Last Tuesday New Venture Challenge (NVC) concluded its sixth year of providing students with the opportunity to introduce their brilliant entrepreneurial idea in front of not only a large audience, but mentors, investors, and potential business partners. The event took place in Wittemyer Courtroom at Wolf Law School, University of Colorado Boulder.
Upon entering the courtroom, the tension was clearly high among viewers and presenters alike… Aside from a DJ playing Pharrell’s ‘Happy’ in the jury box. Before the teams began their presentations, Brad Bernthal, Associate Professor of Law and Director of the Entrepreneurship Initiative, Silicon Flatirons Center, gave a humorous introduction to the judges: Libby Cook, Founder and Executive Director of Philanthropiece, Jason Mendelson Managing Director of Foundry Group, Ken desGarennes, CFO of Zayo Group, and Michael Henson, partner in the Intellectual Property practice at Perkins Coie, LLP. After the introductions, it was officially time for the pitches to begin.
The idea was simple: each team has five minutes to explain their business. After the five minutes, the judges have Q and A. Of the five teams that presented, two teams tied for first place, each receiving $10,000, and one team came in third earning $1,000.
The first winning team was Malleable Medical Tech. This three person team of chemistry Ph.D students and professor developed a plastic technology seeking to revolutionize the orthopedic and prosthetics industry. The current state of this industry is expensive and wasteful. This new plastic Malleable Medical Tech developed was cheap, green, and recyclable. It molds to the patients body quickly and efficiently and is two times stronger and molded at half the temperature than that of traditional material. The chemistry behind the material, which they just recently patented, is saving time and money for both the patient and doctor. And with potential growth into other areas, such as sports equipment, there appeared to be no reason not to support this company.
Following was third place NeuroPractice – a company that uses neuroscience to introduce a new, more efficient way of practicing your musical instrument. This two person team was comprised of musicians and computer scientists alike, both frustrated with the current process of practicing. The current stage of music education is holding students back from effectively learning because it encourages repetition, which results in frustration. NeuroPractice provides an alternative to discouraging traditional practicing methods by using software to point out exactly where and why a student is having trouble in a piece of music. It customizes the practicing experience and will provide the student with a much greater understanding of why he or she is having trouble learning the music.
Lastly, Varsity concluded the presentations, and was a tied first place winner. This team, consisting of nine computer science/business undergrads, developed a mobile app that provided college students with a new outlet for discovering things to do around your college campus. By syncing a college email address to the app, it automatically has access to your major and class schedule, providing the user with suggestions based on this information. Things like suggested classes, clubs, groups, organizations, events, etc. are all included in this suggestion feed. The university will buy this data from Varsity, which in turn tells the school what clubs/organizations are and are not working. Hosting events can be extremely expensive, and when only a few people attend an event that was originally created for hundreds, money is wasted and no progress is made. Varsity revolutionizes the traditional, ineffective event board by customizing community events and organizations for each student.
The entrepreneurial spirit was present throughout the night, and everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves. Of the three winning teams, I was most impressed with Varsity. As a current undergrad student, I am well aware of the unsuccessful attempts at encouraging students to join groups, events, organizations, etc. This app seems like a great resource to learn more about the countless happenings going on at a college campus in a much more effective way than the traditional event board methods. Congratulations to all the teams that participated in this fun event, and I’m looking forward to what’s next for these startups!