Entrepreneurship and Innovation at 2019 Draper Competition

In 2012, Smith College, Tim Draper and Melissa Park Draper ’77, forged a groundbreaking partnership to establish the Draper Competition for Collegiate Women Entrepreneurs and level the playing field for aspiring undergraduate female founders. The competition is designed to hone the skills undergraduate women need to launch business ventures. Thus far, more than 500 women from 48 schools have participated, 47 ventures have been started and $350,000 in prize money has been awarded.

On Friday, April 5, Smith College hosted the 7th Annual Draper Competition. Seventy teams from schools across the country, 18 of which were from Smith College, competed for more than $200,000 in cash, scholarships and prizes.

Each team presented to a panel of judges and set up an exhibit for their venture where they engaged with over 500 attendees. In the end, 10 teams were asked to pitch their ideas in the final round.

The featured judges were trustee Melissa Draper ’77; founder of Draper Associates and DFJ Venture Capital, Tim Draper; senior director of Nike Valiant Labs, Shaherose Charania; Debby Farrington ’72, co-founder and managing partner of StarVest Partners; S. Mona Sinha ’88, co-Founder of Raising Change, Inc.; and Dawanna Williams ‘90, founder of Dabar Development Partners.

After the final pitches, the Grand Prize was awarded to Katarina Samardzija ’19 of Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan. She founded Locker Lifestyle, maker of washable, cloth wristlets and headbands for athletes that feature storage for keys, cards and a phone.

Katarina’s prize package included: $25,000 cash prize; $10,000 Draper University Scholarship; two -day all expenses paid trip for two to Tampa Florida by Embarc Collective ($4,000 value); full suite of software for HubSpot for Startups for marketing, sales and customer service, with a free CRM at a startup-friendly price ($17,000 value); Strategic Success Report by Indie Do Good to help the business be more successful, grow faster and do more good ($7,500 value); and one free year of Shoobx subscription services ($750 value).

The four Track Winners were:

  • Product Winner Danya Sherman ’19, from George Washington University, whose experience being drugged and assaulted in Spain lead her to invent KnoNap, a cocktail napkin that can detect more than 20 date rape drugs
  • Service Winner Nathalya Ramirez ’19, also from George Washington University, whose Early Intervention Systems is an algorithm that will predict if a patient will become agitated.
  • Social Impact Winner and Fan Favorite prize winner Hawa Tarawally AC ’21 from Smith College, founder of Tonga Wata. Hawa created a water filtration system. The goal of the product—inspired by her experience carrying potable water six miles to her village in Sierra Leone each day—is to allow women and girls to go to school instead of hauling water.
  • Web/Mobile App Winner Rachel Pardue ’19 from Babson College created Lou, which provides interactive online tutorials in hopes of simplifying the web and cutting down on training times.

Smith College team Tonga Water members and the judges

Smith College team Tonga Wata, shown here with the judges, took home the Social Impact prize. From left: Shaherose Charania, Melissa Draper ’77,  Mona Sinha ’88, Beti Sharew ’21, Clara Broekaert ’21, Hawa Tarawally AC ’21, Tim Draper, Debby Farrington ’72, Dawanna Williams ’90.

All four Track Winners received $10,000 cash prizes; $5,000 Draper University Scholarships; a full suite of software for HubSpot for Startups for marketing, sales and customer service, with a free CRM at a startup-friendly price ($17,000 value); Strategic Success Report by Indie Do Good to help the business be more successful, grow faster and do more good ($7,500 value); and one free year of Shoobx subscription services ($750 value).

Other products that placed included, Azuza Beverage (CalState Polytechnic), which removes the alcohol from beer without removing flavor or aroma; PainterPrinter (Hampshire) an autonomous paint sprayer; Afra Cafe (Smith College), a coffee shop in Afghanistan that is no smoking, offers free wifi and a mini library; Strides (Oklahoma State University) which provides customized training plans, and Prolitfic (University of Texas, Austin), an online writing workshop that showcases and develops writers for publication.

It was an amazing day for female entrepreneurs and their supporters. Learn more about the Draper Competition at the Jill Ker Conway Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center website.

Tim Draper and Melissa Park Draper ’77 listen to student presentations
Draper Competition founders Tim Draper and Melissa Park Draper ’77 listen to student presentations during the 7th annual event.