UMass Amherst Innovation Challenge Elevator Pitch Competition Gives out $10,000 in Prize Money

AMHERST, Mass. - Ten teams of aspiring entrepreneurs received a total of $10,000 in prize money in the Executive Summary and Elevator Pitch phase of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Innovation Challenge competition held Dec. 7. The competing teams are made up of students and alumni working to develop marketable business concepts while consulting with faculty members and external advisors.

The awards were based on two-to-three-page executive summaries that each team submitted for review by the judges in advance plus a two-minute elevator pitch during the actual competition. After each elevator pitch, competitors answered probing questions from the judges.

Four teams received $1,750 prizes. They were: RDS Enterprise, with plans to manufacture and sell inexpensive, semi-permanent, disaster shelters for people displaced by natural and man-made catastrophes; KinVi, which is developing software that will allow body movement and gestures to control electrical devices; Plate Technologies, for a tissue culture microplate that provides uniform cell growth and great data accuracy with less reagent waste, and SMASH, creators of a new software technique to reduce the energy consumption of battery-powered devices.

Six other teams each received $500 prizes. There were: Cozy Solar Solutions, which proposes an affordable, heat-producing, solar panel made from recycled products that can be used in most places around the world; Sneakers for Success, an educational organization that uses urban "sneaker culture" as the basis for a nontraditional curriculum aimed at keeping students in school; Sweet Seat, which is designing an innovative bicycle seat that addresses customer needs at a low price; F.A.C.T. Base, which will automate and simplify a labor-intensive identification process looking for certain fossils in sediment as keys to finding oil; Skiandridecheap.com envisions an online community for skiers throughout New England that will maximize the availability of discounted lift tickets, and ReNano, which is developing revolutionary nanotechnology-based reconfigurable computing platform.

The final phase of the academic year-long contest takes place in April, when finalists will compete for more than $50,000 in grand prize money during the Innovation Challenge Final Business Plan Competition.

"In the last year we have been pleased to see that previous winning teams have gone on to be acquired and to do exceptionally well in the MassChallenge. With the strength and diversity of interests of this year’s elevator pitch competitors, I look forward to seeing more of our teams turn their ideas into valuable businesses that will benefit customers while fueling the Massachusetts innovation economy," says Mike Malone, Ronnie and Eugene Isenberg Distinguished Professor of Engineering and vice chancellor for research and engagement at UMass Amherst.

The UMass Innovation Challenge is supported by Eugene M. and Ronnie Isenberg and the following sponsors: Wolf Greenfield; Saint-Gobain; Joseph Bohan; Cantor Colburn LLP; CISCO; Raytheon; Vistagy; Wayne Boulais ‘85, ‘88 MS; Stephen Dunne ‘89; Provenance Venture Partners; Michael Tunstall ’82, and Karen Lauter Utgoff Consulting.

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