Michael P. Kramer, co-founder of Regavi, shares takeaways from this year’s Student Startup Madness.

In December 2018, Washington University in St. Louis student entrepreneur Michael P. Kramer received the news that his college startup, Regavi, had been selected for the Student Startup Madness (SSM) starting field of 64. Student Startup Madness is kind of a big deal. It’s a tournament-style competition for college-student digital-media startups from all over the U.S. The tournament culminates in a national final that take place at South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive in March.

Six WashU startup founders, male and female, sit on a panel with projection screens behind them.
Kramer (second from left) joins a panel of fellow WashU startup founders at a Skandalaris Center National Council meeting.

In early January, Kramer, a 2018 graduate of Olin Business School and a master’s degree candidate in data analytics and statistics at the McKelvey School of Engineering, learned his company survived the first cut and made it to the field of 32 (SSM32). No small feat. Things were looking good.

But, alas, it wasn’t meant to be. In early February, Regavi’s journey came to an end when the team received notification it wasn’t among the final “Entrepreneurial Eight.”

Even though Regavi didn’t make it to the final round, making it to the field of 32 was an impressive accomplishment by Kramer and his fellow entrepreneurs. And, as with all experiences, there’s an opportunity to learn.

Here, Kramer and his teammates share the top three things they learned from their experiences as Student Startup Madness contenders:

1. Don’t be afraid to try again.

“As we come to the close of our second year of working on Regavi, we’ve had the opportunity to partake in an array of different competitions on multiple occasions. In our first year, we were selected for the Student Startup Madness field of 64, but not the field of 32. Advancing further this past year than we did in our first year in a multitude of these competitions is a testament to the progress we’ve made, as well as the refinement of our operations, our vision, and our ability to sell ourselves. We’ve learned a lesson in not giving up.”

2. It’s all about the team.

“One of the most consistent pieces of feedback we’ve gotten from competitions this year is how impressive our support network is. A year ago, Team Regavi was essentially my co-founder and chief product officer Jack Crawford and myself. Team Regavi now includes Hannah Gallagher, our chief operating officer; Michael Madden, head of cross-platform development; Radek Ostrowski, an industry-veteran chief technology officer; advisers in more structured roles; and a number of interns. Jack is a BA/MS student in Arts & Sciences and the McKelvey School of Engineering and Hannah is a JD candidate in the School of Law. Regavi’s intern program is currently comprised of seven first- and second-year WashU students who span academic disciplines.”

3. There’s no magic formula.

“We use a relatively standardized application across all of the competitions we apply to, and when we have received feedback what resonates with some judges has been criticized by others. Regardless of the merits of the business, without being on the judge’s side of the table, a venture team rarely knows what to emphasize in order to try and advance.

“There have been competitions in which we thought we were somewhat out of place entering that have been some of our greatest success stories. The best piece of advice we can offer for anyone looking to enter competitions like this is to submit the best pitch deck/business plan you can. Modifying your materials beyond what is specifically requested in the requirements of the competition is time that could be better spent improving a venture rather than trying to game the competition.”

Hear more from Michael about Regavi’s entrepreneurial journey at EQSTL.