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U of M Student Entrepreneur Named One of Eight National Finalists in Elite Competition

For release: January 24, 2014
For press information, contact Gabrielle Maxey, 901/678-2843

Zach Harrison
Zach Harrison

University of Memphis MBA student Zach Harrison has been selected as one of the Entrepreneurial Eight to compete in the finals of the Student Startup Madness (SSM) tournament, a partner program of South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive.

The elite college student startups will be in Austin, Texas, on March 10 to pitch their companies to a judging panel of successful entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and investors who can help them transform their ideas into business success.  The other SSM finalists are from Michigan State, Morehouse College, the University of Southern California, Seton Hall, Carnegie Mellon, Rochester Institute of Technology and Syracuse University, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Harrison’s company, DepthChartz, is an online service for high school and college athletes. With a highly search-functional framework, the service provides student-athletes with exposure to college and professional outlets through highlight video submissions and validated statistics. DepthChartz also allows coaches to list and promote their camps and training services, creating the prospect for top talent-opportunity pairings.

A lifelong soccer player from Brookhaven, Miss., Harrison later switched to football. Because of his lack of experience, getting the attention of professional organizations as a kicker was difficult. After he earned his undergraduate degree from Samford University, Harrison produced a kicking tape and sent it to as many semi-pro organizations as he could. All responded with invitations to try out, but then he tore three ligaments in his knee.

Months of rehabilitating his injury gave Harrison time to contemplate his situation. “I realized that I had not been limited by my athletic abilities, but rather by my exposure,” he says. “I hated the idea that a lack of money and exposure were my biggest obstacles to success. From that point forward, I made it my utmost goal to ensure athletes that possessed my similar dilemma would not fall victim to the roadblock I encountered. DepthChartz provides the level playing field of experience all athletes need.”

Harrison, who began developing his business model in 2009, has been working with the Crews Center for Entrepreneurship, part of the U of M’s FedEx Institute of Technology (FIT), this year.

“Zach’s success in this national competition is a testament to his hard work and professionalism,” says Kevin Boggs, interim executive director of the FIT. “His drive, vision and execution are what got him to this level. His success is a clear indicator of the value of the individual support and mentoring that he received from the Crews Center and its director, Mike Hoffmeyer. Through the Crews Center, the U of M is providing the critical resources, education and mentoring necessary for entrepreneurial students and faculty to transform their ideas and passion into successful commercial ventures.” 

The competition started in November with a field of 64 college student startup teams and was narrowed in December to 32 semi-finalists from 22 colleges and universities across the United States.

 “It’s going to be a tough competition on-stage in Austin. This group of finalists is amazing,” says Sean Branagan, creator of the SSM program. “These teams are in a wide array of industries and markets, with different technologies, and diverse and innovative business models. Viewing all the SSM applications this year really makes me hopeful and excited about the future.”

The top three teams, as judged and scored by the SSM panel, will each get $5,000 of credits for Google Cloud Platform. Cloud Platform allows startups to build, deploy and run web applications and mobile app backends in the cloud, without having to worry about infrastructure or scalability.

More information is available at http://studentstartupmadness.com/ssm-entrepreneurial-eight-finalists-announced-for-sxsw2014/

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