Sonya A. Tareke and Malkijah Griffiths of Team Real Talk celebrate winning the 2022 Panasci competition. Photo: Nancy J. Parisi.
From left, Sonya A. Tareke, Malkijah Griffiths and Janelle Fore of Team Real Talk, which promotes diversity, equity and inclusion efforts within institutions through guided social discussion. Photo illustration: Douglas Levere.
Courtney Burris and Brandon Davis took second place for RHM Innovations, which creates products to assist individuals with activities of daily living. Photo illustration: Douglas Levere.
Seth Blum won the People's Choice award for his company, NetWorthy, an education technology platform. Photo illustration: Douglas Levere.
Release Date: April 21, 2022
BUFFALO, N.Y. — A platform that promotes diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts within institutions by empowering instructors and participants through guided social discussion took first place April 20 at the University at Buffalo’s Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition (Panasci TEC).
The founders of Team Real Talk Inc. will receive $25,000 in startup capital and in-kind services valued at $30,000 for their company. The startup is led by Malkijah Griffiths, BS ’19 and a current MPH/MBA student, and two School of Management alumnae: Sonya A. Tareke, BS ’17, MBA ’20, program manager, EforAll; and Janelle Fore, BS ’20, MBA ’21, analyst, Goldman Sachs.
Team Real Talk is a certified B Corporation, and the Real Talk platform gives the online community access to curated information and provides inclusive topics of conversation that relate to many cultures, backgrounds and career fields.
“The Panasci competition helped us solidify how we will contribute to the region’s economic development—providing new jobs and opportunities to upcoming professionals,” says Griffiths, a Western New York Prosperity Fellow who will graduate in May with a dual Master of Public Health and MBA. “We plan to continue validating our framework by running more DEI sessions with companies and showcasing the DEI metrics that affect their operational and financial efficiency.”
Among the three co-founders, Griffiths serves as the company’s sales lead, Fore is the head of finance and Tareke is head of operations.
In-kind awards include business counseling from Atlas Alignment Growth Partners, legal services from Colligan Law LLP, marketing and advertising services from Fifteen, accounting services from Lumsden & McCormick LLP, product design and manufacturing services from Tresca, and co-working space from the UB Office of Business and Entrepreneur Partnerships.
In second place was Courtney Burris, a UB doctoral student in industrial systems engineering and a Western New York Prosperity Fellow; and Brandon Davis, a University of Rochester doctoral student in biochemistry and molecular biology. The team will collect $10,000 for their company, RHM Innovations, a company that creates solutions to assist individuals with activities of daily living, with a focus on the bathing process.
Spectators voted on a People’s Choice award that came with $1,000, which went to Seth Blum, a BS/MBA student in the School of Management, for his company, NetWorthy, an education technology company that provides college students the confidence to make smart financial decisions that align with their life goals.
Panasci TEC provided coaching and mentoring to participants to prepare them for their pitches.
Pared down from 30 first-round pitches and 13 semifinalists, five teams of finalists delivered long-form presentations to judges and spectators on April 19. At the final event, they delivered 2-minute pitches, 43North style, to a panel of judges and other viewers, and were evaluated on how well they described the feasibility and marketability of their venture, proved the need for their product or service and presented potential sources of capital.
Other new venture ideas included a platform for digital content creators who make videos, podcasts or blogs and want to be sure their audiences see all their content in an engaging way, and a collaborative music production tool that grants artists the capability to remotely work on projects in real time.
LaTanya White, racial equity and entrepreneurship expert and educator, gave keynote remarks titled “Funding generational excellence: What dynastic wealth means for startup entrepreneurs of color.”
White also served as a judge for the final presentations, along with Michael Canzoneri, head of technology operation, Torch; Mark Glasgow, vice president, Citi; Michael John, director of information technology, Circuit Clinical; and Rebecca M. Stadler, patent and trademark attorney, Stadler IP Law PLLC.
In addition to the Panasci winners, 10 individuals received the Luminary Award, which recognizes friends of UB’s Blackstone LaunchPad who have contributed support and guidance to students in their entrepreneurial journey, and assisted with the development of the campus-based entrepreneurship center. They are: Brandon Bieron, M&T Bank, New Ventures Group; Dan Buckmaster, Tresca; Kat Carter, ShearShare Inc.; Esther Clabeaux, Uniland Development Co.; Phylicia Dove, Black Monarchy; Scott Falbo, LenderLogix; Charu Kalluri, Sight Machine; Kelly Martin, M&T Bank; Jack McGowan, Insyte Consulting and Western New York Venture Association/Buffalo Angels; and Derrick Parson, The Parson Group.
Now in its 22nd year, Panasci TEC was created by the UB School of Management and the UB Office of Business and Entrepreneur Partnerships, and is funded with a $1 million endowment from the late Henry A. Panasci Jr. to facilitate and promote the commercialization of UB-generated technologies.
Hosted by UB’s Blackstone LaunchPad, the event brings together UB students from science, technology, business and other disciplines to maximize their potential and create viable businesses in Western New York.