Holekamp Seed Fund nurtures new crop of student entrepreneurs

  • September 18, 2023
  • By Suzanne Koziatek
  • 3 minute read

The 19 winners of the 2022-2023 Holekamp Seed Fund grants are taking on challenges as varied as end-of-life planning, sustainable fashion and diagnosing cardiovascular disease.

What they all share is a big idea and a plan to realize it.

The Holekamp Seed Fund provides a boost to those plans in the form of $1,000 grants that founders can use to defray some of their expenses. Seed fund founder and former Olin professor Cliff Holekamp describes it as “a nudge of encouragement to help them take their entrepreneurship ideas from concept to real business.”

Often, it’s the first stop on the road to success. Previous winners include Daniel Schindler, whose Buoy hydration supplement is available in stores, and Tyler Richards who also won a $75,000 Arch Grant in 2022 for his pcBee circuit board printer.

"There are so many students at WashU with great ideas who come to me looking for even the tiniest bit of acknowledgment that they might be onto something," said Doug Villhard, Olin academic director of entrepreneurship. "I'm fortunate to have the Holekamp Seed Fund available as a mechanism not just to say 'keep going' but also as a way for WashU Olin to show that we support you enough to be the first to invest in your startup."

This year’s awardees

Cynthia Johnson, OMBA 2023, whose RiverCity Bancshares is a community banking and affordable housing venture.

Stephanie Goss and Monica Vela, both MBA 2023, whose Dickerson’s Source helps with the business side of end-of-life planning.

Raj Thaker, BS 2023, founder of XChanger, a financial platform that offers AI investment recommendations and community collaboration.

Joey Lanfersieck, BE 2024, co-founder of Sobriety Hub, sober living home management software.

Abdul Oganla, MBA 2023, whose SevPay assists African students in the US with making required payments to the US government.

Sydney Nagorsky, BS 2023, founder of Magnifi, an AI-powered recruitment and job match platform.

Don Soffer, MBA 2023, whose GEMS Media LLC is a personalized storybook company.

Henry Borska, BS 2023, developer of Cache-it, a scavenger hunt app.

Samuel Brehm, MD 2023, whose Flexure Medical is developing a spinal disc implant.

Heath Rutledge-Jukes, MD 2026, co-founder of King of the Curve, which released an MCAT test prep app.

Mohamed Zayed and Stephen Wu, both EMBA 2023, co-founders of AirSeal Cardiovascular, offering a new way to diagnose certain types of cardiovascular disease.

Olivia Baba, BFA 2023, and Nisha Mani, BA 2023, co-founders of Mend Fashion, a service that connects clothing repair services with clients.

Robert Palla, BSBA 2024, and Max Douglass, BS 2023, founders of ACHORD, a platform connecting music teachers and students.

Linda Wu, MBA 2023, founder of MiDoc, which offers a vest with implanted sensors to assist in telehealth heart and lung examinations.

Parker Nixon, MBA 2023, founder of DPN Products, which sells single-serving cold brew coffee pods.

Applying to the fund

The Holekamp Seed Fund accepts applications year-round. Applicants must be current WashU juniors, seniors or graduate students and must have at least 25% ownership of a startup venture. Student entrepreneurs must produce pitch decks and deliver professional-quality pitches for their companies.

Winners are chosen by the fund directors—Holekamp, Villhard and Elise Miller Hoffman, MBA 2016 and investor in residence at the Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Applicants are accepted on a rolling basis until the funds run out.

To apply, visit the Holekamp Seed Fund website.

About the Author

Suzanne Koziatek

Suzanne Koziatek

As communications and content writer for WashU Olin Business School, my job is to seek out the people and programs making an impact on the Olin community and the world. Before coming to Olin, I worked in corporate communications, healthcare education and as a journalist at newspapers in Georgia, South Carolina and Michigan.

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