Launch Grants Awarded for Third Consecutive Year
Launch Grants Awarded for Third Consecutive Year

Competing for grant money to develop their innovative products, four finalists presented their business ideas to a panel of judges.

On May 25, four groups of Convent & Stuart Hall students presented their new business ideas to a panel of judges in the Williams Library. This year's panel consisted of faculty, staff and one parent, Anton Oenning, who leads marketing for Nest, a startup that produces Wi-Fi-enabled thermostats and security systems. The finalists were competing for grant money to put toward their new businesses and a spot in the Launch Grant Incubator, where they will receive ongoing support and advice from experts both inside and outside the school.

The four finalists had eight minutes to explain their product idea and an additional four to take questions from the judges. This year, two of the finalists were awarded first prize, receiving $2,500 each in grant money. One was freshman Arianna, who plans to build a website called "OKVote" to motivate more young people to be informed about politics and to vote. The other winner was a team of brothers: senior Michael and sophomore Maxi, whose company "Visual Fanatic" specializes in the creation of sports infographics distributed on Instagram.

The panelists (from left to right): Geoff De Santis, plant operations director; Anton Oenning, director of consumer marketing for Nest; Sarah Leffert, VP of advancement; Krista Inchausti, educational innovation coordinator; and Amanda Walker, lead librarian.

"Investing time in any of these students would reap a return," notes parent and judge Anton Oenning, who was most impressed by the students' potential. "Every one of them had a core strength, something that made them a confident leader, their idea relevant or their approach uniquely creative," he says. "And in startup-land, 'potential' is what you're investing in."

Now in its third year, the Launch Grant is indebted to its benefactor, the late Rosemary Cozzo, an alum from Lone Mountain College, which was founded by the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and acquired by the University of San Francisco in 1978. After reading about the school's 2014 "Design Thinking And Then What" symposium and launch grant competition in the President's Report, Rosemary donated the seed funding to the 2015 winning teams. This year and in subsequent years, the annual grants to students will be funded in part through an endowed fund established through Rosemary's bequest.

The teams will join last year's winners in the Launch Incubator, where they'll continue to work through their ideas.
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