Judges

From left, the judges at this year's StartUp competition: Giana Jarrah '22, founder of Meraki Co. and last year's grand prize winner; Rich Thompson, entrepreneur and founder of Factory LLC; Sue Yee, founder and CEO of Active Data and George Lewis, senior assistant to the president and CEO of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation. Photo by Ryan Fisher, Lehigh Valley Photography Group.

Lehigh Student Wins Several Awards in Entrepreneurial Pitch Competition

Dulra Amolegbe ’26 created the start-up, Dot, that offers immigrant students a way to make cashless transactions.

Story by

Christina Tatu

A Lehigh University student took home several prizes totaling $7,500 during the Fifth Annual StartUp Lehigh Valley Entrepreneurial Pitch Competition on Wednesday (Oct. 25) at Factory LLC, an investment company in Bethlehem.

Abdulrasaq “Dulra” Amolegbe ’26 took home a $500 LaunchBox Boost Award, a $2,000 second Runner Up Founder’s Award, and $5,000 from Ben Franklin Tech Ventures of Northeast Pennsylvania for the fin-tech startup company Dot.

A total of $33,000 in prizes were awarded to several contestants. Jonathan Maderic, owner of JMAD Creations LLC of Bethlehem, won the top prize of $20,000.

The competition is similar to the TV show Shark Tank where contestants have only two minutes to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges. After all the contestants have pitched, judges select the winners and the audience votes for an Audience Choice Award winner.

One of the prizes included six months of mentorship with Lehigh Ventures Lab, powered by the Lehigh College of Business and Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity & Innovation. Last year, Lehigh University alumna Giana Jarrah ’22 won the $20,000 grand prize for her startup With Merakai Co. that developed a women’s urinary and vaginal probiotic.

Maderic designed a product to better measure pulse and oxygen in people with darker skin. In addition to the grand prize, he also won the six-month mentorship with Lehigh Ventures Lab.

The event was sponsored and run by Lehigh University in partnership with Factory LLC. Entrepreneurs came from as far as California to participate.

Dulra

Abdulrasaq “Dulra” Amolegbe ’26 accepts a check during the Fifth Annual StartUp Lehigh Valley Entrepreneurial Pitch Competition. Photo by Emily Collins.

“I’m grateful,” Amolegbe said, upon receiving the $5,000 prize.

“It’s definitely going to go a long way in helping us to overcome some of the regulatory challenges,” said Amolegbe, adding that the money will help his company grow, “quickly, steadily and surely.”

Dot, a fin-tech startup company, offers a platform for cashless transactions to immigrant students in Africa. Amolegbe began developing the company in 2021. Originally from Nigeria, he attended the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa, a two-year educational institution with students from 46 African countries.

During his time in South Africa, Amolegbe and his friends learned they had to carry and use only cash when away from their home country because bank accounts, credit and debit cards are not valid outside the country where they are issued. This means students have to bring all the cash with them that they think they will need, which is difficult, risky and costly.

Amolegbe founded Dot in order to solve that problem by creating a cash-to-cashless digital experience for immigrant students in Africa. Through a network of financial and technology partners, Dot will provide a digital wallet, offer a virtual Mastercard and instant peer-to-peer transfers without needing an in-country bank account or credit/debit card.

There are 54 countries in Africa with 42 currencies, Amolegbe said during Wednesday’s competition. Dot has been in the private testing phase and released a new version of the Dot app last week. The reason it has not gone public yet is because it is awaiting approvals from Microsoft and Mastercrad, he said. Amolegbe hopes to go live with the platform next year.

Other winners on Wednesday included April Schiel of MuckMeister Enterprises LLC, based out of Zionville, who won a $3,000 Founders Award and the $1,000 Audience Choice Award for her “bedding blocker” to help keep animal bedding inside stalls. Alex Wesley, of Arovia Inc., a display company based out of Texas, took home $3,000 as the first runner up.

Judges included Sue Yee '82, the founder and CEO of Active Data; Rich Thompson, an entrepreneur and founder of Factory LLC; George Lewis, senior assistant to the president and CEO at the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, and Jarrah, who won last year’s grand prize.

Thompson said he was most impressed by the contestants’ enthusiasm.

“At the end of the day, they got up there and they all believed in themselves…Just getting on stage and getting the confidence and talking and having exposure is really, really important for an entrepreneur,” he said.

Jarrah said she also was impressed by the contestants’ confidence and spoke about how her time with the Baker Institute helped transform her from a biomedical engineer to an entrepreneur. She said the experience was “so impactful.”

“You build that forever-long mentorship from Lehigh University, and I”m so thankful to have that to this day,” Jarrah said.

Story by

Christina Tatu

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