Tunetap wins Johnson’s Second Shark Tank Competition
Feifan Zhou ’16 and his team take first place with a risk-reducing service for artists and venues
By Patrick Braga ’16
Cornell students pitched their startup plans to venture capitalists for a chance to win a $1500 prize in the second annual Johnson Shark Tank competition, held at Duffield Hall Feb. 4. Event sponsors included the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Johnson’s Entrepreneurship & Innovation Institute, the College of Engineering, the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, the Departments of Computer Science and Information Science, Entrepreneurship@Cornell, eLab, ECaFT (Engineering Career Fair team), Student Agencies (Sai), and Party Headphones.
Six teams of students ranging from undergraduates to MBA and PhD candidates competed in the challenge, and each team had four minutes to pitch their business idea to the three judges, who could ask questions for an additional six minutes. The venture capitalists who served as judges were John Lee ’10, associate at Osage University Partners; Paul Cianciolo, vice president, FirstMark Capital; and Jeremy Rossman, CEO of MakeGamesWith.Us. Teams were judged based on their business model, uniqueness, viability, size of market opportunity, and how well their product or service addresses a defined problem.
In the minutes leading up to the start of the event, passersby peered into the increasingly packed presentation space as the venture capitalists, event organizers, and competing students set up. The event was broadcast through headphones which Party Headphones, a Cornell eLab business co-founded by Jacob Reisch ’14 and several other Cornell students, provided to every attendee. Announcer Nick Nickitas, MBA ’14, co-founder and CEO of Rosieapp.com, another eLab company, described Shark Tank as “the biggest, most exciting entrepreneurship event at Cornell.”
Starting off the challenge, Feifan Zhou ’16, CEO of Tunetap, confidently presented his team’s winning product: a service that helps venues and musicians reduce the risk of producing concerts by enabling artists and fans to crowdfund live events, pre-selling tickets and ensuring an audience prior to an event. Zhou and his colleagues produced their first show using Tunetap at Cornell just two months after launching, featuring performing artist Dylan Owen. They generated a profit pre-selling tickets; many shows do not break even the first day. (Read more about Tunetap here.)
Other pitches included Yorango by Adam Kirsch ’15, whose team created a website to simplify renting for landlords and tenants; Lionano, by Siyu Huang PhD ’13, MBA ’14, and Alex Yu PhD ’14, who developed a safer and more powerful multi-purpose battery component for consumer devices and electric vehicles; Daapr, presented by Aaron Schifrin ’14, who developed a visual content aggregator and social network; Saund, by Kelsey Kruse ’16, whose team built a pair of brain-controlled headphones; and inFav, David Na MBA ’15, and Howard Zheng MBA ’15, who presented a concept for a social gambling website.
According to the judges, Zhou’s well-articulated presentation successfully demonstrated that the Tunetap team had thought through their market, confirmed the existence of a paying user base, and actually made something happen in the market. The judges added that the team found an interesting, difficult, and original problem to target.
“It’s awesome to see everyone out here supporting entrepreneurship at Cornell,” said Zhou. “Having won Shark Tank is just the next step in getting us to market.”
Michael Falb ’14, a member of the Tunetap team, agreed. “We’re looking forward to expanding this spring, doing more shows, and then moving to larger markets throughout the U.S.,” he added.
In addition to the $1500 prize, the winning team was awarded a free dinner with the event’s venture capitalist judges at Taverna Banfi in Cornell’s Statler Hotel.
- Patrick Braga ’16 is an intern in Marketing and Communications at Johnson