LEAP Demo Day Recap

LEAP Demo Day was a success! Over 150 people came to LaunchHouse to see our nine teams of student startups give their first public pitches to the Cleveland entrepreneurial community. This event was the culmination of our accelerator, LEAP—the first of its kind in the country.

After 30 minutes of exclusive time for the press to interview the students, the audience shuffled into the back space. After speeches by Zach Schwartz, Bob Means, and Samir Amrania, a surprise video was shown to the audience: a personalized address to the LEAP 2013 students by none other than Senator Sherrod Brown himself.

“The LightHouse Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program equips some of the most talented students in Northeast Ohio with the tools needed to transform a good idea into the next great small business...LightHouse and LaunchHouse exemplify the very best of our great state.” - Senator Sherrod Brown

After the video, the students then began their pitches. They were critiqued after each presentation by a panel that included:

Bob Shearer, Former CEO and Chairman of Shearer’s Foods, the largest kettle potato chip manufacturer in the world.

Craig Stout, Founder of The Arminius Foundation and owner of the softball team Akron Racers.

John Zitzner, Founder of nationally acclaimed entrepreneurship program E-CITY & President of Breakthrough Schools.

Bill Trainor, Successful Venture Capitalist & Co-Founder of Mutual Capital Partners.

Nick Barendt, Executive at LeanDog, an Inc. 500 Fastest-Growing Company in America

John Dearborn, President of Jumpstart Inc, a nationally recognized nonprofit entrepreneurial incubator.

In addition to our distinguished panelists, other guests of the night included Earl Leiken, Mayor of Shaker Heights; Richard Pogue, former CEO of Jones Day (the third largest law firm in the world); John J. Boyle III, President of the Shaker Heights Development Corporation; and Greg Malkin, Inc Magazine’s 1994 Finalist for Entrepreneur of the Year and Director of University School’s prestigious Entrepreneurship Institute.

Our nine teams had come a long way from the beginning of the summer. Many of them had pivoted on their original ideas and emerged after six weeks with a totally different product. By the end, all nine of them had physical or digital products that they could show off. Four out of the nine teams were actually already grossing revenue. Below is a description of the nine, with links to their websites in their titles:

  1. InternsHS - a website that enables high school students to find and apply to internships in their area. Run by Bharath Katragadda and Shreyas Tallamraju of Solon High School.
  2. Shaker Mowers - a landscaping company that has over 50 customers and is rapidly hiring more employees to fill demand.. Run by James Caffrey and Kyle Whitlach of Shaker Heights High School.
  3. Shaker Web Design, LLC - an all-inclusive web design and web hosting company that is already grossing revenue. Run by Chris Hill of Gaitway High School.
  4. Spark Kit - a school supply company that delivers school supply packages to students, parents and teachers prior to the beginning of school. Run by Felix Benenson and John Liu of University School.
  5. Tear-a-Top - a children's toy company that creates disposable patterned paper rolls for tables that children can play games on and draw on. Run by Owen Shome, Will Taber, and Matt Yopko of University School.
  6. Vexum Supply - An alternative/action sports clothing label that is already grossing revenue and is sold in several area stores. Run by Jacob Roscoe of Solon High School.
  7. Chicken Coup Studios - A video game development studio that is currently creating a remake of Donkey Kong. Run by Patrick Pastore and Charlie Hummel of Shaker Heights High School.
  8. YouCue TV - A digital media streaming box that offers channels, video games, and even exclusive YouTube content on its platform. Already grossing revenue through its web division and was recently featured on Startup Weekend. Run by Philip Hedayatnia of Hawken School and Megan Porter of Gilmour School.
  9. Surge Athletics - A sports drink company that bottles and sells a drink, Pickelyte, that incorporates the health benefits of pickle brine along with other vitamins and nutrients. Run by Eric Goldberg, Anthony Rizkala, and Rushil Shah of Solon High School.

After their pitches, the students were presented with certificates recognizing their completion of the LEAP program. They then proceeded to give their product demos in the front area of LaunchHouse. Two of the teams ended up actually being approached by investors.


The event got an overwhelmingly positive response from the attendees, and many affirmed our vision that we had when we launched last summer: that high school students could not only be good, but great entrepreneurs. For more photos of the event, check out the Facebook album here.

Thank you to everyone who attended! And remember: if you’re interested in supporting this program, please contact us! We’re always looking for future sponsors of LEAP.

Selected Coverage of LEAP Demo Day

First-Ever High School Accelerator Program Graduates Nine Young Entrepreneurs (Fresh Water Cleveland)

Solon Students “LEAP” into summer business venture on “Demo Day” at Shaker LaunchHouse (cleveland.com via Sun News)

Mayfield Heights Teen Presents Business to Investors in Shaker (Mayfield-Hillcrest Patch)

LightHouse LEAP Program Demo Day (Solomon Succeeds)

15-year-old Launches His Own Media-Based Business (Strongsville Patch)