It’s no secret that MSU produces some pretty remarkable students.  And this year, a team of four of them has advanced to the “Entrepreneurial Eight” in the finals of South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive’s “Student Startup Madness” tournament.  The students include Benjamin Ebert-Zavos, a senior in the Broad College of Business’s The School of Hospitality Business; Josh Leider, a senior Marketing major in the Broad College of Business; and Phil Getzen and Adam Proschek, both juniors in the College of Engineering.  According to tournament organizers, it “allows students to compete against fellow student entrepreneurs, grab the attention of potential investors and leaders in the startup community, and build an elite professional network. These elite college student startups will pitch their businesses to well-known investors and entrepreneurs who can help them transform their ideas into business success.” Just FYI, SXSW is the platform which launched Twitter and the app FourSquare.

The MSU team will showcase their product in March, an app called “TempoRun,” after making it through several rounds of competition. Two teams from each of the four regional groupings — Northeast, Southeast, Midwest and Southwest — will be in Austin, Texas, on March 11 to pitch before a judging panel of successful investors and entrepreneurs to compete for top honors and valuable technology tools provided by Google Developers.

The other teams come from UC Berkeley, Stanford, Emory, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, University of Texas at Austin, St. Louis University, and University of Illinois at Chicago, all notable competitors.   

Let’s set the stage.  For a runner, it’s a familiar scene:  you’re running along, feeling good, feet perfectly moving to the beat of the song you’re listening to.  Then a slower or a faster song comes on, and your pace is altered; you try to keep the same pace, but you can’t avoid matching your feet to the beat.  Now there’s a solution to controlling that pace.

“TempoRun will allow users to always run at a consistent and enjoyable pace, using music tempo as a guide,” explains Benny.  Especially important if you’re running outside, he says, “We give you the option to control the pace of your run by moving the tempo level of your music up or down.  The app scans a user’s smartphone music library and categorizes the music into different levels, based on tempo. So, if most exercise music playlists are scattered, with many different songs of many different tempos, TempoRun will organize it into levels 1-12, so every song on a certain level will be the same exact tempo.

It’s one thing to have a good idea.  It’s another to bring it to life.  And it’s another to communicate your product’s viability in a competitive setting.  The TempoRun team already won the Broad Pitch Contest on December 1, 2012, so hopes are high.

Benny explains, “Josh, TempoRun’s CEO and co-founder, and I learned about the Student Start-Up Madness Contest at SXSW through Paul Jaques, the director of student and community engagement at Spartan Innovations.  We lease an office space in The Hatch, East Lansing’s business incubator located on Grand River Avenue above the former Barnes and Noble store.”

A musician, Josh came up with the concept for TempoRun while he was listening to music during a run. Benny, a close friend since the first day of freshmen orientation at MSU, is a distance runner training for the Boston Marathon this spring.  The two approached Phil and Adam to craft the app.  As Benny says, “They are the ones breathing life into TempoRun.”

But teamwork is key, and all four would acknowledge that all their efforts have had great results thus far.  Best of luck to these creative, budding entrepreneurs.  Hopefully, MSU will be celebrating more than just basketball tournament victories in March!

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