Michigan.

Their winning idea was novocAI, which was also pitched by Jones at the 3-2-1 Quick Pitch in November, an AI assisted cancer diagnostic software. Using an image classification system from a database of thousands of images, the AI software would be able to identify the type of cancer and diagnose patients quicker and more accurately than the standard methods and practices used today.

“I’m studying artificial intelligence, and I asked myself, ‘How could this be used to help people?’ I wanted to apply what I knew about image classification to something that affects people every day, such as the medical industry,” said Jones.

Mentors from around the business community helped novocAI and other teams advance their ideas. One of the mentors the novocAI team looked to for help was Brett Byman ’12, co-founder of Nobl Health, a software company that improves patient experience, clinical outcomes and communication in healthcare systems.

“Brett gave us confidence about where we could take our product next, as far as working with Bryan Health. His startup venture was accepted by Bryan Health and had a pilot study ran. He said without them he couldn’t have made it. Hearing that opened up the future for us quite a bit, so it was nice to have Brett there. He answered all of our questions, which was really helpful,” said Pynes.

With only two days to advance their business idea, the novocAI team felt the pressure. However, by staying positive and keeping their goal in mind, they developed their strategy and presentation on time.

“We just kept a positive attitude and never stopped moving forward. We spent upwards of 12-14 hours each day refining our product, doing market research and building our presentation. That can get pretty tiring,” said Fellbaum. “We knew we were building something we really wanted to be successful with. In the spirit of entrepreneurship, we kept moving on.”

Nelson hopes students can walk away with a different perspective toward the entrepreneurship mentality after participating in the competition.

“If you really give yourself dedicated time to go out and identify problems and come up with solutions, you can accomplish a lot. We look at Apple or Google and think that’s impossible. But they started somewhere just like this. It started out as an idea and they just kept going, continued to build better things and solved bigger problems,” he said.

Teams also received awards for the most posts on social media and the most entertaining presentation. To learn more about the Center for Entrepreneurship, please visit: http://business.unl.edu/entrepreneurship.

—Story and photo courtesy of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln's College of Business.