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Drew University Student Earns a Top Spot in 2024 Statewide Collegiate Startup Competition

Luis Enrique Lopez Rios C’24 won UPitchNJ’s Best Early Stage Startup prize

April 2024 – Luis Enrique Lopez Rios C‘24 received one of five top prizes in the finals of UPitchNJ, a statewide collegiate startup competition sponsored by Nokia Bell Labs.

In his presentation at NJIT, Lopez Rios pitched Scholasto, his education startup idea with roots in the Drew classroom. The pitch earned him the competition’s Best Early Stage Startup honor, which comes with a $1,500 prize. 

Lopez Rios, a startup veteran, is a founding team member and executive at Keto Kare, a plant-based keto shake for cancer and diabetes patients. Last month, the team won the 2024 Nestlé Health Science Innovate Forward: The Longevity Challenge and is working on partnering with Nestlé. They were also Harvard’s 2021 i3 Innovation Awards winners and 2022 Harvard Business School President’s Awards finalists (Top 5/300 in the open track).

Then, Lopez Rios turned his attention to education, where he has long advocated for increased access and financial literacy training for marginalized communities in Mexico. His startup idea, Scholasto, is a natural evolution of his lifelong interest in promoting Mexican scholarship and culture worldwide.

The idea stemmed from Drew’s The Work of Innovation: Creating Organizations That Solve Problems (BST 366) course, where students are asked to read Peter Thiel’s book, Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, and create a unique business idea.

Lopez Rios’ Scholasto idea centers around a nonprofit that matches students in Mexico—who can neither afford nor are eligible for secondary education—with individual donors via a peer-to-peer app. With only a fraction of the eligible student population in Mexico currently attending college, the app would provide a path to education for millions of young adults. 

Competing in UPitchNJ has been a challenge inside and outside of the classroom but definitely a very enriching experience where I could apply the knowledge I have adopted through my high school and college years, specifically on entrepreneurship,” said Lopez Rios.

“Regardless of the result in the final, representing Drew while giving back to my community in Mexico is a true honor. As a true advocate of education in marginalized communities, helping a single student would make my dream come true.”

During the competition, students have five minutes to pitch their ideas, followed by a five-minute Q&A session with judges from Nokia Bell Labs. Pitch contestants must outline a problem complete with supporting data and provide an innovative solution to address the issue. In addition, students present a go-to-market strategy, revenue model, evidence of market validation, and competitor analysis.

Sarah Abramowitz, John H. Evans Professor and Chair of Business, explained, “[Adjunct Assistant Professor of Business Studies] Ann Mills is incorporating immersive teaching strategies in BST 366, and her students are benefitting. Luis is a talented student who knows how to make the most of his opportunities.”

“I want to thank Professor Mills and my Nokia Bell Labs mentor, Kelly Wang, for their continued support and guidance through this competition,” added Lopez Rios.

Following graduation, Lopez Rios will continue his education and start his MBA track at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, pursuing a Master’s in Management.

To learn more about the Drew business track, please visit here.

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