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UMD's Earth Starter Wins Eighth Annual Cupid's Cup

April 8, 2013

Greg Muraski 301-405-5283

Founders of Earth Starter LLC and creators of the Nourishmat, Philip-Michael Weiner and John-Randall Gorby pose with Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank (far right) after winning the 2013 Cupid's Cup.COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland's Earth Starter, maker of the Nourishmat modular garden kit, took home $52,500 as the top winner of the eighth annual Cupid's Cup. The first year as a national business competition, the event was held April 5 at UMD, hosted by the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the Robert H. Smith School of Business.

Cupid's Cup is sponsored by alumnus Kevin Plank, founder and CEO of Under Armour, the Baltimore-based leader in performance apparel, footwear and accessories. As the grand prize winner, Earth Starter will also benefit from exclusive access to Plank's professional network, one of the added bonuses of winning this year's expanded competition. The founders of Earth Starter LLC and creators of the Nourishmat are UMD alums Philip-Michael Weiner '11 and John-Randall Gorby '10 (pictured from left to right with Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank).

Six finalist startups had six minutes to deliver a business pitch to Plank and a panel of five other judges in front of 1,000 attendees at UMD's Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. The audience also heard Plank's words of inspiration on building a business as he rallied the entrepreneurs in attendance.
Plank spoke before announcing the Cupid's Cup winners:

  • $50,000, 1st place: Earth Starter LLC, University of Maryland – maker of products to accelerate and simplify growth and yield for garden
  • $15,000, 2nd place: CoverPlay LLC, University of Virginia – maker of an ultra-thin Bluetooth speaker for mobile devices called the Mojo
  • $5,000, 3rd place: Diagnostic anSERS, University of Maryland – maker of ink-jet printed sensors for detecting trace amounts of chemicals, from explosives to narcotics
  • $2,500, Audience Choice Award, decided by text voting during the event – Earth Starter LLC (sponsored by Sam Medile '80, a successful entrepreneur and former Terp student athlete)

Medile also sponsored a $5,000 prize for the UMD company who best leveraged all of the university's resources in launching their company, which went to Diagnostic anSERS. UMD applicants who made it to the semifinal round of Cupid's Cup were eligible.

"Entrepreneurship is alive and well at the Smith School of Business and the University of Maryland," said G. "Anand" Anandalingam, dean of the Smith School. "We are very happy to be the catalyst to really embrace entrepreneurship all around this country. The future of this country is to continue to be innovative and entrepreneurial. That's the only way we are going to be preeminent on the world stage."

"Our commitment to entrepreneurship extends far beyond this competition," said Elana Fine, managing director of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship. "We our working with our campus counterparts to inspire a community of entrepreneurs. We want to help develop the entrepreneurial mindset here on campus and throughout the region that gives people the courage to take steps to take their fearless ideas to market."

Cupid's Cup is named for a Valentine's Day rose delivery business Plank started as a student at the university. As an athlete, he wasn't permitted to have an outside job, so he turned to entrepreneurship. Plank worked with the Dingman Center to start a business competition to foster similar student entrepreneurship.

The competition was open to undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at accredited U.S. colleges and universities who are running companies that have generated at least $5,000 in revenue or have a version 1.0 product with proof of traction. Entrepreneurs from 24 universities in 16 states entered the competition. The finalists received intensive coaching from successful entrepreneurs to prepare for the final competition.

Other Cupid's Cup finalists were Hole Patch LLC from Case Western Reserve University, a developer of a new method for patching potholes; Moolaguides.com from Florida State University, provider of a service for college students to buy and sell class notes; and Neural Analytics from the University of California Los Angeles, a developer of a portable non-invasive medical device to diagnose traumatic brain injuries on the football field or the battlefield.