iVenture experience bolsters Menu3’s plans to alter restaurant menus

Following two years of junior college, Patryk Swietek could not wait to arrive at Gies College of Business before making plans for his time here.

Menu3 iVenture 1Prior to stepping foot on campus, this self-proclaimed perfectionist made a checklist of items he wanted to accomplish. Swietek’s (Pictured second from right) inclination to do so stemmed from the fact that he only had two short years ahead of him before graduation.

Based off his list, he’s applied to business fraternities, enrolled in clubs like Founders and EntreCORPS, took a trip to Israel – which devoted a half day to learning about startup companies – and even participated in a hip hop class.

His most significant plan, though, hatched before he thought it would.

“The iVenture Accelerator was on my scope of things to do before I even started here,” said Swietek, an Information Systems senior. “I’ve known for a little while now that I want to pursue entrepreneurship, but I thought it would take a little while to start on a project worthy of iVenture.

“Within my first week of school, though, I met my co-founder.”

Connecting Gies Business students to organizations throughout campus, which foster and promote specific interests, is one way to help them fulfill the potential of their own big ideas.

Founders is a student entrepreneurship organization, while EntreCORPS is a student consultant group focused on marketing strategy, financial analysis and digital design. And iVenture is an educational accelerator for top student startup companies.

“Our primary purpose as educators is to place the resources at our students’ fingertips to produce leaders in the field who are equipped to take on any challenge,” said Jeffrey R. Brown, Dean and Josef and Margot Lakonishok Professor of Business. “Understanding what it takes to innovate in business comes through a combination of teachings in the classroom and first-hand activities that encourage consistent growth from our students.

“Efforts like the iVenture Accelerator exemplify this, because it connects our Gies Business students with colleagues throughout the university who strive to push the needle forward.”

Swietek does exactly that with co-founder Viktor Makarskyy, an Engineering Physics senior in the College of Engineering.

Their initial discussion the first week Swietek was on campus went well. Their differences, as business and engineering students, didn’t matter. In fact, that proved beneficial. Each person found that one’s strength complemented the other’s, and soon an informal partnership began.

Makarskyy had already developed a lot of what became their first edition of an augmented reality app. This app led to a startup company formed last October called Menu3.

Menu3 iVenture 2Their goal is to alter the way people interact with restaurant menus.

The app allows customers to view a digital menu that features a 3D overlay of a dish through the phone camera. This provides visual appeal and can help people better understand portion sizes.

“As Viktor explained his model to me, it clicked to me immediately. I thought this was something he could sell,” Swietek said.
After further development, they did just that.

Swietek’s first restaurant partner became Champaign’s Maize. They’ve since added Paris Super Crepes.

The product was going through a few transformations when the two leaders of Menu3 joined the iVenture Accelerator this summer.

Swietek and Makarskyy found motivation from the funding and guidance provided. Their effort was also stabilized with the addition developer PongPon Tienthong as a third co-founder. Despite starting a little bit after the first two co-founders and graduating this summer from Gies Business in Technology Management, Tienthong will remain an important cog in this machine.

According to Noah Isserman – Gies Business Visiting Assistant Professor as well as iVenture director and co-founder – the growth Menu3 sustained is a perfect illustration of what’s possible through the accelerator.

“Patryk and the Menu3 team exemplify iVenture’s distinctive, community-focused approach to entrepreneurship,” Isserman said. “They genuinely care about their fellow iVenture entrepreneurs, and support them with advice on the issues they face – from how to structure mobile app development timelines to feedback on marketing materials.

“Importantly, Menu3 also benefits from consistent feedback from their peers, especially on the user experience of their application.”

Swietek reinforced this sentiment, believing that lessons learned through iVenture prepared the group for what lies ahead.

“I want to hold myself accountable for this,” Swietek said. “In the semester ahead, we want to engage with as many Champaign-Urbana restaurants as possible. Eventually, we are thinking of moving to Chicago. This wouldn’t have been possible without Gies Business and iVenture.

“My experience here pushes me, it pushes us, in directions we couldn’t have imagined all that long ago.”