Pirates Pitch: Training app, virtual reality arcade head list of winners at Seton Hall

11th annual pitch competition awards $16K in seed funding to 4 finalists

Nicholas Marinelli gave himself a goal when he enrolled at Seton Hall University in the fall of 2017.

“When I was a freshman, I made it a personal goal to create a startup before I graduated,” he said.

Marinelli more than accomplished the feat.

Earlier this month, Marinelli was the big winner at the 11th annual Pirates Pitch Startup Contest, where university student entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to compete for over $16,000 in venture capital seed funding in an event sponsored by Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Stillman School of Business.

Marinelli was awarded $7,000 for his Extra Time Training App, which allows soccer players to train smarter, harder and more efficiently on a cutting-edge platform that tracks their tactical and fundamental performances. Marinelli also earned the $500 Audience Choice Award.

Marinelli, a senior from Staten Island, is pursuing a dual degree in finance and information technology, along with certificates in market research, data analytics, entrepreneurship and leadership.

He said he was grateful for the award. But, more than that, grateful for the opportunity.

“The Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and alumni have been incredibly helpful in being mentors for this program and is truly setting me up on the path to success,” he said.

Marinelli was one of four winners in a contest that started with approximately two dozen entrees.

David Farrelly won $5,000 in seed funding for his business venture Action Hearth, which is a virtual reality arcade. It exists to provide virtual reality entertainment to inspire confidence and promote optimism in people’s everyday lives.

“I am a big fan of virtual reality gaming, but the expense of VR headsets and related equipment is out of the reach of most teens and young adults in my target market,” he said. “Action Hearth is reinventing the gaming arcade with popup storefronts and mobile models that can reach a wide array of consumers at a lower cost and with social distancing.”

Christian Patlan, founder of the Kevin Alexander Co., plans to design and sell male cosmetic tools that help men with skin imperfections, blemishes and unwanted tattoos feel more confident. He was awarded $3,000 to help launch his idea. Patlan is from Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico, and has lived in California and Utah since immigrating to the United States.

“Our mission is to break the taboo of cosmetics for men by offering discreet and innovative male cosmetic tools designed to help men feel comfortable in who they are and what they look like,” he said.

Annabella Robb was awarded $1,000 for her business known as Annabellacures. It is a custom press-on nail business that offers trending nail designs, character nails and even portrait nails. The business was launched in September 2020, offering luxury hand-painted designs without the high price.

“This experience has really pushed me to look at the logistics behind my business and I’m really grateful for that,” she said. “It is a fast-paced program that has been both challenging and rewarding.”

The four also will receive pro bono legal services from attorneys Christopher Santomassimo and Anthony Davis and their staff at Santomassimo Davis LLC, a law firm with offices located in Parsippany.

Furthermore, to encourage the student entrepreneurs to continue to develop their startup business models, each finalist can earn an additional $1,500 in venture seed capital by participating and successfully completing the eight-week Pirates Launch Pad virtual summer accelerator program. This workshop, hosted by the Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, is a way for budding entrepreneurs to get their businesses rolling.

Susan Scherreik, the founding director of the Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, said she was overwhelmed with the level of the pitches — especially during a year where so much was done remotely.

“These young entrepreneurs demonstrated passion and drive as they overcame many obstacles to compete in Pirates Pitch,” she said. “That growth is a reflection of both the limitless creativity and ingenuity of Seton Hall students and the planning and support of all of those involved.”

At the event, the students pitched live in the virtual format, and then fielded questions from four alumni investor judges:

  • Bryan Jakovcic ’09, owner and president, Fusion Health;
  • Abe Kasbo, CEO of Verasoni Worldwide and chair of the board of advisers for the Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship;
  • Pravina Raghavan ’01, executive vice president, Division of Small Business and Community Economic Development at Empire State Development;
  • Gabino Roche Jr. ’98, founder and CEO, Saphyre.