By Shilpa Kannan, ENG’15/W’15

“Have a great idea for a mobile app? AppItUp!” That was the challenge from UPStart and the SBDC to Penn students this fall. Students from across the University submitted great ideas for mobile apps, and investors evaluated these ideas and chose the best to be featured at the AppItUP Fall Challenge Event on Friday, November 22. Ten semi-finalists, chosen out of nearly 200 submissions from members of the Penn community, pitched their ideas to a panel of “sharks,” five software development companies who planned to each choose one of these ideas to turn into reality. The twist: the ideas were so good that one company chose two, for a total of six winners!

Let me tell you: it was pretty thrilling. The winning venture ideas ranged from software that allows for recommendations of coffee blends based on taste to devices that automatically call 911 and relay patient information if anaphylactic shock occurs.. [For a complete list of the winners, click here.]

As a consultant and then practice leader at the SBDC, I have worked with several entrepreneurs from industries as varied as energy and party planning. In each engagement, we have looked for the “problem,” the big issue with their business. Reflecting on the past year and a half and all of the issues I’ve observed in these companies, I realize that I’ve become somewhat cynical of start-ups. But in the process of talking to entrepreneurs and hearing their passions, I also learned that it is easy to be critical of an idea, but coming up with a viable business proposition, a plan to actually service a need, is ten thousand times harder.

For me, AppItUP was most exciting because it forced people like me, not entrepreneurially minded, to leave my comfort zone of analytics and critical thinking, and move towards creativity and idea generation. I saw how many different needs were identified and then addressed in unique and imaginative ways. The two hours spent listening to ideas pitched and ventures proposed led me to believe that maybe it’s time I begin to think about my passions and how they can translate into a potential venture. It’s time to challenge myself.

Shilpa photoBio: Shilpa is a junior from Potomac, Maryland studying Finance, Management, and Computer Science. She has been with the SBDC for about a year and a half and has enjoyed working with entrepreneurs in the area to tackle their business issues. Outside of the SBDC, Shilpa loves to teach; she is currently a TA for CIS 121 and is excited to TA for FNCE 101 next semester. She is also a director of the Financial Literacy Community Project and a dedicated member of Phi Gamma Nu, one of Penn’s professional business fraternities. Her hobbies include photography, biking, and playing tennis.