Startup Founded by CE Juniors Wows Innovation District Audience
By Mark Dwortzan
Downtyme, a startup co-founded by Barron Roth and Luke Sorenson (both CE ’16) based on their final project in ENG EC 327, Introduction to Software Engineering, won the second annual Beantown Throwdown entrepreneurial business pitch competition. Held on November 18 at Boston’s District Hall before a sellout audience of more than 200 and organized by the MIT Enterprise Forum, the competition featured three-minute pitches from local college student entrepreneurs. Edging out teams from Harvard, MIT, Northeastern and five other Boston-area colleges and universities vying for votes from a sellout audience of more than 400 students, sponsors and investors, Downtyme received more than $20,000 in in-kind legal and marketing services, mentoring and office space.
Roth gave the pitch for Downtyme, representing a cross-functional team that includes Sorenson, John Moore (CE ’15), Nick Sorensen (SMG ’14), Darryl Johnson (CE ’17), Ben Pusey (CAS ’16) and Tufts University senior Nikki Dahan. The Downtyme app enables users to meet up with other users who are available and nearby. Users identify their friends by linking the app to their Facebook account and indicate their availability by entering or importing their calendars. To bring up a list of nearby Facebook friends, they may either press “Now” or “Later,” depending on when they want to get together. Launched in beta mode last March, a full version of the app will be released in January.
After a panel discussion on entrepreneurship moderated by Boston Globe Innovation Economy columnist Scott Kirsner, representatives from each team were given three minutes to pitch their startups and one minute to field questions from the panelists. Afterwards, audience members received $3 million in fake cash to “invest” in one or more of the startups. After all pitches were completed, attendees were invited to “invest” in their top three picks with the $3 million in play money they received upon arrival. Downtyme emerged with $68 million, $2.5 million more than the closest competitor.
“My competitors encompassed such a wide variety of industries, from biotech to advertising startups. It was really a tossup as to who would walk away with the trophy,” said Roth, who was subsequently featured in Foley Hoag’s 2014 MVPs of Boston Tech event, a panel discussion among finalists from Boston-area business competitions. “We’re confident this win is more validation that our product is something people want, even beyond the student spectrum. Many attendees came up to me after the pitch requesting an enterprise version, and it’s certainly something my team is considering.”
The second place winner, Nonspec, is a University of Massachusetts-Lowell startup seeking to produce low-cost, long-lasting prosthetic devices for resource-limited countries. Placing third was Gentoo Inc., a Wentworth Institute of Technology startup that’s developed a vest to simplify outpatient treatment involving intravenous medicines.
“Downtyme’s presentation was engaging and compelling, addressing a problem that many of the students and young professionals in the audience recognized,” said Ian Mashiter, Boston University director of Entrepreneurship Activities and lecturer in the School of Management. “Downtyme is the first app that uses mobile devices as a way of facilitating face to face interaction rather than substituting for it.”
Downtyme earned its opportunity to enter the competition by placing first in an earlier competition for Boston University startups hosted by the BUzz Lab, BU’s new student center for entrepreneurship that Mashiter runs.