September 17, 2014  

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Southern Miss Marketing Students Part of Winning Startup Team

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Members of the winning team in the Startup Weekend competition included, from left to right: John Dolan, Mikel Mangipano, Chelsea Thomas, Bryan Tenort, Craig Kinsley and Valerie Blakey. (Submitted photo)

University of Southern Mississippi marketing seniors Chelsea Thomas and Mikel Mangipano were part of a team that captured first place honors in the 2nd Annual Startup Weekend competition held Jan. 18-20 in Jackson, Miss.

Thomas and Mangipano joined forces with four other budding entrepreneurs to form AudiTour™, a mobile application that allows a user to not only experience, but also help create an audio journey comprised of stories, facts, history, urban legends and guides – all based on geographic location.

“When they called our name I really could not believe it,” said Thomas, a Carriere, Miss., native. “I just remember being so happy that one of my best friends, Mikel, was there with me to humbly accept our victory. I couldn’t stop smiling.”

Sponsored by Innovate Mississippi, Startup Weekend is an intense 54-hour event that operates worldwide and brings together like-minded entrepreneurs for a weekend of company creation. An event for entrepreneurs to pitch software or internet-based business concepts, Startup Weekend collaborates with serial entrepreneurs, programmers, developers, graphic artists and business-minded people to build and develop ideas.

The weekend begins with aspiring entrepreneurs pitching their proposals to the group, which then votes for the most promising 10 to 15 ideas. The group divides into small teams and spends the rest of the weekend focusing on a single business idea and developing a proof of concept, demo or finished product. 

Mangipano, a New Orleans native, said the experience taught him the importance of collaboration and teamwork.

“No matter where you work or what you do, there will be diversity, so you always need to keep an open mind, stay kind and never take things people say too personally,” said Mangipano. “This always helps me bring my best self to the table with what I have to offer. It wasn’t just pure luck that we won – it was when our knowledge met the opportunity.”

The pair got the idea to attend and participate in Startup Weekend from Dr. Jamye Foster, assistant professor of marketing at Southern Miss. Mangipano and Thomas both took Foster’s creative marketing class and also serve as officers in the Southern Miss chapter of the American Marketing Association.

“Not only did Chelsea and Mikel help develop a winning business start-up while networking with influential people from around the region, they also came back with a heightened enthusiasm for marketing,” said Foster. “From what I see, this is an event we need to encourage students to attend every year.”