In October 2016, Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne hosted the first ever Shark Tank: Transportation Edition! Competition as part of the Virginia Governor’s Transportation Conference. The Governor’s Conference Shark Tank was as set up much like the one many are familiar with from television: 5 leather chairs for sharks, a red rug for entrepreneurs pitching their ideas, and in between them an elegant coffee table. However, in this Shark Tank, the entrepreneurs were made up exclusively of students from Virginia colleges and universities, and the sharks were public officials with up to $15,000 total to “offer” students. Each student entrepreneur had 3 minutes to pitch their transportation-related idea and 5 minutes for Q&A before the sharks were asked to make their offers.
One of the eight student entrepreneurs selected to participate in the event was an undergraduate student from Mason’s Sid and Reva Dewberry Department of Civil, Environmental and Infrastructure Engineering. “My idea is called Peloton, and it’s a mobile app that incentivizes bike riding,” Kristine Mosuela described. “Very simply, it’s like a credit card rewards program, but instead of getting points for purchases, you get points for bike riding.” The idea came from a project in Professor Viviana Maggioni’s Environmental Engineering and Science course, where student teams were tasked with generating an environmentally-friendly invention. The idea was further developed in collaboration with another civil engineering student, Jared Keller (BS’16), during the annual Classroom2Makers Week seminar. In this semester-long seminar, students learn about entrepreneurship and are mentored by various Mason professors. The seminar concludes with a week-long workshop inside the MIX@InnovationHall incubator space. Ms. Mosuela continued developing the design and researching the feasibility of launching the mobile app at Mason through an OSCAR Undergraduate Research Scholars Program grant. “When I learned about the Shark Tank: Transportation Edition event, it seemed like a perfect fit. We could get some more funding for a working prototype, and I could also practice my pitching skills and get some feedback on the app design and business model.”
The ideas proposed for the Virginia Governor’s Transportation Conference’s first-ever Shark Tank ranged from a dynamic car charging technology pitched by a PhD student at Virginia Tech to a safe ride home program pitched by a Tidewater Community College student. Each of the sharks had $3,000 and 8 contestants to consider. Ms. Mosuela’s idea won one of the top 3 largest prizes, with an offer of $1000 from Deputy Secretary of Transportation Grindly Johnson and $500 from Secretary of Education Dietra Trent.
Kristine Mosuela’s idea for an app to incentivize biking was inspired by her own attempts to commute 8 miles to the Mason campus.