Brandeis International Business School

Students flex entrepreneurial muscle at pitch competition

From FinTech in Namibia to digital solutions for Balkan clothing makers, four teams win $1,000 prizes for their early-stage ideas

George Nekwaya’s team took home a $1,000 prize.

George Nekwaya’s team took home a $1,000 prize.

The electronic payments market in Africa is booming.

As the rise of financial technology rapidly transforms how African consumers and businesses exchange money, two Brandeis International Business School students are working to bring this innovation to Namibia.

George Nekwaya, MBA’24 and Evan Goddard, MSF’24 recently pitched their idea for an early-stage startup to a panel of expert judges.

Their proposed digital payment platform, Buffr, took home first place in the Apps, Software and Computer Science category at the first-ever Asper Student Startup Prizes competition.

“We will vertically integrate into a payment gateway and expand across south Africa and developing countries,” said Nekwaya, who is from Namibia.

Dozens of students on 23 teams submitted video pitches under four categories: General Entrepreneurship; Apps, Software and Computer Science; Social Impact and Brandeisian Values; and Prototyping and Product Design.

The four winning teams were each presented with $1,000 prizes during the 2023 Asper Award for Global Entrepreneurship ceremony. The event also featured a virtual discussion with Robert Herjavec, entrepreneur, CEO, best-selling author and star of ABC’s Emmy Award-winning show, Shark Tank.

“Just the sheer range of the pitches was inspiring,” said Prof. Philippe Wells, director of the Asper Center. “There were a lot of great ideas.”

Here are video summaries of the top three finalists in each category along with brief descriptions of the winning startup pitches.

Apps, Software and Computer Science

Winner: Buffr
George Nekwaya, MBA’24 and Evan Goddard, MSF’24

Buffr is a digital payment platform with a targeted launch in Namibia and eventual expansion into other southern African countries. A safe alternative to cash and a cheaper alternative to electronic payments.

Prototyping and Product Design

Winner: Trailer Wash Buddy
Martin Alexis, Heller MBA/MA’23 and Eugene Saint Jean

Trailer Wash Buddy is a patented tractor trailer washing system that automates the process and cuts the work time in half. “It is essentially a large electric toothbrush on wheels,” said Saint Jean.

Social Impact and Brandeisian Values

Winner: Re:threads
Shreya Ahuja ’25, Riya Gupta ’26, Jacob Mikelberg ’24 and Marco Nie

Re:threads is a recycling system for synthetic textiles that reduces plastic waste and allows users to track their recycled clothes and earn rewards.

General Entrepreneurship

Winner: Cofab
Yiqing Wang, MBA’24, Mildred Delgado, MBA’24, Donika Sollova, MBA’24 and Marisa Lala, MBA’24

Cofab connects handmade clothing makers in Albania and Kosovo with American consumers.

Dr. Catherine Mann speaks into a microphone while seated on stage next to Prof. George Hall and Prof. Peter Petri.

October 30, 2023

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