'21 Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge awards first place to cross-campus team

InHouse Call won the 2021 Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge and $15,000 in cash and in-kind services. Pictured, from left to right, are Dave Mayo, Pirate Challenge organizer; Ryan Butcher, InHouse Call mentor; physical medicine and rehabilitation resident and Pirate Challenge winner Dr. George Schilling; College of Business sophomore and Pirate Challenge winner Grant Smith; and Miller School of Entrepreneurship Director Dr. Mike Harris.

One of the Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge’s main goals is to inspire and encourage winning entrepreneurial collaboration across East Carolina University.

Consider that goal accomplished.

Dr. George Schilling, a third-year physical medicine and rehabilitation resident at Vidant Medical Center and ECU’s Brody School of Medicine, and College of Business marketing major and sophomore Grant Smith took first place in the 2021 Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge. The cross-campus team won $15,000 in cash prizes and in-kind services for their winning idea, InHouse Call.

InHouse Call is an app that will provide a physician all hospital phone numbers needed to attend to a patient’s care. Immediate access to this information could quickly expedite the health care services provided to the patient and save the hospital money by reducing hospital stays for the patient, increasing revenue-generating opportunities, and improving patient care by reducing the risk of errors and hospital complications.

Schilling reached out to Dave Mayo, the Pirate Challenge organizer, with the InHouse Call idea, and Mayo then introduced Schilling to Smith as a partner. Smith, who wanted to be involved in the Pirate Challenge, said, “I didn’t have a specific idea that I wanted to roll with, but I said if anybody needs help with the business aspect of their idea, I’d love to help.”

Schilling and Smith pitch InHouse Call during 2021 Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge.

To get to the final pitch stage, Schilling and Smith have twice pitched their idea virtually since Oct. 2020. The Pirate Challenge finals, following ECU COVID-19 protocol, were held in person, April 8.

“It was nice to get up in front of people and do this in person,” said Schilling.

Schilling and Smith are already thinking about InHouse Call’s next steps. According to Schilling, InHouse Call is in the discussion phase with Vidant Medical Center to possibly launch a pilot program for the application.

“Dr. George Schilling and his creation of the InHouseCall app represent the innovative and collaborative essence that the Brody School of Medicine considers vital to its pursuit of new and resourceful ways to provide the very best care for patients,” said Dr. Mark Stacy, dean of Brody and vice chancellor of the ECU Division of Health Sciences. “We are delighted that Dr. Schilling and his team earned this fantastic recognition that encourages students and residents to pursue ideas, products and services that make life better for others.”

“Establishing an entrepreneurial ecosystem in eastern North Carolina has long been a tenet at the College of Business and the Miller School of Entrepreneurship,” said Dr. Mike Harris, director, Miller School of Entrepreneurship. “An important part of the ecosystem begins here on ECU’s campus. I hope this winning team encourages other entrepreneurial students to come forward with their ideas and work with other like-minded Pirates to turn their ideas into potential realities.”

“It’s exciting to see entrepreneurship connect the east and west campuses,” said Harris.

Additional awardees

In its fourth year, the Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge is the signature pitch competition of ECU’s College of Business (COB) and its Miller School of Entrepreneurship. For this year’s competition, nearly $150,000 in cash prizes and in-kind services were awarded to teams that placed in the competition.

Taking second place was Campus Connect, an application that allows local and national businesses to advertise to university students, faculty and other affiliates. The team is MBA student Jeffrey Jones of Raleigh, North Carolina and business senior Nicolette Matarazzo of Hillsborough, New Jersey. Their prize winnings were $10,000 in cash and in-kind services.

“To interact with people and tell them about something that we created was pretty amazing,” said Matarazzo, who pitched a different version of Campus Connect during last year’s competition.

Danny Scott, ’84, a 2021 Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge judge, questions one of the teams during a Q&A session (photo by Cliff Hollis).

Jones, who met Matarazzo in the Miller School’s new venture course, said they clicked immediately. “We both loved the idea of Campus Connect, took what we had and made it into something brand new.”

Entrepreneurship senior Dillon Forstberg of West Hartford, Connecticut and senior business major Nicholas Stukey of Charlotte, North Carolina, took home $5,000 in cash and in-kind services for Trax Golf. Their application helps amateur golfers track their golf balls utilizing GPS.

“We’ve been working really, really hard and chipping away at it,” said Forstberg. “It was exciting to get the outcome that we wanted.”

When it comes to their prize winnings, Stukey says Trax Golf will take it step by step. “We’ll get the website built first, along with the app, then coding for the ball, and after that, we’ll go from there.”

Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge sponsors also handed out their own awards of the evening. Campus Connect won an additional $10,000 in application development support from Dualboot partners. College of Health and Human Performance students Kenneth Roach and Quinton Jones won $5,000 in digital support from Red Shark Digital. Their idea, Colorful Desires, is a one-stop online marketplace for businesses of color to showcase their products.

“So many hours were put in preparation for this competition,” said Roach, a senior from Charlotte, North Carolina. “I am most grateful for the connections with my mentors, Dana Newell and Shareen Berkowitz, who were a big help. I felt that my entrepreneurial mind matured a lot over the time that passed.”

Jone, a senior from Durham, said, “I’m thankful for the connections made and all of the positive feedback we have received in this journey.”

Kel Normann, ’85, (left) and Dr. Mike Harris present Fielding Miller ’84 with the Miller School of Entrepreneurship’s Lifetime Achievement Award (photo by Cliff Hollis).

Fielding Miller (BSBA’ 84), CEO and co-founder of CAPTRUST, was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Miller School of Entrepreneurship. Last year, James Maynard (ECU’ 65) was the inaugural recipient of the award.

Judges for this year’s Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge were:

  • Grant Edwards (MSA’ 00) is a partner with TechCXO, which provides CEOs and entrepreneurs with fractional chief financial officers, CAO & controller services
  • Steven Lipscombe (BSBA’ 20), along with his partner, won the second Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge in 2019.
  • Fielding Miller (BSBA’ 84) is the CEO and co-founder of CAPTRUST. His 2015 gift to the COB established the Miller School of Entrepreneurship.
  • Danny Scott (BSBA’ 84) is the co-founder of the specialty food company All-N-Food, LLC. He also served on the ECU board of trustees for eight years.

Sponsors who provided cash and in-kind support included:

  • Accelerate Rural NC
  • Anonymous gift
  • Dualboot Partners
  • Forrest Firm
  • Greenville SEED
  • Jenkins, Wilson, Taylor and Hunt
  • Kellum and Campbell Accounting
  • Nucleus Uptown
  • Pitt County Development Commission
  • Red Shark Digital
  • RIoT
  • Uptown Greenville

According to Miller School officials, the Pirate Challenge is one of the largest student entrepreneurship pitch competitions in the southeast United States. More than 300 student-led teams participated in the Pirate Challenge since the competition’s inception. Approximately $300,000 in prizes have been awarded over the years.

Six teams competed in this year’s finals.

The Miller School’s Dr. Mike Harris, left, presents Dr. Mark Stacy, dean of Brody and vice chancellor of the ECU Division of Health Sciences, the Challenge Cannon. Annually the cannon goes to the college representing the Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge winner (photo by Cliff Hollis).