A start-up hummus business created by a University of Central Florida student was the highest-ranked student-led venture in the inaugural Blackstone LaunchPad Demo Day held in New York City last week.

“The major players in the market are all doing the exact same flavors. Our idea is to be the rebels, the disruptive kids of hummus,” said Jesse Wolfe, a senior business major and the founder of O’Dang Hummus. He’s created flavors such as Sweet N’ Spicy Black Bean and Bombalicious Buffalo Wing, which are sold at Central Florida farmers markets.

Wolfe’s company won $15,000 to use for further business development.

“The teams competing here have been really incredible. Our showing solidifies for us how cool the product is that we have. We’re that much more credible. The connections we have made with the Blackstone Foundation and others has really boosted our confidence,” said Wolfe.

Two UCF teams– O’Dang Hummus and Limbitless Solutions, comprised of the UCF engineers who made national headlines this summer with the creation of a 3-D printed arm– made the finals in the national competition. UCF sent four teams to New York.

  • Fourier Electric (Brandon Carpenter, Jonathan Wachob and team), developers of a non-mechanical pumping system that can transfer heat through electronic equipment
  • O’Dang Hummus (Jesse Wolfe and team), makers of custom-flavored hummus
  • Limbitless Solutions (Albert Manero, Tyler Petresky and team), producers of 3-D printed appendages
  • JOOX (Ketan Rahangdale, Richard Grant and team), creators of a social marketing network where fans and artists can discover, support and promote new music
  • Jonathan Wachob, a co-founder of Fourier Electric, found that the competition allowed him to forge new connections that would help his venture. “The networking portion has been an amazing opportunity. We’ve met several VC [venture capital] groups that have shown interest in our product.”

    “It was incredible to see students competing from all over the country, representing many different industries,” said Ketan Rahangdale, co-founder of JOOX. “It’s humbling, really – there’s a lot of hustlers out there. We can be role models to other students and together help make the world a better place.”

    “To date, our nonprofit has reached over 1.5 million people across the globe, and over 25 different countries,” said Tyler Petresky, co-founder of Limbitless Solutions. “Getting to the finals in this competition and developing connections from the experience will definitely help us expand our reach going forward.”

    Blackstone LaunchPad is a co-curricular, experiential campus program designed to introduce entrepreneurship as a viable career path and develop entrepreneurial skills and mindsets through individualized coaching, idea and venture creation support. Modeled after a program at University of Miami and further developed and expanded by Blackstone Charitable Foundation, the program is currently available to more than 350,000 students at 15 colleges and universities nationwide.

    More than 900 ventures have been advised since its establishment at UCF in September 2013.

    The Blackstone LaunchPad Demo Day was held as part of a wider convening of representatives from Blackstone LaunchPad programs from around the country. During the conference, representatives shared best practices, discussed strategies for program implementation and innovation, and as part of the Demo Day segment, showcased the most promising student ventures from their respective schools.

    Final pitch session judges included:

  • Joan Solotar, Senior Managing Director, Head of External Relations & Strategy Group, Blackstone
  • Jason Kelly, Managing Editor, Bloomberg LINK
  • Bill Murphy, Senior Managing Director & Chief Technology Office, Blackstone
  • Matt Skurbe, Treasurer & Managing Director Finance Group, Blackstone
  • The judges assessed the ventures’ products, business models and scalability potential. Steve Schwarzman, chairman, CEO and co-founder of Blackstone, delivered keynote remarks.

    “Entrepreneurship is central to Blackstone’s culture, and is the single most effective way to spur economic growth and job creation,” said Schwarzman. “The new and innovative companies participating in the Blackstone LaunchPad Demo Day have the potential to impact their local economies, and we look forward to seeing them do so.”

    About the Blackstone Charitable Foundation

    The Blackstone Charitable Foundation was founded at the time of Blackstone’s IPO in 2007 with substantial commitments from the Firm’s employees. Influenced by the enterprising heritage of the firm and its founders, The Blackstone Charitable Foundation is directing its resources and applying the intellectual capital of the firm to foster entrepreneurship in areas nationwide and globally. Through its investment expertise across several asset classes and geographies, Blackstone has a unique perspective on the global economy and a heightened understanding of how entrepreneurial activity is often the crucial catalyst in the growth of successful businesses, industries and communities. For more information, see http://www.blackstone.com/foundation.

    About the UCF College of Business Administration

    Established in 1968, the UCF College of Business Administration offers degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and executive levels. All programs, as well as the Kenneth G. Dixon School of Accounting are accredited by AACSB International – the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

    The college provides high-quality academic programs designed to give students a competitive advantage in the world of business now and in the future. As such, the college establishes partnerships with some of the nation’s most innovative leaders to model new and best practices that harness evolving technology. In addition, the college promotes a unique culture of engagement, risk-taking, cross-disciplinary collaboration and data-driven decision making in an effort to ensure students are well prepared to enter a dynamic marketplace.

    America’s Partnership University: The University of Central Florida, the nation’s second-largest university with nearly 60,000 students, has grown in size, quality, diversity and reputation in its first 50 years. Today, the university offers more than 200 degree programs at its main campus in Orlando and more than a dozen other locations. UCF is an economic engine attracting and supporting industries vital to the region’s future while providing students with real-world experiences that help them succeed after graduation. For more information, visit https://www.ucf.edu/news/.