Dickerson wins at SXSW startup event

March 8, 2018
Mark Tarnacki
Staff Writer
Dickerson wins SXSW

Above, Thomas Dickerson, left, and his startup business partner Christopher MItchell with their trophy for winning “Student Starup Madness” at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, recently. The photo below shows the up-and-coming pair at last spring’s $300K competition at NYU.

(This story updates an earlier-posted preview, to include news of the Saint Michael’s graduate and his business partner winning the competition).

The impressive budding tech and business career of Thomas Dickerson ’13, a Saint Michael’s College computer science/mathematics/physics graduate, marched on when the current master’s-doctorate student in computer science at Brown University brought his shared startup idea called “GeoPipe” to “Student Startup Madness” at the SXSW event in Austin, Texas, March 9-18 — and won!

The prize was announced and presented Monday night, March 12 in Austin. Last spring, Dickerson and his Geopipe business partner, Christopher Mitchell, won a $300,000 competition at New York University promoting the same startup. Dickerson explained what Geopipe does: “We automatically generate city-scale (and up) virtual 3D models of the real world to improve the lives of architects, video game designers, and anyone else who wants to work with the real world in a virtual environment,” he said this week.

Thomas said Tuesday that he and Mitchell were excited to learn that as the winning team they will get a free trip to the 36|86 Entrepreneurship Festival in Nashville, TN, this August, “so we’re looking forward to that.”

The company has been incorporated for almost two years, he said, and opened early access to their product this fall after finishing the Techstars NYC Summer ’17 accelerator program. “We’re now in the midst of hiring, fundraising, and bringing our first few enterprise pilot programs online, in addition to prepping for the competition,” he said.

Dickerson said the stakes for the SXSW “Student Startup Madness,” in which he and Mitchell competed and won, are primarily “prestige and the opportunity to pitch to a much larger audience due to the venue of the SXSW festival.” South by Southwest (abbreviated as SXSW and colloquially referred to as South By) is an annual conglomerate of film, interactive media, and music festivals and conferences that take place in mid-March in Austin, with many other competitions along with the student category.

After graduating in 2013, Dickerson, a Vermonter originally from the Middlebury area, went straight into a combined MS/PhD program at Brown in computer science. His brother, Peter, is a current Saint Michael’s sophomore (class of 2020) and art major. Peter won an international Legos competition last year.

Thomas Dickerson traces much of his recent success to the strong “STEM” preparation he had at Saint Michael’s. STEM is an acronym for “Science, Technology, Engineering, Math.”Dickerson and Mitchell 2017

“I had a really great experience with my STEM classes at Saint Mike’s, and with my research opportunities with faculty, both of which were a huge help in preparing me for grad school and for the work I’m doing at Geopipe,” he said. “I also think it’s important to highlight the value of the liberal arts curriculum at Saint Mike’s –first because it’s important to be a well-rounded person, second because it doesn’t matter how good you are at problem solving in STEM fields if you’re not able to effectively communicate with other people, and finally because when it comes to being an entrepreneur, you have to get out of the lab and understand and empathize with the problems of people around you before you can build a product that will be well-received.”

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