January 6, 2022

NYU School of Professional Studies Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality’s New Innovation Incubator Announces the Winners of Its Inaugural “Pitch Your Passion & Seal the Deal” Competition

Designed to Identify and Fund Future Industry Innovators, the Competition Serves to Recognize and Support New Business Development Initiatives in a Rapidly Evolving Sector

NEW YORK, January 6, 2022 – While the pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the hospitality, tourism, and food and beverage sectors, it has not stifled the innovation needed to create new business ventures. In fact, it has fueled even greater resourcefulness, creativity, and entrepreneurship. This was evident in the recent announcement of the inaugural “Pitch Your Passion & Seal the Deal” competition, hosted by the Hospitality Innovation Hub Incubator within the Hospitality Innovation Hub (HI Hub) of the NYU School of Professional Studies Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality. While the Tisch Center is well known across the industry and around the world, its HI Hub was just launched in late August 2021, and serves as a place to convene industry professionals, entrepreneurs, and students with ideas for new ventures, while providing mentorship for NYU affiliated start-up businesses.

The “Pitch Your Passion & Seal the Deal” competition was designed to stimulate ideas for new industry innovation by cultivating a competitive process that ultimately identifies and funds fledging businesses in sectors that have needed to evolve overnight in order to not only survive, but thrive. “Through the new HI Hub and this competition, the Tisch Center of Hospitality has established itself as a place where innovation and entrepreneurship are front and center in serving the industry, our students, and emerging entrepreneurs who are using the disruption we are experiencing to their advantage,” said Nicolas Graf, Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality Chaired Professor and associate dean of the Tisch Center.

After receiving submissions for a number of promising start-ups, six finalists—DinesurfHotel+Kenta RamenOur Vintage EarthSwagger Gaming, and Urban Safe, were chosen by a group of industry experts who serve as advisers to the HI Hub along with Tisch faculty members and administrators—Kenta Ramen, which offers autonomous micro-retail for ready-to-eat, authentic Japanese ramen delivered within 45 seconds, won the first-place prize of $10,000.

“Automation in the industry is imminent. Ideally, Kenta Ramen will be like Sweetgreen or Shake Shack (but for gourmet ramen and Japanese cuisine) all delivered with sustainability, automation, and convenience,” said founder Daniel Liu, who graduated from the NYU School of Professional Studies MS in Management and Systems degree in 2019. “The mentorship provided by the HI Hub incubator program enabled our project to move forward in a variety of ways including establishing product-market fit, planning initial launch, and team building.”

The second- and third-place winners were DineSurf, a restaurant reservation platform for diners in Africa that helps them to find places to eat and provides a hassle-free reservation system, and Swagger, a sports prediction platform that empowers sports fans of all skill levels to predict live sports outcomes. They each received $5,000 in funding.

“The business sectors we serve have suffered some of the greatest losses during the pandemic, yet these industries are incredibly resilient in being able to reinvent themselves in new ways. The early success of the HI Hub and the incredible ideas generated by this competition are a testament to a growing and emerging group of entrepreneurs who have what it takes to rise above adversity and shape the future of this industry,” concluded Recep Karaburun, DPS, clinical assistant professor of hospitality and tourism, and director of the HI Hub Incubator at the Tisch Center. “We are looking forward to receiving many more innovative ideas from NYU students and alumni that we can work to bring to life through the Hospitality Innovation Hub Incubator. Our new spring cohort application is now open and NYU alumni and students can apply here.”

Press interested in covering this story and/or interviewing competition winners, please contact Alka Gupta at aag13@nyu.edu.

About the NYU SPS Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality
The NYU School of Professional Studies Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality, now celebrating 26 years of academic excellence, is a leading center for the study of hospitality, travel, and tourism. Founded in 1995, the Tisch Center was established in response to the growing need for hospitality and tourism undergraduate and graduate education. Its cutting-edge curricula attract bright, motivated students who seek to become leaders in their fields.

Through its undergraduate degree in hotel and tourism management, its graduate degrees in hospitality industry studies, tourism management, and event management; a plethora of Professional Pathways programs; and its world-renowned hospitality investment conference, students gain the knowledge and the skill sets that enable them to manage change, to communicate, to thrive in complex work environments, and to advance the businesses of hospitality, travel, and tourism. The Tisch Center recently launched the Hospitality Innovation Hub (HI Hub), which will foster entrepreneurship and creative solutions for the industries it serves. The state-of-the-art facilities offer students, start-ups, established industry partners, and investors opportunities to learn, discover, innovate, and invest.

For more information about the NYU SPS Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality, visit sps.nyu.edu/tisch.

About the NYU School of Professional Studies
Celebrating 87 Years of Excellence in Applied Professional Education

For 87 years, the NYU School of Professional Studies (NYU SPS) has been a deeply respected institution of higher education that is grounded in applied learning. From its early years, training returning World War II veterans to fulfill the nation’s urgent need for skilled technical workers, it has evolved into a professional education powerhouse that offers 22 graduate degrees, 14 bachelor’s degrees for traditional and post-traditional students, four associate’s degrees, and a plethora of continuing education courses and credentials.

NYU SPS is a thought leader, and serves as an incubator for new ideas in industries that are constantly changing, including real estate, real estate development, and construction management; hospitality, tourism, travel, and event management; global affairs and global security, conflict, and cybercrime; global sport and sports business; publishing; marketing; public relations; project management; executive coaching and organizational consulting, human resource management and development, and human capital analytics and technology; management and systems; translation; and professional writing. It is focused on building skills that open doors to opportunities in emerging fields and global markets. NYU SPS faculty members are leading experts in their areas of discipline, with a hands-on approach that encourages students to push beyond their limits and to break new ground.

Home to some of the largest and most prestigious industry conferences in the world, including the Schack Institute of Real Estate’s Capital Markets Conference, REIT Symposium, and National Symposium of Women in Real Estate; and the Jonathan M. Tisch Center’s International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference, the School’s invaluable connections to industry leaders is a truly distinguishing factor in the education that it provides. Through career development services and resources provided by the NYU Wasserman Center for Career Development at NYU SPS, guest lecturers, site visits, participation in numerous conferences and events, and Global Field Intensives, students benefit from an NYU education that will set them apart. In addition, they have the opportunity to learn from and network with more than 39,000 NYU SPS alumni who live, work, and contribute to innovation in industry around the world. To learn more about NYU SPS visit: sps.nyu.edu.

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Alka Gupta