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Runway Accelerator showcases student startups 

Runway business founders present their startups, network with industry professionals at Memorial Union event

(From left) UND students Moones Alamooti, Junior Chapusette, Landon Walker and Averie Eixenberger were among those who presented their startups at the Runway Accelerator Showcase on May 1 at the UND Memorial Union. Photo by Haylee Bjork/UND Center for Innovation.

By Haylee Bjork

On May 1, the UND Center for Innovation held the Runway Accelerator Showcase at the Memorial Union’s Social Stair on the University campus. Five students presented their startups and the progress they are making through participation in the Runway Accelerator program.

Runway is designed to provide a launch pad for student startups, offering resources, mentorship and funding. The Runway Accelerator has two phases, each seven weeks long. It is led by Sona Lesmeister and Anthony Maher, both of whom work as entrepreneurial coaches at the Center for Innovation.

The Runway Accelerator Showcase is an opportunity for any student founder who has completed Phase 2 to present on their progress. This year’s showcase featured three participants from the current cohort and two participants from past cohorts who are still pursuing their startups.

Janelle Kilgore, vice provost of Strategic Enrollment Management, welcomed the audience to the event, announcing her excitement to see the students present the business plans they’ve worked hard to improve over the program’s second phase and to see the progress they’ve made.

UND student Micah Bruggeman presents on his startup, Campus Comfort Movers, at the Runway Accelerator Showcase on My 1 at the UND Memorial Union. Photo by Haylee Bjork/UND Center for Innovation.

From idea to reality

Micah Bruggeman kicked off the showcase with Campus Comfort Movers, a furniture moving, restoring and selling service tailored specifically for UND students. Recognizing the hassle and stress associated with relocating furniture, especially for college students, Bruggeman’s venture promises convenience for its customers and an eco-friendly option for those moving who don’t want to throw perfectly usable furniture away.

“Runway helped me critically analyze what I was trying to do and helped me use customer discovery,” Bruggeman said, when asked about how the Runway program has impacted him. “Through customer discovery, I got to hone in on what people need. Now I know how my service can be better and how I can help more people.”

Landon Walker, founder of Kix Golf, presented next. Kix Golf is a golf shoe/sneaker bag that boasts a hard-shell design and all-over print patterns, providing unparalleled protection for footwear without compromising on style.

With Kix Golf, golf enthusiasts can confidently stride onto the green, knowing that their shoes are protected in style.

Averie Eixenberger, founder of Rosethorne Productions, also presented. Through her own experience as a woman in aviation, Eixenberger found a passion for creating a production company that is dedicated to telling the stories that are often overlooked. She is expected to release her first podcast, Radio Calls, by the end of the month.

Junior Chapusette, founder of OASIS Rolling Video Games & Entertainment, showcased his venture into the world of the video game industry. His business is a fully launched mobile video game service. In his presentation, he showed the audience his future goals of owning a “party bus”-style vehicle to truly bring video game fun on the road.

Moones Alamooti, a current Ph.D. candidate in geophysics, presented the Razorback P.I.G. Her venture is rooted in research and was developed with Shane Namie and Shane Eiring. The Razorback P.I.G. is a pipeline-cleaning device that cuts down on time and the environmental harm that can be caused by the traditional utility pigging devices being used now. (Pigging is a process used by the oil industry to clean large-diameter pipelines.)

The problem-solving business

Last semester, five students were accepted into Phase 2 of the program and awarded access to $10,000 in grant funding to advance their ideas. Through the program, they were given mentorship, networking opportunities and invaluable real-world advice from a variety of guest speakers.

Throughout the showcase, the audience got to see a diverse array of ventures currently being pursued by UND students. The Runway Accelerator is chance for any UND student to not just start a business, but also find a solution to a real-world problem that affects us all.

Funding for the program is made possible by generous alumni support from the Center for Innovation Start-up Fund and the Nistler College of Business & Public Administration’s Edson Larson Foundation Fund.

Runway provides a welcoming environment for student founders to flourish. As mentioned, Phase 2 participants can access up to $10,000 in grant funding, programming and mentorship focused on empowering them to turn their innovative ideas into tangible realities.

Haylee Bjork

About the author:

Haylee Bjork is marketing outreach coordinator for the Center for Innovation at UND.