Tulane graduate students win $50,000 at the New Orleans Entrepreneurship Week pitch competition

Ezra Weber, Staff Reporter

Courtesy of Lydia Winkler & Marco Nelson

On March 29, two Tulane graduate students made waves at the New Orleans Entrepreneurship Week pitch competition presented by JPMorgan Chase & Co., the A. B. Freeman School of Business at Tulane University and The Idea Village.

Taking home the grand prize of $50,000 with their Rent Check app, Lydia Winkler and Marco Nelson have revolutionized the rental process for both landlords and tenants. The goal of this app is “to standardize the process of move-in and move-out inspections as well as the security deposit deduction process.”

Judged by well-known investors Jim Coulter, Shelly Porges and Patrick Comer, the duo competed against other startup companies including SampleChain, a technology company specializing in creating a more efficient way of conducting market research, and TrayAway, an app-based company aims to keep hotel hallways clean by informing hotel staff when to remove room service trays.  

Facing a tough Q&A session from the investors, Winkler and Nelson described why their app can work as a standalone company instead of a tool for various available renting apps.  

The pitch competition was the culmination of a five-day event featuring various speakers discussing all elements of entrepreneurship and an audience of 3,500 people from 23 states who all came to support and celebrate local startups as a part of New Orleans’ push to further their image as an incubator for innovation and new ideas.  

“For more than a decade, NOEW continues to have an incredible impact on our region — not only in terms of direct outcomes for startup companies, but also for connecting the local community, maintaining an open front door to the startup ecosystem, and attracting regional and national attention to business in New Orleans,” CEO of The Idea Village Jon Atkinson said.

While Rent Check was the big winner of the event, smaller prizes amounting in total to $250,000 were granted to various other local entrepreneurs.  

Winkler and Nelson intend to use their prize money to grow their business and their role in the vibrant New Orleans startup community.

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