Three teams went into the Center for Innovation and Leadership (CIL)’s tenth annual SwatTank finals held last Thursday, but it was Roman Hinds ’25 and Te’John Chapman ’23’s Forge that came out on top. Forge is a community fitness tracker marketed towards college athletes that is designed to create a sense of teamwork and joint motivation during an athlete’s off-season. The judging process primarily focused on ten-page reports prepared by each team, but also assessed their final presentations.
The Forge team spoke with The Phoenix after their win. When asked about their preparation routine in the weeks leading up to the finals, Hinds and Chapman emphasized their dedication to the competition.
“Besides being extremely excited and nervous, we felt really confident that we had done as much as we possibly could to prepare. We memorized and rehearsed it so many times but had to step back and practice our presentation so that we could keep flowing even if we made a mistake, and that definitely saved us,” they said.
It was not just their tenacity, however, that led to the win. In an exchange with The Phoenix, Associate Professor of Economics Syon Bhanot, who served as a judge for this year’s SwatTank finals and has worked with startups in the past, reflected on the judging criteria and Forge’s win.
“I think all of the ideas had a lot of merit. Overall, I think Forge had the strongest pitch and also the most viable, ‘ready for market’ idea — I personally can see a strong market for what they were proposing (a fitness platform catered to college athletes),” Bhanot said.
He also admitted that a good proposal doesn’t mean that the team is safe from obstacles, emphasizing that being able to anticipate future issues and problem-solve indicates a start-up’s flexibility.
“The challenge for them will be to be flexible in thinking about their idea and adapting to the market environment that they ultimately find for their potential product. For me, the best firms are ones that can adapt and not be totally wedded to their first vision of a product — I am confident that the Forge team (and all the teams, in truth!) will be open to evolving to thrive,” Bhanot explained.
In terms of moving forward with Forge, Hinds and Chapman remain motivated to sustain and improve their project beyond SwatTank.
“Getting feedback that our business has serious potential means a lot, and we plan to keep developing Forge over the summer. We hope to use it as an opportunity to gain more experience and connections in the startup world and possibly launch a prototype for our app in the coming months,” they announced.
When asked about future involvement with SwatTank, Professor Bhanot highlighted the competition’s efforts to foster an innovative, entrepreneurial spirit at Swarthmore as a shared value of his.
“I really love how this event tries to bridge the gap between the Swarthmore bubble and the real world — in my opinion we need a lot more of that here at the college. I really enjoyed it — not only hearing from such a terrific group of students across the three teams, but also interacting with the other judges. It was a terrific and dynamic event, and I hope I can be involved with it again in the future,” he explained.