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Students Create and Innovate at Expo

The eighth annual Student Innovation Expo held in DePaul University’s Coleman Entrepreneurship Center at the end of February recognized students’ creativity, originality and problem-solving abilities. Student competitors submitted ideas for inventions or product and service improvements that create customer/user value.  Nine winners were selected this year among student participants representing several DePaul colleges and both undergraduate and graduate levels. All winners received a scholarship.

“The process of coming up with an idea and shaping it—so that you can communicate the idea, its value, what problem it solves, and how it is different from existing ideas—is a significant experience for students,” says Lisa Gundry, professor of management and entrepreneurship, who organized the competition. “These skills will help them in their careers as they sharpen their problem solving and get better at recognizing a viable opportunity.”

Student winners came from the Driehaus College of Business, Kellstadt Graduate School of Business, College of Science and Health, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Jarvis College of Computing and Digital Media and the School of Music.  

“This marks the greatest diversity across programs and fields, which is in line with our intention to recognize innovations and the emergence of ideas across disciplines in the university,” says Gundry. 

Daniel McGrath, a Kellstadt MBA student, was one of the winners. His idea, Xanadu, is an application-based tool designed to aide home share hosts like Airbnb in the setup and management of their listings. McGrath, who began hosting through Airbnb in 2014, found it difficult to manage his listing while working and going to school. His app pairs hosts with local service providers and professionals to help manage check-ins, key exchanges, turnovers and other services for home share hosts.

“I entered the expo because I wanted to test my innovation against a panel of judges and my peers to see how it would be received,” says McGrath. “The questions that were asked during my pitch and feedback the attendees provided is extremely valuable as I continue to develop this application and grow as an entrepreneur.”

McGrath also learned that you don’t have to be the first to the market for an innovation to be successful and that ideas are not conceived in a vacuum. Xanadu builds upon the features of existing tools, and the expo was an opportunity for McGrath to showcase his version of a tool that he believes will be valuable to home share hosts.

In addition to student presentations, the expo also featured a keynote talk from Chicago Innovation Award winner Rhon Daguro, the founder of Nervana, a digital design and interactive technology. He advised students to believe in themselves, surround themselves with team members who believe in what they are doing, and to find that “sweet spot” between their own capabilities and what the world needs.

“Some of the students are intending to create new businesses or research ways to bring their products to market,” Gundry says. “It’s likely we will see some of these solutions available soon."

Learn more about:

  • DePaul’s management business major
  • DePaul’s master's in Entrepreneurship
  • DePaul MBA entrepreneurship concentration​