TU student, alumni ventures find success in competitions

TU College Cup Innovation Challenge names inaugural winner, TU startups recognized at nationwide e-Fest

By Rebecca Kirkman on May 4, 2022

Women on stage holding giant check for $10,000
Lydia Abraham ’22, second from right, won the inaugural TU College Cup Innovation Challenge for EriTea.

It’s been a busy—and successful—season for TU student- and alumni-led ventures. 

The inaugural TU College Cup Innovation Challenge named Lydia Abraham ’22, a senior majoring in kinesiology and founder of EriTea, makers of a retail iced tea based on a family recipe, its first-place winner April 26.

The win comes with a spot in the 2023 cohort of the TU StarTUp Accelerator and a $10,000 investment for EriTea.

Launched earlier this spring, the College Cup is a university-wide challenge that encourages and supports students from all disciplines in developing innovations to positively impact the world. 

Six ventures helmed by students representing the College of Business & Economics, College of Health Professions and Fisher College of Science & Mathematics participated in the inaugural challenge. All finalists received a $1,000 prize.

The students gained valuable professional experience with highly sought-after, transferrable workplace skills that support professional careers, such as communicating clearly, self-confidence, navigating uncertainty, risk-taking and decision-making.

Group standing in front of backdrop and balloons
Jan Baum, faculty director of entrepreneurship, Patrick McQuown, executive director of entrepreneurship, Conrad Brake ’21 and Ryan Rutkowski ’22 of Tap In, and Xander Hughes and Michael Wyman ’22 of Renndvous at EIX e-Fest.

And two TU ventures took home a total of $15,000 in prizes at the EIX e-Fest, a national entrepreneurship competition held April 28–30 at the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship on the University of St. Thomas campus in Minneapolis.

Alumni-led startups Renndvous and Tapin were among the top 25 entrants invited to the finals from hundreds of submissions. TU, in its first year entering, was the only school from the Baltimore–D.C. region in the finals and the only invited school with more than one venture to place in the competition. 

“We were beyond thrilled with the performance of our students as they represented Towson University for the first time at this competition,” says Patrick McQuown, TU’s executive director of entrepreneurship. “We left feeling very TU proud.”

Renndvous, an online vehicle sales marketplace and social site for modified and collector vehicles created by Michael Wyman ’22, placed second in one of five group competitions at e-Fest. Renndvous was part of the 2021 TU StarTUp Accelerator. 

Tap In, an app from Ryan Rutkowski ’22 and Conrad Brake ’21 that analyzes local nightlife deals through crowdsourcing and input from bar owners also placed second in its group. Additionally, Brake took home first place overall in the e-Fest pitch slam competition.

Tap In's success at e-Fest was highlighted by MarylandInno, a publication from the Business Journals focused on startups, which dubbed Tap In the “Waze of bar hopping.”

The ventures’ success is due to an innovative culture of entrepreneurship on campus. Tap In is accepted into the third cohort of the StarTUp Accelerator—an eight-week fellowship where ventures take residency and collaborate to accelerate their ventures—launching June 6.

The StarTUp at the Armory opened last fall as TU’s front door for startups, small businesses and the region’s largest corporations. The state-of-the art, 26,000-square-foot space includes 6,000 square feet of free, coworking space and meeting rooms where entrepreneurs and executives can connect with each other and to TU’s programs and people.

Learn more about entrepreneurship at TU.