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Spartan Entrepreneur to Compete in ‘Entrepreneurial Eight’ at SXSW

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A Michigan State University student entrepreneur earned a ticket to South by Southwest, or SXSW, after his business was selected among the “Entrepreneurial Eight” in the Student Startup Madness National Championship finals.

Josh Cooper, a sophomore advertising management major and member of MSU Hatch, founded SKOOP, a pedicab company that combines people-moving and micro-advertising for local and national brands. Cooper is the only finalist from a Big Ten school.

Photo of student Josh Cooper

MSU Student, Josh Cooper

“We’ve been working hard as a team,” Cooper said. “For me, it’s exciting to finally get an opportunity to share a little bit about what we’ve been working so hard on.”

In East Lansing, SKOOP offers a free ride on pedicabs that carry a digital video display, offering targeted ads to students and the community. Newer pedicabs will have passenger-facing digital advertising, Cooper said, and SKOOP plans to expand its fleet statewide. A photo of a pedicab by startup company Skoop, similar to a rickshaw with digital advertising

The venture aims to solve two problems at once. It gives commuters a new, free option for micromobility — short trips where a car would be impractical — and offers businesses targeted advertising.

“This year’s teams seem focused on solving big, important problems,” said Sean Branagan, director of the Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Syracuse University, who founded Student Startup Madness in 2012. “These students don’t just want to build a company; they want to start businesses that help build community or solve social problems. I am excited to see them pitch and hear their stories.”

The competing student startups, representing colleges from across the country, entered Student Startup Madness last fall, with the first round of 64 startups being winnowed down to a round of 32, and then the current eight.

The finalists will pitch to a panel of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and investors during SXSW on March 11.

Before the finals, SXSW will provide each team with coaching from industry veterans with backgrounds in media, advertising, technology and more.

“The MSU community, and especially MSU Hatch, has been incredibly supportive in helping me to be on a course to allow me to mentally manage running a rapidly-growing business while pursuing a degree,” Cooper said.

 — Omar Sofradzija and Aaryn Richard via MSU Today

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