Students finalists in Big Idea competition

Brandi Doyal, Staff Reporter

Senior business students Tom Stern and Brenan Keller are tackling more than just exams and graduation this year. Their product, Threadix , a machine-washable clothing chip that acts as an event ticket, is a finalist in Idea Village’s Big Idea competition.

Big Idea is one of the main events of New Orleans Entrepreneurship Week, set to take place in March. The competition consists of 19 start-up businesses that compete for the grand prize of $50,000 to produce and market their product.

Threadix embeds a machine-washable chip into event apparel. The chip acts as your ticket into the event, and serves other purposes, as well. Part of the design is to have a pre-paid debit card on the Threadix so event-goers don’t have to worry about carrying money around with them. Keller said that Threadix would drastically improve event experience.

“It will also help the event-goers because no one hates anything more than waiting in lines,” Keller said. “I think we are estimating about a 90 percent downsizing in queue at the concession stand and at the gates.”

The initial round of the competition, the Entrepreneur Showcase, combines the audience votes with the final decision made by a celebrity panel of judges. Members of the audience pay $25 to receive a token that they give to the entrepreneur they believe deserves to win. Then the celebrity panel votes on the top entrepreneur out of the three who receive the most chips. Stern said they joined the competition to introduce their product and attract investors.  

“We intend to use [the competition] as a launch platform to get us to our next event,” Stern said. “We really want to throw a few events to demonstrate the additional features to acquire more funding to supplement those features.”

Keller said another function of Threadix is to maximize security and cut back on the people who fall victim to counterfeiting. The goal is to stop attendants and event organizers from wasting time and money looking for or buying counterfeit tickets. 

“I think that there are a lot of things that traditional paper tickets don’t cover,” Keller said. “[The ticket industry] has actually gone backwards because we started with basic tickets, then we went to holograms and now we can print tickets on an ancient printer and make as many copies as you want. It was secure, but now it is kind of insecure again. We are making it so there is less counterfeiting so people won’t walk up to an event and not be able to get in.”

Stern said he first got the inspiration for creating Threadix while working with another Tulane student a few years ago.

“[My friend] was basically trying to get people to come to these small parties for a boutique,” Stern said. “My first inclination was to have the boutique design a shirt for the event and say that the only way you get in is with this shirt. What that does is it creates brand exposure for the boutique as well as the actual artist themselves. Then I thought, why not make the shirt the ticket itself?”

Keller said he first met Stern in one of his management classes. Both wanted to start a business, but Keller was more interested in the technological aspect while Stern was interested in the business aspect. Keller is pursuing a coordinate major in computer science and said he felt Threadix was the perfect opportunity.

“It seemed like we were a really good match,” Keller said. “I think it is really just exciting to be able to create these new technologies.”

Stern and Keller both agreed they are excited for the future of their product. Their group consists of approximately 11 people, and they have presented their product to investors and potential partners.

“Right now we are still at the family and friends stage, but we are looking at a few outside investors who are looking at coming on board,” Stern said. “We are working with a bunch of engineers, and we really have a great team. It is really just hammering out the product. We expect to have it done pretty much by mid-March.”

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