Finalists Selected for MICA’s 2018 Up/Start Venture Competition

Eight creative entrepreneurs will compete for $100K in funding on April 4

On Friday, Feb. 2, eight finalists for the third annual UP/Start Venture Competition were selected from over 20 applicants representing 15 undergraduate and graduate programs following their presentations at a “pop up and pitch” event at MICA.

Their business ventures represent a diverse range of industries and ideas, including sustainable furniture production, virtual art gallery and sales, indie game development, multimedia production and medical illustration, among others.

Seed funding totaling $100,000, funded with support from the Philip E. and Carol R. Ratcliffe Foundation, will be allocated to the finalists who present the most compelling and innovative entrepreneurial ventures at a finale event on Wednesday, April 4, at MICA’s Falvey Hall, Brown Center, 1301 W. Mt. Royal Ave.

2018 UP/Start finalists include:

The Longform, a subscription-based content provider covering video games, comics and related media. Founded by Interactive Arts B.F.A. students J.S. Gleason and Ash Turner along with Nick Clinkscales ’17 (Interactive Arts B.F.A.).

Chameleon Gallery, which focuses on exhibiting, promoting, distributing and selling virtual artwork using blockchain technology and cryptocurrency for sales. Founded by LeRoy E. Hoffberger School of Painting M.F.A. student Yi-An Pan and Mount Royal School of Art M.F.A. student Haoran Chang.

Boba Studios, which creates games that combine the novel concepts, polished production and a high replay value of major studio titles with the handcrafted feel and price point of indie games. Founders include Ashley Guchhait ’17 (Interactive Arts B.F.A.), Donald Boose ’17 (Interactive Arts B.F.A.), Animation B.F.A. student Kyrstin Cooksey and T.J. Martin.

Social Butterfly, founded by Christina Hyrkas ’17 (Graphic Design B.F.A.), is a collection of party products, such as napkins, cups and balloons, which are designed with a lighthearted tone to take the anxiety out of social gatherings.

Rising Action Studio, which helps change makers and nonprofits tell imaginative, inspiring and ethical stories about social impact movements around the world, was founded by M.A. in Social Design student Ashley Eberhart.

VellPapel is a creator of low-cost and environmentally sustainable furniture dedicated to providing short-term living solutions. The product line focuses on furniture made out of cardboard for minimal environmental impact. Founded by M.B.A./M.A. Design Leadership student Brent Aguilar and Jennifer Smith.

Fairman Studios, founded by Jennifer Fairman ’17 (Business of Art and Design M.P.S.), produces visual communications for the health sciences industry, and is launching a new website,, which will enable clients to procure licenses to use their medical illustrations.

Pokdo Studio, founded by Paul Lai ’17 (Photography B.F.A.) and Fiber B.F.A. student Claire Cho, is a multifaceted media production company offering virtual reality, photography, audio/DJ, video and graphic design services.

The finalists were selected by a panel of judges comprised of local business and investment leaders, including Brian Ellis, director, Ratcliffe Foundation; Kohli Flick ’04 (Environmental Design B.F.A.), owner, Becket Hitch; Ken Malone, principal, Early Charm Ventures; Alex Riehm, director, Social Innovation Lab, Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures; and Angela Singleton, portfolio manager, TEDCO.

A key benefit to the program is that finalists are each paired with an industry leader or investor as a mentor to refine their business plans and presentation skills.

An initiative of MICApreneurship, spearheaded by the Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Career Development, UP/Start focuses on building creative business ventures within the College community, and provides capital and mentorship with industry partners to help nurture ideas into sustainable businesses. The competition is open to MICA students in the class of 2018 and alumni from the class of 2017.