Sixteen-year-old Avi Agarwal asked a panel of seasoned entrepreneurs for $1,000. Instead, he received $5,000.
The idea that made them want to give more? Edible cupcake liners.
Agarwal was one of 75 participants who call themselves Venture Devils, a program to support Arizona State University students, staff, faculty and community entrepreneurs run by the J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute. On April 29, they vied to earn seed funding for innovative solutions during the Demo Day competition at SkySong, the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center.
“I’m the type of person that believes in taking things step by step, and only ask for what I believe is absolutely necessary right now,” said the owner of Avi’s Sweet Treats, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit bakery that sells and donates cupcakes for charity. “I figure I could always ask for more money later on.”
But the BASIS Peoria high school junior and youngest member in the competition didn’t have to ask for more. Judges for the Edson Social Impact Venture Challenge liked his five-minute pitch so much they gave him an extra $4,000 for his venture, which has baked around 10,000 cupcakes, raised funds for 24,500 meals and raised $5,000 for other causes.
And now, it’ll also help protect the environment, because every cupcake he makes means there’s no liner to toss in the garbage.
Demo Day is held at the end of every semester, and Friday’s pitch and awards event was the culmination of a daylong showcase of ideas that ranged from festival-style fashions to an app for team building to an alternative caffeine drink. This year, $280,000 – the highest in the competition’s history – was awarded in eight funding tracks. Venture Devils teams also get access to personalized mentorship, curated resources and collaboration spaces.
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Watch the awards ceremony: