Taylor University’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) hosted the tenth edition of Shark Tank on November 2, 2023. The event, steeped in ten years of entrepreneurial legacy, was taken to the next level this year with higher attendance, more judges, and an increase in prize money.
The CIE is taking the next step to center the Taylor brand by changing the name of the event from Shark Tank to Trojan Arena. Dr. Mick Bates, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, explained, “Trojan Arena (formerly Shark Tank) catalyzes students to develop solutions to life’s many problems by creating incentive for them to research, develop, and take action on their ideas leading into the event. Then as a result of the event, many of them are motivated to take their concepts to the next level.”
Leading up to the event, contestants were selected through a rigorous application process, assisted by industry experts in refining their ideas, and groomed for presentation. During the high-energy event, contestants confidently presented their products in professional attire for seven minutes and answered questions from the judges for five minutes.
Many talented students presented their ideas in the Trojan Arena including:
- Brayden Gogis of Joy Box, an online app that acts as a time capsule where individuals can practice expressing gratitude. Brayden won first place for a prize of $5,000.
- Jared Sisson of Shepherd Security, an AI-based proactive security system designed to map safe routes for individuals who need to evacuate a venue. Jared won second place for a prize of $2,500.
- Deanna Grey of Ino Bar, a TU-based smoothie bar. Deanna won third place for a prize of $1,000.
- James Proodian of Goose Wax, a surf wax vending machine concept. James won the Audience Choice Award for a prize of $1,000 and a $50 Slingshot gift card.
- David VanDyke, David Voss, and Levi Carrell of Toy Closet, a toy resale service to help the disadvantaged.
- Jordan Burden of FliptoDrip, a designer shoe resale service.
Winners are encouraged to use the prize money to invest in their products. Gogis hopes to invest in partnerships to develop JoyBox, Sisson intends to use his money to patent Shepherd Security, and Grey plans on using her prize money to finalize Ino Bar’s location. They also had the opportunity to meet with Kurt Keilhacker, a tech investor and venture capitalist, to gain wisdom on how to move their products forward.
Several hallmarks made this year’s event exceptional. Instead of the usual three judges, there were five including Secretary of Commerce for the state of Indiana, David Rosenberg. Competitors had access to the judges throughout the process and had dinner with them prior to the event. Additionally, the prize money was increased to a cumulative total of $9,500, providing more opportunities for winners to take their products to the next level. Lastly, attendance increased significantly from last year and there were many opportunities for audience participation, including giveaways and an Audience Choice Award.
For the CIE, this is just the beginning. Bates expressed, “My hope is for Trojan Arena to grow into a regional event that brings the excitement, energy, and opportunity of innovation and entrepreneurship to all Hoosiers.”