Graduate School; Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business

MBA entrepreneurs near ‘pitcher’ perfect in highly competitive Smackdown


Past and present MBA students walked off with many of the top prizes in Clemson University’s 5th Annual Pitch Smackdown competition, sponsored by the College of Business’ Arthur M. Spiro Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership.

MBA alum Spencer McLeod won first place in the 2018 Smackdown competition
Spencer McLeod ’14 MBA took first place in the Spiro Institute’s Pitch Smackdown competition.

Business ideas pitched by the entrepreneurs with Clemson MBA connections ranged from a hardware and software start-up that tracks agricultural operations to a producer of robotic joints, and a digitized hand-writing business.

The Spiro Institute’s fifth annual campus-wide competition drew more than 40 entries of which 20 entrepreneurs were selected to pitch their start-ups with hopes of winning some of the more than $30,000 in cash prizes that were awarded.

The fast-paced business idea competition requires entrepreneurs to present their start-up proposals to a panel of judges in three minutes. The judging panel was comprised of a group of highly successful Spiro board members and alumni entrepreneurs from Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, Denver, New York, Baltimore, Washington, Charleston and Atlanta.

Greg Pickett, director of Clemson’s MBA programs, said the quality of business start-ups for the Pitch Smackdown competition has grown significantly in its relatively short history.

“The competition is a great opportunity for all aspiring entrepreneurs in the Clemson community,” Pickett said. “Given the strength of businesses that were pitched, we couldn’t be prouder of how the MBA program’s participants fared in this year’s competition. The results reflect the quality of our students’ innovative thinking and the strong mentoring our faculty provide in bringing those ideas to fruition.”

John Hannon, director of the Spiro Institute said the purpose of Pitch Smackdown is to fund start-ups and foster entrepreneurship within the community.

“This event gives our entrepreneurs exposure to recruiters, corporate and venture capitalists and angel investors,” Hannon said. “The Spiro Institute is working tirelessly to create even more resources for students to experience the American and global entrepreneurial ecosystem each year.”

Pitch Smackdown winners:

Spencer McLeod ’14 MBA – AgriLinx, $10,000

AgriLinx offers hardware and software to connect a farm’s operations.

Raed Hasan, ’20 MBA student – Advanced Innovation Solution, $5,000

Advanced Innovative Solutions produces robotic joints. 

Courtney Turcotte ’11 – C.Threads LLC, $5,000

C.Threads is a made-to-measure custom blazer clothier for men and women, utilizing the primary colors of their respective university or professional sports team.

Chelsea Fulton ’20 MBA – The Write Way, $3,000

The Write Way is a digitized hand-writing process.

James Turner ’21, Teddy Giard ’20, Garrit Speiss ’21 – Paid Time-Off Productions, $3,000

The start-up creates multimedia to drive traffic, awareness and revenue to a wide variety of products, companies and organizations.

Rick Turner ’20 MBA, Laura Turner ’10 – Rejoice City Coffee, $1,000

Rejoice City Coffee is a social entrepreneurship coffee start-up that aids victims of sex trafficking in South Carolina, the U.S., and globally through job training, employment and commerce.

Garrett Galloway ’20 – SLAXN, $1,000

SLAXN is an ad-free and hate-free, subscription-based alternative to YouTube that pays its creators better while providing a “white glove” level of service.

Aaron Shepard ’19 – Cogito Mind Training System, $1,000

The Cogito Mind Training hardware & software system borrows its name from the popular Latin phase “cogito ergo sum,” meaning “I think therefore I am.” It allows users to control the motion of a robot with their brain activity and turn their thoughts into actions.

Madison Maddox ’19, Collin Braeuning ’19 – MailRoom, $1,000

MailRoom’s peer-to-peer network gives consumers the ability to participate in e-retail without having to deal with porch pirates, pay expensive mailbox fees, or adjust their schedules in order to receive a package.

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