About Us

The Duke Start-Up Challenge is an entrepreneurship competition that runs the course of the academic year, from November to April. The competition includes an Elevator Pitch Competition in November, an Executive Summary Competition in February, a Business Plan Competition in March and the DSC Grand Finale in April. Refer to the calendar below for the key events and dates.  Several cash and in-kind prizes are awarded to participants in every phase of the Duke Start-Up Challenge. Teams are also provided with feedback at every phase by a panel of reputed judges, to help them progress to the next stages of the Duke Start-Up Challenge and beyond.  The Duke Start-Up Challenge was founded in 1999 by an ambitious group of Duke students. Read more about our history and our past results.

Competition Tracks
There are five functional tracks (i.e. tracks corresponding to industry areas) and two special interest tracks. Each participating team can compete in up to three tracks; one functional, and two special interest tracks. The tracks for the are the following:

 Functional Tracks Special Interest Tracks
1) Energy & Environment
2) Healthcare & Life Sciences
3) IT, Internet & Media
4) Social Enterprises (including non-profits)
5) Other Products & Services (a catch-all for ideas that don't fit the other functional tracks)
1) Undergraduate-led Startups (led by and originated by a current Duke undergraduate)
2) Women-led Startups (led by and originated by a Duke woman)
3) International Startups (focused on or based in international locations)

2011 - 2012 Organizing Committee

Olgun Kukrer
Fuqua, Class of 2012
Duke University, 2000

Vidhan Agrawal
Duke University, Pratt School of Engineering, Class of  2012. 

Vidhan is a senior majoring in Biomedical Engineering and Economics. He comes from New Delhi, India and has been in interested in business since he was a child. He is also the President of The Duke Entrepreneur, the undergraduate entrepreneurship club of Duke and a Co-Founder and a student advisor to theDuke Venture Capital Club. He has worked at a RTP based start-up called Affinergythis past summer, and also co founded a tutoring non profit dedicated to connecting underserved students to organizations that would provide these services. Vidhan is tremendously interested in start-ups, small businesses, venture capital and international development. Vidhan also enjoys reading, playing golf and cricket, photography and playing the piano. Contact Vidhan at vidhan.agrawal@duke.edu

Nancy Fechnay

Duke University, Fuqua School of Business, Class of 2014 
Duke University, Nicholas School of the Environment, Class of 2014
University of Virginia, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, 2008

Nancy is a first-year in Duke’s joint MEM/MBA degree program. She is concentrating in energy, entrepreneurship and finance. Nancy is interested in venture capital and private equity investments in the cleantech sector. Nancy’s past employers include SAIL Capital Partners, ICF International, and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Contact Nancy at nancy.fechnay@fuqua.duke.edu.

Meghan Pelley     

Duke University, The Fuqua School of Business, Class of 2013
Georgetown University, Class of 2005

Meghan is a first year student at Fuqua. She is part of the Program for Entrepreneurs and a member of Fuqua's Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Club extended cabinet. Prior to Fuqua, Meghan worked as an analyst in Private Wealth Management at Morgan Stanley and Barclays Wealth. In these roles she interacted with private clients who had successful careers as entrepreneurs, which inspired her to focus on entrepreneurship at Duke. She is interested in start-ups and social entrepreneurship. Meghan's other passions include design thinking, photography, and skiing. 

Contact Meghan at meghan.pelley@fuqua.duke.edu

Chris Radford

Duke University, Pratt School of Engineering, Class of  2012. 

Dovina Qu
Duke University, Pratt School of Engineering, Class of  2012. 

Dovina is a senior, majoring in Biomedical Engineering, with a minor in Chemistry. She first became involved with entrepreneurship at Duke as a competitor in the 2009-10 Duke Start-Up Challenge, in which she and her team placed as semi-finalists. Additionally, she serves as an advisor to The Duke Entrepreneur, and as Vice President of Marketing & Communications to the International Association. In addition to entrepreneurship, Dovina is also passionate about research, and is currently a Pratt Engineering Undergraduate Fellow in Dr. Lori Setton's lab. Contact Dovina atdovinaqu@gmail.com


Howie Rhee

Howie is the Managing Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.  In his role, Howie develops and maintains the relationship between the Center and the entrepreneurial community both locally and globally.  Howie received his MBA from Fuqua and B.S. from MIT.  He has been advising the Duke Start-Up Challenge since joining the CEI in 2007.

Advisory Board

Sean Knowles

Past President 2008-2009
Prior to Fuqua, Sean worked on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. serving as a special assistant to U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.  Sean also served on the Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (a subcommittee of the United States Senate Appropriations Committee).  Sean's experience allocating $50 billion for the U.S. Defense Department has prepared him for his difficult role allocating $50k as part of the Duke Start-Up Challenge.  Sean received a Bachelor of Business Administration from Texas Tech University.  

Tim Canavan
Past President 2010-2011
Tim is passionate about changing the way we use energy and water. He was a joint Master's student at Duke.     He earned an MBA from Fuqua and an MEM focused on energy from the Nicholas School of the Environment. Tim was involved with the Duke Start-Up Challenge for all of his three years at Duke, acting as the judging chair (2009), co-president (2011), and fundraiser (2012). Prior to Duke, he spent nearly four years as a Senior Analyst of the VC/PE industry at Cambridge Associates. 

Meghan Gallagher
Past President 2010-2011
Meghan works in the Technology, Media & Telecom Investment Banking group at Credit Suisse.  During her first year at Fuqua, Meghan was a part of the Program for Entrepreneurs. Prior to Fuqua, Meghan spent nearly three years in the Private Placements and Healthcare Investment Banking groups at Cowen and Company in New York.  Before joining Cowen, she spent over a year in equity research at CIBC World Markets covering media companies.  Contact Meghan at meghan.gallagher@fuqua.duke.edu.

Shalav Gupta

Past President 2009-2010
Shalav was a finalist in the 2008 Duke Start-Up Challenge with his team GrowthTree. Prior to Fuqua, Shalav worked at Capgemini in the UK, helping clients implement strategic performance management frameworks like the Balanced Scorecard. Prior to Capgemini Shalav worked as a Project Manager at British Telecom in the UK. Shalav received a Bachelor of Technology in Computer Science and Engineering from the International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad, India.  

Heesun Lho
Heesun is currently the Project Manager at YouNoodle, a startup based in San Francisco focused on building a meaningful platform for entrepreneurs around the world. Working closely with product and large-scale campaigns, Heesun helps develop YouNoodle's technology as well as implement and support entrepreneurship programs. Heesun received her M.A. in Education and B.A. in Human Biology from Stanford University, where she also served as Co-President of BASES (Business Association of Stanford Entrepreneurial Students). Heesun is an advisor for BASES as well as Duke Startup Challenge, and was a member of the World Student Organizing Committee for the Education Without Borders 2009 conference in Dubai.

Steven Pal

Past President 2009-2010
Prior to Fuqua, Steve worked at several start-ups in Silicon Valley, including Babycenter.com and Merced Systems, an enterprise software company.  Steve helped Merced grow from 15 people to over 150 via his contributions in sales, marketing, and business consulting.  Steve also spent several years in consulting at Sapient delivering technology solutions for financial services firms.  After his first year at Fuqua, Steve spent a summer with Flywheel Ventures, a seed and early-stage venture capital fund.  Steve received a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley.  Twitter: @steven_pal.

Mike Pisetsky
Past President 2006-2008
Mike is an associate in the Emerging Companies and Securities Regulation practice group and a member of the Cooley Business department. He joined the Firm in 2008 and is resident in the Palo Alto office.

Mr. Pisetsky practices general securities and corporate law, with an emphasis on emerging growth companies, venture capital funds, private and public equity financings, mergers and acquisitions and SEC reporting.

Mr. Pisetsky received a J.D., magna cum laude, from Duke University School of Law and an MBA from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. Prior to his graduate study, Mr. Pisetsky was a management consultant at Mercer Management Consulting, now Oliver Wyman, in San Francisco. Mr. Pisetsky received an A.B. cum laude in Applied Math & Economics from Harvard College.