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The 2015 CU New Venture Challenge Championship

This past Tuesday I attended the seventh annual CU New Venture Challenge. NVC gives startups the opportunity to pitch their businesses to the Boulder community for a chance to win cash prizes. Before the championship, the startups build their business ideas in an entrepreneurial flight simulator through events, workshops and mentorship. In addition to CU’s support, there are so many awesome partners like Spark and Silicon Flatirons, who give the startups resources and guidance throughout their time in the simulator.

The host, Andy Evans, kicked off the event with tunes from 2001 Space Odyssey and The Game of Thrones as the competing teams prepared to set the stage. Each startup was judged based on the following criteria:

  1. Quality of pitch
  2. Quality of executive summary
  3. Concept and vision
  4. Business fundamentals
  5. Quality of evidence and research

The first team to pitch was Tenor. Their concept centered around the idea of mitigating stress in the workplace in order to boost productivity and resolve conflict. They have a vision for producing an application that uses wearable technology to gauge employee stress, anger and anxiety while helping them alleviate their negative emotions through a 5 step methodology.

The next team to present was Antigua Brewing Company, a business hoping to kill two birds with one stone. Antigua wants to tackle the glaring issue of the lack of clean water in Antigua, Guatemala. The team hopes to develop a clean water plant in Guatemala where 90% of the clean water produced will go towards the people of the town while the other 10% will be used to produce and distribute beer through a brewing company. They have agreements with local Guatemalan pubs and bars that are excited to sell their products. Antigua has also developed partnerships with breweries that include Sierra Nevada, Upslope, Finkle and Garf and Pasteur Street Brewery in Vietnam.

After Antigua, Revolar presented their wearable device technology made to make the world a little safer. The founder, Jackie Rose, talked about how her sister was attacked twice before the age of 17. With the issue of personal safety being so close to her and her family she wanted to do something to help people get themselves out of dangerous situations before getting hurt. Revolar is a wearable device that can be clipped onto clothing or attached to a keyring. Using bluetooth technology, if the device is pressed, two people of contact will get notified that their loved one is in danger. Revolar’s app is connected to the device and can track the person’s whereabouts. The app also gives the person’s contacts step by step instructions for getting their loved one to safety. Revolar is featured on Kickstarter, and as of the night of the event, has sold 1,000 devices in just three weeks.

The fourth pitch was for NuBru Coffee, a public benefit corporation with the motto: “coffee that kicks acid.” NuBru coffee is cold brewed at a slower rate and lower temperature than regular coffee. The 14 hour time-intensive brewing process allows NuBru to produce less acid, oils, and chemicals compared to other coffees. In addition, NuBru has 50% more caffeine and 20% less acid than Starbucks coffee. The team is already distributing its product in multiple retail locations like Whole Foods. After the pitches I tried it for myself and it’s got an awesome flavor, guaranteed to keep you energized on any day!

Last but not least was BlueStar Medical Devices. The CEO and founder Milly Young came up with a vision for aiding cancer patients during chemotherapy after her Aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer. Milly talked about how her aunt told her the scariest part about having cancer was looking at herself in the mirror and seeing her body change everyday. Milly said patients often state that one of their main fears in getting cancer is loosing their hair. Milly and her team have developed a cold cap prototype meant to alleviate hair loss for patients going through chemotherapy. The team believes they stand above their competition in terms of mobility, ease of use and comfort in using their product. They hope to being trial testing in the US and UK this summer. 

With so many awesome product concepts and business ideas the judges took extra time in selecting the winners of the NVC. The teams were awarded as followed:

  • 1st Place ($10,000): Revolar
  • 2nd Place ($5,000): NuBru Coffee
  • 3rd Place ($3,000): BlueStar Medical Devices
  • Runner Ups ($1,000 each): Antigua Brewing Company and Tenor

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The awesome part about this year’s NVC was that every team went home with money! Following the pitches, the startups and audience were given a chance to network, meet the teams and see business ideas that other startups around CU were coming up with. Congrats to all of the teams who pitched. May your product visions evolve into thriving business entities!