BIG IdeaBounce 2024 | 14 Finalists Dazzle In SharkTank Contest

Ideas for new businesses are a dime a dozen, as the saying goes. What really counts is having passionate people behind those ideas to give them flight.

And that is exactly the case with this year’s crop of student founders in the 2024 edition of That is exactly the case in WashU Olin Business School’s BIG IdeaBounce® pitch competition.

Some 120 startup ideas from graduate and undergraduate students all over the world competed against each other for a finalist spot. The entries represented more than 65 universities and 14 countries, including Bangladesh, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, India, Iran, Malaysia, Spain, Uganda, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Only 14 startup teams made the cut, inching closer for a chance to fly to Washington University’s Olin campus in St. Louis for the ultimate shootout before the judges. 


The top winner will walk away with a $50,000 cash prize, with smaller funding awards to the second and third-place teams. P&Q is also inviting our audience to vote for their favorite team and idea. 

This year’s competitors raised the ante in terms of the quality of their pitches. “As entrepreneurship programs continue to mature, we see stronger ideas and we see stronger storytelling of those ideas,” says Doug Villhard, academic director for entrepreneurship at Washington University. “Being a teacher but also a professional investor it’s fun to see these things come across my desk even though these are young companies and young founders.”

The top ideas run the gamut from healthcare solutions and a network of electric vehicle chargers for urban dwellers to an online educational platform. “There’s a lot of software and a focus on making the world a better place,” observes Villhard.


BIG IdeaBounce 2023

Doug Villhard, Olin’s academic director of entrepreneurship

Many student teams employ the latest artificial intelligence technology to implement their solutions to market challenges. Among them are a team of MBAs from Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business who are using advanced AI to to help lawyers with pre-trial litigation preparation. A Michigan Ross School of Business team is pitching a tool that democratizes clinical trials by promoting diversity, equity, and inclusivity by using machine learning technologies.

“When I’m looking at these pitches and see the word AI, I do a double check to see if they just put it in or it is central to their major innovation,” says Villhard. “As we understand AI better we are getting smarter about the difference if it is tangential to what you are doing vs. being essential to what you are doing. We are seeing more of the latter vs. being peripheral.”

The wealth of ideas making the finals is unusually impressive. A group of MBA students from Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business tossed in a business idea for a digital health platform that focuses on wellness visits and social determinants of health for hospitals. A Babson College team has developed a line of zero-waste and non-toxic home care products.


Some of the ideas are incredibly ambitious. Georgetown University students, for example, have come up with a network of proprietary chargers for urban drivers of electric vehicles. Yet another team from the University of Pennsylvania are pitching a digital incentive spirometer and companion mobile app designed to significantly improve post-operative recovery outcomes.

“I really like the problems our finalists are trying to solve,” adds Villhard. Sustain-A-Plate, an Olin Business School startup, has come up with a way for grocery stores to alleviate food waste and to increase profitabilty. “Food waste is a big issue in a world where you can’t afford to waste food. That is a great problem to go after.”

MeetYourClass, the brainchild of a Michigan Ross student team, helps colleges form and nurture community by revolutionizing the way incoming students meet and find resources. “If you work hard to get a student, you want to keep them there,” adds Villhard. “A big part of that is the friendships and community they make. If you are a fan of higher education, this is a strategy to have happier, more connected students having a richer experience.”


ASL Aspire, an idea that popped out of students from the University of Gies College of Business and WashU’s Olin School, offers up an online educational platform that teaches STEM literacy to K-12 deaf and hard of hearing students and their teachers.

“It’s really clever what they are doing to help these students learn words used in science and technology,” explains Villhard. “In a couple of years, one of them may cure an important disease just because they had the confidence to enter the field.”

WashU Olin’s BIG IdeaBounce® powered by Poets&Quants was open to all current undergraduate and graduate school students or any prospect interested in a graduate business school degree. You can watch their two-minute elevator pitches and read about their business plans in the following profiles.

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