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Student Entrepreneurs Swim with Big Fish in the DVC Piranha Pool Pitch Competition

Dec 10, 2020

Piranha Pool FlyerDo you have an idea for a new product or business? Ever wondered how to fund your startup? Jump into DVC’s Piranha Pool and find out!

“The DVC Piranha Pool Pitch Competition is similar to the popular TV program, ‘Shark Tank.’ Students present their idea for a new business or product to a group of judges,” said DVC business administration professor, Charlie Shi.

Charlie ShiShi urges students to pursue their passion. He feels that DVC can provide the tools and connections needed for entrepreneurial success.

“DVC is a premiere innovation center in this region. We’re creating an innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem that includes business as well as many other academic programs,” said Shi.

The competition is made possible by funding from the DVC Entrepreneurship and Innovation Strong Workforce Grant through the California Community College Chancellor’s Office.

LoAnn Winkler“A local intellectual property law firm, Antero, Tormey & Petrin, has graciously provided additional funding and support. They have truly partnered with us to make this competition happen. They have also played an important part in the development of the ‘Entrepreneur in You’ video series,” said LoAnn Winkler, business administration faculty for DVC.

Who can participate in the competition?

“We welcome students from across the college. All majors are able to come and bring their ideas. Our goal is to help our students bring their concepts and products to market,” said Winkler.

Interested students form teams of two to four people. They work together to develop a business idea.

Mariam Worsham“The new product or idea should be unique so it has a chance to succeed once it’s out in the market. This is what is called a ‘unique selling proposition,’” said Mariam Worsham, business administration professor for DVC.

A number of resources and tools are available to support students as they prepare for the competition.

“Charlie Shi and our guest speakers offer workshops to help students take their concept and hone it into something that could be a possible business. Speaker topics mirror the business plan workbook that students use when creating their plan,” said Winkler.

Business owners and entrepreneurs serve as mentors to guide students as they prepare for the competition. DVC faculty also are available to work with teams to answer questions. There are also classes students can take that coincide with the competition:

  • BUSMG 191 Small Business Management
  • BUSMG 192 Entrepreneurship and Venture Management

How does the competition work?

There are two parts to the competition. Students present an executive summary to the judges in the first round. Finalist teams are selected to advance to the next round. The finalists have one week to prepare for that round. During the second round, the finalists present their written business plans to the judges. This year’s competition will be virtual due to COVID-19, but the experience will be similar to that of the 2019 competition.

“The second round is judged by local entrepreneurs who have been successful in their startup businesses. They really try to give their opinions and help to those teams to make them successful,” said Winkler.

The winning team is selected and a cash award is provided. All teams are also recognized with a certificate to honor their efforts.

Why should students participate?

Participants have many opportunities to learn and grow throughout the experience.

“Students develop knowledge, skills and abilities related to business entrepreneurship. They learn about marketing, finance, accounting, human resources and technology. They develop and practice written and oral presentation skills, leadership skills, teamwork, and more,” said Shi.

For more information about business programs or the piranha pool competition, visit


2019 Piranha Pool Winning Team

2019 Winners - PalFitDuring the 2019 Piranha Pool Competition, six teams entered the competition. The top four teams moved on to the final round. The winning team pitched an idea for a product called PalFit.

“PalFit is a matchmaking mobile app for fitness. It connects fitness partners and forms a community.

PalFit allows fitness users to break out of the self-oriented cycle of workout. They can connect with a community of fitness users who help and coach each other,” said Brandon Samoranos, one of the co-founders of PalFit.

When developing the PalFit business plan, Samoranos focused on creating financial statements for the company.

Samoranos’ fellow co-founders, Mansu Kim and Rafael Grande, were involved with the company vision and product development.

“I mainly focused on developing the original vision, curating the overall idea and developing the strategy of PalFit,” said Kim.

Grande worked on curating the final product.

“I was in charge of developing a vision and structure for our company, managing the image and developing the overall business plan,” said Grande.

All three team members are majoring in business administration at DVC. They met through their membership in DVC’s business club, Phi Beta Lambda.

“We were doing ‘elevator pitch’ practices, pitching the idea to a random person in the crowd of over 60 people. That led to the formation of the team with the goal of entering the pitch competition,” said Samoranos.

The PalFit team attended workshops to prepare for the competition. They wrote a 20-page business plan and created a slide deck for the pitch in front of the judges. They knew they had worked hard to prepare, but they were still surprised to learn they had won the competition.

2019 Piranha Pool Competitors“The other teams were definitely qualified and everyone gave it their all, so hearing we won filled us with excitement,” said Samoranos.

The team highly recommends other students participate in the competition.

“This opportunity allowed us to work in a team environment and pushed us to the limit. The learning curve from confronting the business plan, logic and data was tremendous. But it showed us that there is no limit to what we can do,” said Samoranos.