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Dispatches from the $300K Entrepreneurs Challenge: Getting Woken with Serwetz

It’s been a month since our last dispatch, but we’re just revving up now for the real start of the $300K Entrepreneurs Challenge. What’s that, you say? Didn’t we cover the start of the event in October’s issue of the Stern Oppy?

Indeed, the deadline for entry was early October, but submissions for the first round of judging were just last week. Soon, the gavel will officially come down, weeding out the runner-ups from those who are destined to move their way up the ranks.

In the weeks since registration, there have been a bounty of bootcamps and coaching sessions, on topics ranging from design research to developing market opportunities, which provided pre-competition support to the all-tolled 750 applicants from 16 schools across NYU’s global campuses. The W.R. Berkley Innovation Lab, which hosts the event every year, doesn’t want to take any chances on unprepared applicants. After all, there’s $300,000 in cash prizes at stake.

So what was the deliverable for the first round? The Opportunity Summary, a mammoth 15,000-character overview with an optional video, gave participants the chance to illustrate their value proposition, target customers and research insight to a judging committee at the Lab.

One of the hundreds of hopefuls who just submitted her summary was Rachel Serwetz, founder of the app Woken. Of the three tracks — social, tech and new venture —Serwetz went with the latter.

A Human Development major at Binghamton University in New York, Serwetz has a formidable academic and professional background in Human Resources. For her, starting a career app was a no brainer.

Serwetz is no stranger to startup programs, having done a series of them, including Designation, the NYU Steinhardt Edtech Incubator StartEd, the Leslie eLab sprint and the Tacklebox Accelerator.

In these programs, she’s had the chance to begin development on her company Woken, which targets, as she put it in a recent interview with the Stern Oppy, “people who have opportunities and potential but aren’t productive because they’re picking the wrong route.” She’s hoping to find a solution for what she calls the “job-hop epidemic.”

Having said that, she’s really in the $300K Entrepreneurs Challenge for the later stages of the competition where she can hone in on testing her concept and developing a competitive strategy for her business.

She insists that “it’s important to test your assumptions, and there’s only so much you can do by having conversations. . . the goal for Woken right now is to finish the early draft of the MVP so it can be ready to test with people.” She’s looking forward to the high-stakes quarter finals in December, when the live pitch portion of the competition will commence.

Be sure to stay tuned to future issues of the Stern Oppy to hear more from the intrepid NYU entrepreneurs hoping to make it big.  

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