Two tech startup teams from Brigham Young University won first and second place at the 2023 Utah Entrepreneur Challenge. The students from the winning teams attribute their startup success to the mentor-heavy initiatives offered by the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology within the BYU Marriott School of Business.
Three student teams from BYU competed against student teams from other universities across Utah. First place winner Zaymo—created by Brice Douglas, Daniel Jones, and Santiago Gomez Paz—is an emailing technology that allows marketers and users to embed web apps and shopping into emails. Second-place winner Mindsmith is an AI micro-learning technology that tracks trends in pedagogy to help teachers create more enriching assignments.
Through the Rollins Center’s Sandbox initiative, students receive mentorship as they create and build startup companies. “I am proud of the winning teams,” says Sandbox and Rollins Center director Chris Crittendon. “They’ve put a ton into building their startups, and it’s great to see them having success. They’re great representatives of the dozens of incredible startups being developed at BYU right now.”
Student teams are gathered through the Rollins Center, where all majors are encouraged to participate. Jones is a computer science major with a minor in entrepreneurship from Boulder, Colorado; Gomez Paz is a computer science major from Olivos, Argentina; and Douglas is an economics major with a minor in strategy from Bentonville, Arkansas.
Douglas acknowledges the significance of the Rollins Center mentorship in the process of creating their start-up. “This win and, more importantly, the success of Zaymo, would have been 500 times more difficult without the Sandbox program and guidance from Chris Crittenden and Scott Evanson, among others. We’ve had world-class guidance from the most helpful mentors I’ve ever met,” says Douglas.
The world-class guidance mentioned by Douglas allowed the two teams to drive their unique startups to the entrepreneur finals. The entrepreneurship challenge has been hosted by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute, an interdisciplinary division in the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah, for over twenty years. The state competition has helped to recognize and promote significant startups created by high school and college students from all over Utah.
“We are grateful for the support provided by the Lassonde Institute and the Utah startup community at large to up-and-coming entrepreneurs,” says Douglas. Douglas and his team plan to use the $30,000 prize to grow Zaymo and continue to improve how the business communicates with its customers. “This money will help Zaymo get to the market quickly and improve the product," Douglas says.
The Sandbox program and resources within the Rollins Center are available to all BYU students who have big ideas and the desire to create worthwhile businesses. These two winning teams gained more than prize money; they took the confidence to continue their businesses and a gratitude for their mentors and programs.
Written by Alice Gubler