This year, Isenberg Management major Curtis Owen’s passion for entrepreneurship and applied research made him an obvious choice as one of UMass Amherst’s five undergraduate Rising Researchers. A technology enthusiast and serial entrepreneur, Curtis is currently involved in three start-ups.
The first, NeuroCrunch, developed and distributes BigHippo, an Android app that allows consumers to organize and rapidly retrieve detailed information about personal contacts. As its Director of Market Development, Curtis conducted key marketing research and determined the technical architecture for the app’s first version.
In a second venture, Momba, which installs vending machines in dorms and other college venues, Curt created a marketing plan and led on-campus sales and marketing. Each Momba machine, he notes, offers an eclectic product mix in categories that include personal care and hygiene, technology and electronics, health care products, and even basic clothing.
In April of 2013, Curt and his team, Fetch Rewards, won the top ($30,000) prize in the UMass Amherst’s Innovation Challenge business plan competition. The start-up’s mobile phone app allows grocery shoppers to pay for items and access coupons by scanning bar codes with one’s smartphone camera.
With those experiences under his belt, Curt, a co-captain of the UMass men’s track team, has mentored fellow student entrepreneurs and worked with distressed small businesses in the local community. In October of 2013, after a dozen businesses perished in a fire in Hadley, the Isenberg senior wrote or edited four business plans to help some of them secure capital and get back on their feet.
“I was impressed by Curtis’s undaunted confidence—his belief that he could arrange meetings with the owners, learn about their needs, and construct business plans that would stand up to the scrutiny of bankers,” observed Commonwealth College dean Daniel Gordon.