TechPoint created the Student Entrepreneur of the Year Mira Award last year to recognize exceptional student startup founders and/or operators who looked outside the box, started something new and generated momentum for their concept. 


Kerry Ao was a senior in high school when he took home the inaugural Student of the Year award for his Intertwined Finance LLC, a financial literacy program that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help students learn. He followed that accolade up with a ranking on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. He is a 2024 Mira Rising Entrepreneur contender. 


This year’s five nominees for Student Entrepreneur of the Year are university or post-graduate students at four Indiana universities, and some, like Ao, are working on products rooted in their high school years.  


The 2024 nominees are focused on creating updated controllers for 3D software, providing products to help student athletes better deal with mental health issues, leveraging AI to address self-care needs, bringing a branded promotional product to the masses, and adding Black music curriculum to the mainstream for school bands and orchestras. 


They are:   

  • Charlie Edmonds, a PhD student at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington, created Pocket Methods to offer Black-music band and orchestra curriculum to schools that currently rely on predominantly White European, western classical instrumental music.

    Charlie Edmonds
  • Emma Evanko, a senior at Butler University in Indianapolis, channeled her experiences and awareness of often unaddressed mental health challenges for athletes. She created the Athlete’s Mental Playbook to give student athletes a set of tools and a safe way for them to share struggles and focus on their mental well-being as a person first and an athlete second.

    Emma Evanko
  • Matt Gacek, a sophomore at Indiana University-Bloomington, offers an app to encourage more men and marginalized groups to seek mental health and self-care treatment. Theia, Ai Therapy & Growth uses responsive AI to gather information, track mood shifts and recognize patterns in users’ communication styles, stated goals, daily ups and downs to create uplifting, individualized recommendations.

    Matt Gacek
  • Jacob Mills, a junior at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville, founded Antidote Electronics while at Westfield High School. His computer controller brings 3D computer interaction into the Digital Age. He launched it at the Computer Electronics Show this year.

    Jacob Mills
  • Lextin Willis, a sophomore at Taylor University in Upland, took CordPucks, a product created as a group high school project and launched a business to make and sell the branded promotional product that stores, protects and easily transports cords. He has pitched to companies like Fanatics, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Barilla and Caterpillar and earned more than $6,000 in profits.
    Lextin Willis



Award winners will be announced at the 25th annual TechPoint Mira Awards gala Friday, April 26, 2024, at the Old National Centre in Indianapolis. The event is presented by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, Salesforce and a host of the state’s most innovative companies, universities and organizations.   See that growing list, learn more and get your tickets here.