Seven teams of aspiring entrepreneurs shared $10,000 in prize money from the initial phase of the Innovation Challenge competition held Dec. 4. The awards were based on executive summaries that each team submitted in advance to a panel of judges plus an elevator pitch followed by questions from the judges during the competition.
Two teams received $2,500 awards. Joe Nuts is planning to manufacture and sell a doughnut hole with a liquid coffee center that can be produced on an industrial scale and VideoConversation’s technology will enable smoother, more conversational video conferencing.
Five other teams each received $1,000 prizes. They are: Crowd Solar, which provides an online platform for people and businesses to invest in local solar projects; GoDo which offers a website and smartphone application that expands your network and enhances entertainment options; Green Latrine, a group that has developed a toilet that produces electricity, compost and treated water for global sanitation; InsideOut Solar which has engineered affordable solar space-heating units that fit in a window, and Our Exchange, which offers an online service that will facilitate the exchange of goods and services among affinity group members.
Judges for the Innovation Challenge are entrepreneurs, legal experts and consultants who fund the awards and volunteer their time to mentor and evaluate contestants throughout the competition. The competitors are interdisciplinary student/alumni teams developing marketable business concepts while working in consultation with faculty and external advisors.
“We’re very excited that a wide variety of programs across the campus have engaged this year to generate a record number of strong competitors,” says Mike Malone, Ronnie and Eugene Isenberg Distinguished Professor of Engineering and vice chancellor for Research and Engagement.
The final phase of the yearlong academic contest takes place on April 17 when finalists compete for more than $50,000 in grand prize money during the business plan competition.
Campus co-sponsors of the Innovation Challenge are the College of Engineering; College of Natural Sciences; Isenberg School of Management and the UMass Innovation Institute. Financial support comes from Eugene M. and Ronnie Isenberg; Wolf Greenfield; Saint Gobain; Cantor Colburn LLP; CISCO; Raytheon; Saul Ewing; alumnus Steven Luby; alumnus Stephen Dunne; an anonymous faculty donor; Provenance Venture Partners; alumnus Michael Tunstall, and Karen Lauter Utgoff Consulting.