All posts by Ellen Pepin

Assistant Director, Communications and Marketing Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, UW Foster School of Business

Meet the UW Business Plan Competition Sweet 16

BPC Investment Round 2015
A sea of student teams and judges at the 2015 UW Business Plan Competition Investment Round

37 student-led startup teams from colleges and universities across Washington state gathered at the University of Washington HUB yesterday to compete in the 2015 Business Plan Competition Investment Round. For four hours, the teams pitched their entrepreneurial ideas to  250+ judges—many of whom said it was the most impressive group of teams in the history of the BPC— in the hopes of landing a spot in the next round of the competition. By the end of the afternoon the scores had been tallied and the sixteen top-scoring teams were announced. These teams will move on to the “Sweet Sixteen” round of the 2015 BPC—one step closer to winning the $25,000 Grand Prize. Congrats to the Sweet Sixteen!

The UW Business Plan Competition is presented by the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship at the Foster School of Business.

Auctora
University of Washington

Auctora’s automated recruiting tool seamlessly screens, sorts, and schedules candidates so that corporate recruiters can utilize their time more effectively while sourcing job applicants. No dealing with paper resumes; no back-and-forth emails between recruiters and candidates – welcome to recruiting in the 21st century!

Authality
University of Washington

Authality’s first product, Klide, is the most secure and convenient smart lock, and the only smart lock that meets the demands of Airbnb hosts. Klide pairs a physical lock with a mobile app that allows hosts to distribute revocable “keys” to guests and control access remotely.

Benchmark Environmental
University of Washington and Washington State University

Benchmark Environmental is changing the way we treat storm water. By combining innovative design with new technologies, our treatment solutions are affordable, easy to install, and low maintenance. Benchmark Environmental’s products enable more companies and municipalities to treat storm water runoff effectively–a win-win for customers and the environment.

Bettery
University of Washington Tacoma

Bettery provides consumers with the most cost effective, convenient, and sustainable portable power solution on the market. Bettery taps a growing demand for sustainable solutions by offering batteries as a low cost subscription service.

Co Optical
Washington State University

Co Optical specializes in lifestyle management technologies, with a flagship product that revolutionizes diabetes management by continuously and non-invasively monitoring blood glucose. This wearable device, structured as a pair of glasses, improves convenience and enhances the overall user experience allowing seamless integration of lifestyle management strategies into the everyday lives of people with diabetes.

Empreva
University of Washington

Empreva aims to empower and engage women across the world to take their health into their own hands by providing a safe, convenient, and comfortable method for birth control and STI prevention.Empreva is developing birth control and combination birth control/anti-HIV products to benefit the health of women in high-HIV burden areas of the developing world who lack options for protection. For every purchase of an Empreva birth control product in the U.S., Empreva will donate one combination product to a woman in need in the developing world to help achieve sexual health and empowerment for women everywhere.

Go KEFI
Washington State University

Go KEFI is an experience-based travel website that helps you plan vacations based off desired experiences and budget. The team won first place at Spokane Startup Weekend 2014, and has since sparked a movement for a new way to travel.

Hook
University of Washington

Hook is a home automation hub that offers smart home capability to the price sensitive consumer. Customers are able to convert existing electronics in the home to smart compatible devices, keeping these products up-to-date for years to come. Consumers will enjoy convenience with control via their mobile devices, savings on energy costs, and improved home safety. With an affordable price and remarkable ease of use, Hook aims to make smart home technology accessible to the masses.

JikoPower
University of Washington

JikoPower makes thermo-electric generators to turn ordinary cook stoves into personal charging stations for off-grid households that have small electronic devices in the developing world. JikoPower POWERS devices, but it EMPOWERS people.

NOVA Technologies
Western Washington University and University of Washington

NOVA Technologies’ Smart Solar Window uses transparent nanotechnology to create clean, local electricity that can turn skyscrapers into giant solar arrays and reduce HVAC systems costs, an innovative link to a carbon neutral future.

Park A Lot
University of Washington

Park A Lot is a platform connecting private businesses who have unused parking spaces with customers looking for parking. Lot owners sign up on a hop-on, hop-off platform and their lots become available to the public, generating them revenue. Customers use Park A Lot’s website or app to purchase parking on a lot of their choice from their home or mobile device.

RainCity Heart Lab
Seattle University

Seventy percent of patients who have suffered a heart attack for the first time were previously classified as low risk for cardiovascular disease based on the current testing methods. RainCity Heart Lab (RCHL) is a specialty diagnostic lab that offers a better diagnostic test called CALLIS. CALLIS (Calibrated Lipoprotein Ion Separation) is a blood test for accurately quantifying intact lipoproteins for improved Cardio Vascular Disease risk assessment.

SmartyPants
University of Washington

SmartyPants reinvents toilet training and mitigates adult incontinence issues to prevent millions of diapers from ending up as a biohazard in landfills. It predicts impending bowel events and alerts users to get to a toilet. The company’s innovative, first-of-its-kind, technology creates value for the consumers by saving on diaper purchases and the environment by reducing waste and biohazard from disposable diapers.

vHAB
University of Washington

vHAB is a virtual rehabilitation platform that helps patients regain fine motor skills to lead autonomous lives again. vHAB enables occupational therapists to customize patient treatment and accurately monitor progress through engaging and dynamic video games. System portability and precision metrics pose a competitive advantage for rehabilitation facilities, allowing delivery of quality treatment to patients – anywhere, anytime. vHAB saves rehabilitation facilities time and money. Most importantly, vHAB empowers patients to reclaim their independence.

Vie Diagnostics
University of Washington

A significant portion of patients attending STD clinics fail to follow up for treatment, even when tests are positive and the risk for transmission and complication is highest. Vie Diagnostics’ disruptive molecular diagnostic technology will reduce the spread and pain of STD infections by allowing patients to be tested and treated in a single clinical visit. Its tests will provide better patient management, lower costs for clinics, and improve overall public health.

Yowgii
University of Washington

Yowgii has the potential to disrupt the bottled water industry and the water filtration industry. The global bottled water industry is worth over $157 billion a year, but is heavily comprised of plastic bottles with significant environmental footprint and potential for contaminants. Yowgii combines environmentally-friendly water delivery with innovative water purification to deliver the best drinking water to consumer and promises pure water for a better you!

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See what others have to say about the BPC on Twitter: #UWBPC2015

 

Twitter for entrepreneurs: using social media to build your personal brand

T.A. McCann is many things to many people: entrepreneur, mentor, angel investor, America’s Cup winner … (I could go on). On Thursday, April 23, the founder of Gist (which sold to Blackberry in 2011) and Rival IQ assumed the role of social media pro and spoke to a room of up-and-coming entrepreneurs about how to use Twitter to build their personal brand and promote their companies.

McCann’s presentation, called Twitter for Entrepreneurs, was packed with solid social media advice and anecdotes. We’ve included a few of our favorites below. You can see McCann’s full slide deck here.

1. Twitter is for learning

Always be learning “Twitter is this amazing place where many of the smartest people in the world are pushing their ideas out in real time,” says McCann. Experts, CEOs, and thought-leaders are on Twitter sharing information that they feel is of value.  If you follow the right people, they will educate you on whatever it is that you care about.

 

2. Twitter is for building relationships

building relationshipsTwitter is an amazing resource for building relationships with people you don’t know, but with whom you share a connection. McCann didn’t know Brad Feld (a well-known investor, entrepreneur, and co-founder of TechStars) when he first contacted him on Twitter. What he did know was that they shared a connection–a love of running.  McCann reached out to Feld with a simple tweet prior to a conference they were both attending: “I know you’re a runner, and I’m hoping to run while I’m at this conference. Can you recommend any good places to run while I’m there?” Feld replied and suggested the two of them meet up and run together. So they did. Feld ultimately ended up leading the series A financing of Gist. McCann used Twitter to build a connection that  led to success for his company (and a great friendship).

 

3. Once you’ve got the hang of it, become a thought leader

thought leader“If you like using Twitter,” says McCann, “you will evolve from purely consuming (listening and learning) and connecting, to sharing your own perspective with your followers.” Once you develop your perspective in a particular area, you have the opportunity to become a thought leader, someone Twitter followers look to for opinion on a given subject. “Once you become a thought leader,” says McCann, “you';; begin to accrue value to your business.”

 

4. Bottom line: CEOs who aren’t on Twitter are letting their company down

CEOs on TwitterAll CEOs use Twitter in different ways. Some use it to communicate with customers or other industry leaders.  Some act as thought leaders and create their own content. And some simply amplify others’ content. But the bottom line is that once the leader of a company has a strong following on Twitter, it becomes a powerful marketing tool. On March 30, 2015, Tesla Motors’ CEO, Elon Musk, tweeted a major announcement, and Tesla’s stock price suddenly shot up:
ElonMuskTweet
TeslaStockJump

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Don’t forget the 5-3-2 rule

5-3-2Does Twitter seem overwhelming? Don’t worry–you don’t have to spend all day tweeting and re-tweeting. Just remember the 5-3-2 rule: For every 10 posts:

  • 5 should be about your space: What does your company do? Find thought leaders that do the same and re-tweet their content
  • 3 should be your thoughts on a particular subject: Have an opinion on news that applies to your company? Share it!
  • 2 should be personal: Show some personality? Tweet about your favorite new song, or what you think will happen on the next Game of Thrones

Don’t forget to check out all of T.A. McCann’s Twitter for Entrepreneurs slides, and share this post on Twitter:

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Student teams selected to compete in the 2015 UW Business Plan Competition

The University of Washington Business Plan Competition (BPC), now in its 18th year, is a platform for student-led ventures. It provides an opportunity for entrepreneurial students across Washington State to take their ideas beyond the classroom and test them out in a real-world setting. A business built around stylish sports socks, nose-to-brain drug delivery, or Emergency Medical Response might look great on paper, but not until you present it to a room full of entrepreneurs, investors, and mentors will you really know if it has potential.

A record 103 student teams applied to the 2015 BPC. After an initial screening round, 37 teams were selected to move on to the BPC Investment Round on April 28. There, they’ll pitch their ideas to 300+ judges—entrepreneurs, lawyers, investors, and other top professionals—in the hopes of earning a spot in the Sweet 16 and, ultimately, a chance to win the $25,000 Grand Prize.

Best of luck to the teams in the 2015 UW Business Plan Competition!

Alpha Endeavors
University of Washington Tacoma

Alpha Endeavors seeks to disrupt the antiquated residential real estate investment marketplace by alleviating a massive amount of transactional friction in the acquisition process. The company helps residential real estate brokers who serve investor clients to sell more real estate through a software facilitated process that implements predictive analytics, administrative automation, and integrates modern data gathering techniques.

Auctora
University of Washington

Auctora’s automated recruiting tool seamlessly screens, sorts, and schedules candidates so that corporate recruiters can utilize their time more effectively while sourcing job applicants. No dealing with paper resumes; no back-and-forth emails between recruiters and candidates – welcome to recruiting in the 21st century!

Authality
University of Washington

Authality’s first product, Klide, is the most secure and convenient smart lock, and the only smart lock that meets the demands of Airbnb hosts. Klide pairs a physical lock with a mobile app that allows hosts to distribute revocable “keys” to guests and control access remotely.

Avayla Weddings
University of Washington

Avayla Weddings is a software platform designed to provide wedding vendors with better marketing and increased profits while simultaneously acting as the market-leading information tool for couples in the same way that TripAdvisor works for the travel industry. Avayla is the most efficient, enjoyable, and user friendly way for couples to find, contact and book the venue of their dreams.

Baunsu
University of Washington

Have you ever been at lunch and realized the 30 minutes you wanted to spend had turned into an hour? Have you ever been late for a meeting because you just couldn’t find a server to pay your bill? At Baunsu.com you can order and pay for your food ahead of time, getting rid of the hassle in the dining experience. Once you arrive, your food will be served, leaving you time to concentrate on the flavors and experience instead of the wait. It’s Baunsu.com!

Benchmark Environmental
University of Washington
Washington State University

Benchmark Environmental is changing the way we treat storm water. By combining innovative design with new technologies, our treatment solutions are affordable, easy to install, and low maintenance. Benchmark Environmental’s products enable more companies and municipalities to treat storm water runoff effectively–a win-win for customers and the environment.

Bettery
University of Washington Tacoma

Bettery provides consumers with the most cost effective, convenient, and sustainable portable power solution on the market. Bettery taps a growing demand for sustainable solutions by offering batteries as a low cost subscription service.

CaseBooker
Seattle University

CaseBooker is a simple, convenient, and local online mobile application and service that helps law students buy and sell their casebooks (legal textbooks) and other supplementary materials with other law students on their campus.

Co Optical
Washington State University

Co Optical specializes in lifestyle management technologies, with a flagship product that revolutionizes diabetes management by continuously and non-invasively monitoring blood glucose. This wearable device, structured as a pair of glasses, improves convenience and enhances the overall user experience allowing seamless integration of lifestyle management strategies into the everyday lives of people with diabetes.

Community Supported Bio
University of Washington and BGI at Pinchot University

Community Supported Bio turns trash into treasure. It offers turnkey lease-to-own B2B solutions to upcycle food & beverage waste into renewable fertilizer & fuel.

Eldergrow
Seattle University

Old growth happens when nurtured. Eldergrow is a start-up company that connects nature to elders so that they can continue to flourish in their later years of life. Gardening every day reduces the risk factors for dementia by 36%! Through a portfolio of meaningful gardening and nature-related products, Eldergrow will improve the quality of 10,000 elders lives by the end of the decade.

Empreva
University of Washington

Empreva aims to empower and engage women across the world to take their health into their own hands by providing a safe, convenient, and comfortable method for birth control and STI prevention.Empreva is developing birth control and combination birth control/anti-HIV products to benefit the health of women in high-HIV burden areas of the developing world who lack options for protection. For every purchase of an Empreva birth control product in the U.S., Empreva will donate one combination product to a woman in need in the developing world to help achieve sexual health and empowerment for women everywhere.

JikoPower
University of Washington

JikoPower makes thermo-electric generators to turn ordinary cook stoves into personal charging stations for off-grid households that have small electronic devices in the developing world. JikoPower POWERS devices, but it EMPOWERS people.

FullCircle Technologies
University of Washington

FullCircle Technologies is an education technology company empowering K-12 teachers, administrators, counselors, and staff with fast, easy to use, intuitive software to allow educators to focus on maximizing student learning. SITAR – Student Intervention Tracking and Reporting, is the company’s first product that helps schools track both academic and non-academic interventions and proactively reduces future interventions by focusing on the communication and action plans between teachers, staff and parents.

Genie
University of Washington

Genie is a file browser that understands and looks at files exactly the way a human does. Gone are the days of having to go through long lists of generic file names for images. Remember what an image contains? Tell Genie and it does the rest for you.

Go KEFI
Washington State University

Go KEFI is an experience-based travel website that helps you plan vacations based off desired experiences and budget. The team won first place at Spokane Startup Weekend 2014, and has since sparked a movement for a new way to travel.

Hook
University of Washington

Hook is a home automation hub that offers smart home capability to the price sensitive consumer. Customers are able to convert existing electronics in the home to smart compatible devices, keeping these products up-to-date for years to come. Consumers will enjoy convenience with control via their mobile devices, savings on energy costs, and improved home safety. With an affordable price and remarkable ease of use, Hook aims to make smart home technology accessible to the masses.

Ion Informatics
University of Washington

Ion Informatics is developing a proprietary technology that provides critical health information enabling battery operators to maximize the value that can be extracted from each battery through more informed decision making. Applications for improved battery state diagnostics in the marketplace are extensive, applying to any system where large scale batteries are used. The information rich diagnostics developed by Ion Informatics will transform the storage sector by allowing more robust, intelligent, and informed battery management.

Limefy
University of Washington

Limefy makes business networking you can wear. You’re in a big crowd where you don’t know anyone. It’s intimidating. You want to meet someone with similar interests but you don’t know how. LiGo can help you.

Meridian Lee
BGI at Pinchot University

Meridian Lee is a conscious fashion company making chic, distinctive fashion accessories. By collaborating with marginalized artisans around the world, Meridian Lee is able to create handcrafted designs and artisans are able to earn an income and live healthier, safer lives.

miPS
University of Washington

miPS is the first consumer stem cell generation and cell banking service. miPS allows consumers to store their adult cells to prevent cellular aging, generate stem cell lines for research, and use banked cells for future stem cell therapies.

NOVA Technologies
Western Washington University and University of Washington

NOVA Technologies’ Smart Solar Window uses transparent nanotechnology to create clean, local electricity that can turn skyscrapers into giant solar arrays and reduce HVAC systems costs, an innovative link to a carbon neutral future.

Ordr.it
University of Washington

For small businesses, creating and managing purchase orders is a time-consuming manual task. Ordr.it offers a modern supply chain solution for small businesses that allows users to better manage purchase orders and collaborate on pending orders with their vendors.

Otogear
University of Washington

Otogear is a stylish, customizable, environmentally friendly, reusable silicone earplug designed to help sustain a healthy hearing environment during loud events. In addition, Otogear promotes the reduction of waste by being reusable and biodegradable.

Park A Lot
University of Washington

Park A Lot is a platform connecting private businesses who have unused parking spaces with customers looking for parking. Lot owners sign up on a hop-on, hop-off platform and their lots become available to the public, generating them revenue. Customers use Park A Lot’s website or app to purchase parking on a lot of their choice from their home or mobile device.

Parky
University of Washington

Parky makes paying parking tickets suck less! Parky is a cloud-based app for receiving automated notifications once a parking ticket is issued to a vehicle owner. The app sends payment reminders and allows users to make one-click payments, reducing the anxiety related to missed parking payments and late fees.

PowerNode
University of Washington

PowerNode is a web-based power monitoring system for industrial machinery that utilizes machine learning to perform predictive maintenance, reducing costs associated with operation, maintenance and machine down time.

RainCity Heart Lab
Seattle University

Seventy percent of patients who have suffered a heart attack for the first time were previously classified as low risk for cardiovascular disease based on the current testing methods. RainCity Heart Lab (RCHL) is a specialty diagnostic lab that offers a better diagnostic test called CALLIS. CALLIS (Calibrated Lipoprotein Ion Separation) is a blood test for accurately quantifying intact lipoproteins for improved Cardio Vascular Disease risk assessment.

Saffron and Rose
Cornish School of the Arts and University of Washington

Saffron and Rose provides stylish and comfortable yoga-inspired apparel that supports the true health of the body and the planet. Using natural and organic fibers in beautiful colors, Saffron and Rose apparel enables a positive mood, a balanced body, and a general sense of well-being.

SmartyPants
University of Washington

SmartyPants reinvents toilet training and mitigates adult incontinence issues to prevent millions of diapers from ending up as a biohazard in landfills. It predicts impending bowel events and alerts users to get to a toilet. The company’s innovative, first-of-its-kind, technology creates value for the consumers by saving on diaper purchases and the environment by reducing waste and biohazard from disposable diapers.

SportSocial
Seattle University and University of Puget Sound

Sport-Social provides the easiest way to spontaneously organize, locate, and join pickup sports activities through a social platform.

Storyline.Life
University of Washington

Sheer volume of life moments – scattered across electronic devices and online accounts – and lack of organization make it difficult to find precious moments and to assemble them into stories. Ironically, even as more life instances are captured, stories are increasingly buried in digital chaos. In an attempt to record many experiences, users risk losing the very memories they want to preserve. Storyline.Life is a storytelling platform to conveniently capture, organize and connect moments so that they can be shared as meaningful stories.

ThreeBar
University of Washington

ThreeBar is a revolutionary website tracking and content delivery platform that allows any business to easily and cost efficiently hyper-target customers. Using a customer’s past web viewing habits, locational data, and demographic profiling, ThreeBar enables businesses to deliver custom website content and test special offers in real-time– all with the simplicity of a point and click user interface.

TriboTEX
Washington State University

TriboTEX aims to extend the operational life-span of industrial machinery by improving efficiency where lubricated friction takes place. TriboTEX’s self-assembling nanostructured lubricious coating provides regenerative effects to frictional surface during normal operation.

vHAB
University of Washington

vHAB is a virtual rehabilitation platform that helps patients regain fine motor skills to lead autonomous lives again. vHAB enables occupational therapists to customize patient treatment and accurately monitor progress through engaging and dynamic video games. System portability and precision metrics pose a competitive advantage for rehabilitation facilities, allowing delivery of quality treatment to patients – anywhere, anytime. vHAB saves rehabilitation facilities time and money. Most importantly, vHAB empowers patients to reclaim their independence.

Vie Diagnostics
University of Washington

A significant portion of patients attending STD clinics fail to follow up for treatment, even when tests are positive and the risk for transmission and complication is highest. Vie Diagnostics’ disruptive molecular diagnostic technology will reduce the spread and pain of STD infections by allowing patients to be tested and treated in a single clinical visit. Its tests will provide better patient management, lower costs for clinics, and improve overall public health.

Yowgii
University of Washington

Yowgii has the potential to disrupt the bottled water industry and the water filtration industry. The global bottled water industry is worth over $157 billion a year, but is heavily comprised of plastic bottles with significant environmental footprint and potential for contaminants. Yowgii combines environmentally-friendly water delivery with innovative water purification to deliver the best drinking water to consumer and promises pure water for a better you!

 

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Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge awards $37,500 to student innovators

“Alaska Airlines wants to get better and better at being a leader in environmental responsibility, so today we’re here to learn from you,” said Joe Sprague, Alaska Airlines’ senior vice president for communications and external relations, in his welcome address at the 2015 Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge.

The “you” he was speaking to was a group of 22 student teams from 7 colleges and universities across the state of Washington, gathered at the Seattle Center to pitch their innovations in clean technology, renewable energy and water resource management.

IMG_4148 (1)Throughout the afternoon these innovative and entrepreneurial students demonstrated their prototypes and fielded questions on everything from technology issues to market viability from a room full of 160+ judges and another 100 guests.

While all in attendance undoubtedly learned something from every team, only five teams went home with a portion of the $37,500 in prize money.

Congratulations to the winners of the 2015 Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge!


 

$15,000 Grand Prize & $5,000 Clean Energy Prize

(sponsored by Wells Fargo and the UW Clean Energy Institute)

FireBee (University of Washington)

Student Team members:
Ryan Ahearn, undergraduate, mechanical engineering
Aaron Owen, undergraduate, mechanical engineering
Daniel Parrish, undergraduate, mechanical engineering

FireBee is a portable thermoelectric generator that turns cooking fires into personal power stations,  creating an alternative energy source for people in countries that are otherwise off the grid.
FireBee





$10,000 Second Place Prize

(sponsored by the Herbert B. Jones Foundation)

Hook (University of Washington)

Student Team Members:
Rahil Jain, graduate, electrical engineering
Robert Moehle, graduate , Foster School of Business
Hoolk_2ndPlace_EIC2015

Hook is a home automation hub that allows customers to convert existing electronics  to smart devices, decreasing energy consumption, improving home safety, and reducing the amount of electronics that are routinely discarded in landfills.


$2,500 Honorable Mentions

(sponsored by Starbucks,  UW CoMotion, and Puget Sound Energy)

EcoStream (University of Washington)

Student Team Members:
Michaela Byrne, graduate, Foster School of Business
Tianchi Liu, undergradaute, computer science & engineering
Ryan Osher, graduate, Foster School of Business
Shon Schmidt, graduate, bioengineering
Wenxuan Wu, undergraduate, electrical engineering
Han Ye, undergraduate, electrical engineering

IMG_0899 (1)

EcoStream builds awareness and lifelong habits to conserve our most valuable resource by helping people conserve water and change their usage habits in a fun and inexpensive way.

 

Ion Informatics (University of Washington)

Student Team Members:
Charles Daitch, graduate, Foster School of Business
Brendan Erickson, undergraduate, chemical engineering
Daniel Gilbert, undergraduate, chemical engineering
Matthew Murbach, graduate, chemical engineering
Uttara Sahaym, graduate, Foster School of Business
Arianna Whitten, undergraduate, chemical engineering

IMG_0942

Ion Informatics is developing a proprietary technology that provides critical information to battery operators, optimizing asset utilization and prolonging the useful life of the battery. The end effect is a dramatic increase in value that can be extracted from each battery by enabling viable second use battery systems.

 

 Bettery (University of Washington Tacoma)

Student Team Members:
Brendan Crawford, undergraduate, computer engineering
Chris Dejarlais, undergraduate, finance & computer science
Vishaal Diwan, undergraduate, computer science

Bettery provides a better model for battery use: a reusable subscription service that gives consumers unlimited access to reusable batteries with a monthly subscription.

The Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge is presented by the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship at the Foster School of Business, University of Washington.

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Better batteries, recycled building materials, and smart diapers: Environmental Innovation Challenge 2015

EIC 2014 winner Korvata with Pam Tufts
EIC 2014 winner Korvata with Pam Tufts

How do you foster innovation to address pressing environmental issues? Get college students engaged! The Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge at the University of Washington taps into the passion, smarts, and motivation that  students have for solving environmental  problems.  Since its outset, the EIC has attracted 726 students (161 teams) and awarded over $180,000 in prize money.

EIC Banner 2015_541x138A record 40 student teams from colleges and universities across the pacific northwest applied to the this year’s Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge. Each team that applies must define an environmental problem, design a solution, and develop a prototype. This year 22 teams were selected to show their prototypes and pitch to 250+ judges at a demo-day event on April 2, 2015.

Meet the 22 teams competing in the 2015 Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge:

Benchmark ECR
(University of Washington, Washington State University)

Benchmark Environmental is developing an affordable, easy to install, and low maintenance stormwater treatment system. The Benchmark ECR will enable more companies and municipalities to effectively treat every pollutant present in stormwater runoff.

Bettery
(University of Washington)

Bettery provides a better model for battery use: a reusable subscription service that gives consumers unlimited access to reusable batteries with a monthly subscription.

BrightBike
(University of Washington)

The BrightBike has a revolutionary set of features, including electric assist, cargo capacity,  a strong and lightweight composite frame, a rain cover, and a complete light system, that make it an irresistible alternative to driving.

Community Supported Bio
(BGI at Pinchot University)

Community Supported Bio (CSB) closes the loop for the farm-to-table movement by turning food waste into renewable biogoods: organic fertilizer & fuel. CSB helps decrease emissions and lower air & water pollution, all while improving soil fertility for farmers.

EcoStream
(University of Washington)

EcoStream builds awareness and lifelong habits to conserve our most valuable resource by helping people conserve water and change their usage habits in a fun and inexpensive way.

Estufa Bella Company
(Seattle Pacific University, Seattle University)

Estufa Bella Company designs and manufactures clean-burning, biochar-producing cook-stoves for use by an estimated 2.7 billion individuals who use traditional wood fires for household cooking and heating.

Extrusion Electronics
(University of Washington)

Extrusion Electronics is reimagining 3D printing with a conductive plastic filament, enabling makers to create and replicate simple electronics at home.

FireBee
(University of Washington)

FireBee is a portable thermoelectric generator that turns cooking fires into personal power stations,  creating an alternative energy source for people in countries that are otherwise off the grid.

Flexolar
(University of Washington)

Flexolar, a flexible and lightweight polymer-based solar cell, is an alternative to inorganic solar cells that are heavy, fragile, and costly to manufacture and install.

GeoPop CCS
(University of Washington)

GeoPop turns used plastic bottles collected from the trash  into affordable geocells for use in constructing retaining walls, stabilized slopes, platforms, stairs, and pathways in urban slums.

Helio
(University of Washington)

Helio manufactures portable solar panel chargers designed to generate enough power to charge laptops and other electronic accessories.Transmitting energy from the sun eliminates the need for extra batteries and reducing the toxic pollution associated with them.

Hook
(University of Washington)

Hook is a home automation hub that allows customers to convert existing electronics  to smart devices, decreasing energy consumption, improving home safety, and reducing the amount of electronics that are routinely discarded in landfills.

Illuminant Diagnostics
(University of Washington)

Illuminant Diagnostics has developed a biosensor empowered by nanotechnology that provides rapid, mobile bacteria detection without the need for cell cultures, traditional DNA testing, or isolation of disease-specific antibodies.

Ion Informatics
(University of Washington)

Ion Informatics is developing a proprietary technology that provides critical information to battery operators, optimizing asset utilization and prolonging the useful life of the battery. The end effect is a dramatic increase in value that can be extracted from each battery by enabling viable second use battery systems.

MarineSitu
(University of Washington)

MarineSitu provides environmental monitoring solutions that facilitate the sustainable development of marine renewable energy.

PowerNode
(University of Washington)

PowerNode is a web-based industrial energy monitoring system that enables users to monitor machine-specific power consumption.

Protium Innovations
(Washington State University)

Protium Innovations is developing a solid state hydrogen liquefaction device that is scalable and more energy efficient than current liquefaction technology.

Silicar9
(University of Washington)

Silicar9 is producing a new low-cost disposable protein purification system that uses more environmentally friendly materials than existing technology.

SmartyPants
(University of Washington)

SmartyPants is reinventing toilet training—and aims to prevent millions of diapers from ending up as a biohazard in landfills across the country—by predicting impending bowel events and alerts users to get to a toilet.

SwitchPoint Solutions
(Central Washington University)

SwitchPoint Solutions’ pilot product, the Solar Evaporative Air Conditioning Handler (SEARCH) is capable of achieving HVAC efficiency gains of over 40%, offering cost savings necessary to incentivize investment in renewable methods of heating and cooling.

Tape-It-Easy
(Seattle University, University of Washington)

Tape-It-Easy is increasing the adoption of water-efficient drip irrigation with a hand-driven, inexpensive tool that dispenses and secures drip tape for faster and easier installation.

TrashWall
(Washington State University)

TrashWall uses recycled materials scavenged from waste streams to build insulation panels that can be installed in rental units to reduce energy waste and increase cost-savings for renters.

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Storyform is shaking up online storytelling

Sam Altman, the president of Y Combinator, says you should never s do a startup just to do one. “There are much easier ways to become rich,” he says, “and everyone who starts a startup always says that they couldn’t have imagined how hard and painful it was going to be. You should only start a startup if you feel compelled by a particular problem and think starting a company is the best way to solve it.”

It was this advice that led Rylan Hawkins (BS 2009) to leave his job at Microsoft in the summer of 2014 and start his own company. “I believe in a better online reading experience, and I’ve decided to go after it,” says Hawkins, now the co-founder and CEO of Storyform, a framework that allows publishers and photographers to share their stories online in more captivating ways.

Storyform BannerHawkins and his co-founder, Luke Clum, believe that the current state of online reading—static content, complex designs, distracting layouts, relentless popups—diminishes the stories that authors are trying to tell. With Storyform, publishers can create “immersive narratives” on their own domains that truly engage their readers. They’ve done away with distracting sidebars and replaced scrolling canvasses with full-screen magazine-style pages that feature eye-catching layouts and interactive elements like video. They’ve also discarded traditional web page advertising in favor of ads that are sleeker and better integrated. “Not only will readers be engaged with beautiful story content,” says Hawkins, “they’ll also find the ads beautiful.”

storyform-ogThough Storyform is not even a year old, Hawkins is no stranger to startups. “I had three startup experiences in college,” he says, referring to VibeGlobe (BPC 2009), a platform to help nonprofits raise money from younger donors; Visual Schedule Finder, a program that allowed UW students to search for the perfect class schedule; and YourSports, a startup that is still thriving in the hands of CEO Chris McCoy (read about it below!). Hawkins reflects on each of his early startups as great learning experiences that he can apply to Storyform, and those lessons-learned seem to be paying off. Storyform currently has 1,900 registered publishers in countries around the world (a number that is growing about 10 percent a week) and they have logged over 17,000 hours of user engagement.

So what’s next on the road to Storyform’s success? “We’re still very early-stage, so we’re bootstrapped right now,” says Hawkins, “but we’re preparing for a first round, learning the fundraising space and meeting with everyone we can.” In the meantime, Hawkins and Clum will keep working on what got them into the startup life in the first place: transforming the way stories are told.

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YourSports: connecting the world online through sports

March Madness is coming, and athletes, coaches, and fans all over the country are gearing up for another exciting season—the sweat, the competition, the glory! But Chris McCoy (BA 2011) is excited for another reason. March Madness 2015 will mark the public beta launch of a startup effort seven years in the making. YourSports is a new sports networking platform that aims to change the way people connect through sports online.

“Sports is the ultimate connector,” says McCoy, who started YourSports during his senior year at the University of Washington. “It has an inherent ability to build relationships at all levels—high school softball teammates, 2010 Winter Olympics competitors, 12th fans—but until now these relationships haven’t been collected online in a centralized location.”

YourSports Graph BTCSure, you can find fellow fans or your college soccer teammates on Facebook or Linkedin, but there’s a lot of chatter on those social platforms, and only a small portion of it is about sports. There’s also many mainstream sports media websites, but those don’t offer the personalization that comes with social networking sites. McCoy is banking on the belief that sports communities want a personalized dedicated sports experience.

McCoy explains that social platforms connect people by interest. “Think of it this way,” he says, “Facebook was student directory-meets-social network. Linkedin is resume-meets-social network. YourSports does the same with sports data. We’ve taken the most comprehensive historical and geographical sports data on the planet and gathered it online in one place to unite teams, athletes, fans, and influencers from all levels, throughout history, and around the world.”

YourSports - chris and russell wilson
McCoy (right) with Russell Wilson

YourSports currently employs about 20 people—mostly engineers and data scientists—in 9 cities, working to build out a platform based on millions of pieces of local and national data from 100+ years of sports history. They have already created 500,000+ profiles of athletes, schools, and sports venues, raised $1.7 million in angel investment, and have seen a steady stream of people joining (“in the low thousands”) since launching their private beta in 2012. McCoy has also recruited a strong board of advisors, including ESPN.com senior baseball writer Jerry Crasnick and Ward Bullard, former head of sports at Google+. After YourSports’ public launch during March Madness, McCoy will continue to work on the next step: monetizing YourSports using a commerce model that connects users with places and products recommended by their favorite athletes. “If we get it right,” says McCoy, “YourSports will become one of the most interesting sports marketing and commerce platforms on the planet.”

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$160,000 awarded to student-led startups

The Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship’s Jones + Foster Accelerator, now in its fifth year, helps student-led startups get off the ground. Companies accepted into this six-month program receive expert mentoring, a framework for defining measurable milestones, and the opportunity to earn equity-free follow-on funding.

This year, seven companies completed the six-month accelerator program. From July 2014 to February 2015, the teams worked with committees of Seattle-area investors and entrepreneurs to meet critical startup milestones—making product improvements, developing sales and marketing strategies, licensing intellectual property, raising capital.

On February 3, the seven teams made final presentations to a panel of judges and were awarded up to $25,000 in follow-on funding. $25,000 can represent three months of runway for an early-stage company, but we think it represents more than that. It represents our confidence in their potential–we can’t wait to watch these companies achieve startup success!

CardSwapr

CardSwapr_screenshotCardSwapr is a solution to the broken secondary gift card market. Since 2008, over $44 billion gift cards have gone unused. CardSwapr’s app allows users to quickly and conveniently trade an unwanted gift card for something they will use, or sell it for cash.
Team: Sam Tanner (UW Foster School), Bryan Gula (UW Informatics)
Awarded: $25,000

FDCARES

FDCares_screenshotOver the last 30 years, 911 calls for fire department emergency medical responses have increased by 400%. And as it turns out, only 60% of these calls are true emergencies. Sending firefighters and emergency vehicles to respond to non-emergency 911 calls is expensive for fire departments, and unnecessary emergency room visits are costly to insurers. FDCARES has developed an innovative response model that lowers costs by redirecting non-emergency calls to new tier of the fire department that has the capacity to stabilize patients in the home or transport them to a non-emergency care facility.
Team: Mitch Snyder (Battalion Chief, Kent Fire Department), Jimmy Webb (Captain, Kent Fire Department)
Awarded: $25,000

Korvata

Korvata_screenshotNitrous oxide (N2O) is the fourth most common greenhouse gas, and has 300 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. This is a major problem for food and beverage retailers who use N2O cartridges to make whipped cream. Korvata has invented a patent-pending food-grade alternative that emits 50% less greenhouse gas without altering the deliciousness of the end product.
Team: Chris Metcalfe (UW Foster School MBA),  Soleil Kelley (UW Foster School MBA)
Awarded: $25,000

Lasting Smiles

LastingSmiles_screenshotLasting Smiles works to create lasting change in communities around the world. Lasting Smiles lip balm is created with organic, fair trade ingredients sourced from small-scale farmers in India, Peru, and Burkina Faso. Lasting Smiles ensures integrity and responsibility throughout the supply and manufacturing chain—no testing on animals, all pure & organic ingredients, and the highest commercially feasible post-consumer recycled packaging. The startup has formed a strategic partnership with Smile Train, the largest cleft lip and palate nonprofit in the world. Twenty-five cents of every lip balm this startup sells will go directly towards funding surgeries for children with cleft lips and palates.
Team: Zoe Mesnik-Greene (UW Foster School)
Awarded: $10,000

LINC Foods

LINC_screenshotOnly 3% of the food consumed in Spokane, WA is produced locally. Yet the demand for a robust local food system to supply restaurants and schools is high. LINC Foods is a Spokane, WA-based hub that connects local farms to institutional-scale markets by selling their fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, meats, cheeses, and eggs to large institutions (school districts, universities, hospitals), restaurants, and grocery stores.
Team: Beth Robinette (Bainbridge Graduate Institute MBA), Joel Williamson (Bainbridge Graduate Institute MBA)
Awarded: $25,000

Olykraut

OlyKraut_screenshotOlykraut combines local produce, original recipes, and “the magic of fermentation” to create delicious fermented vegetable products (think sauerkraut). The company has been producing and selling its products since 2008, and its popularity continues to grow. By producing this healthy food made with ingredients from farms in Western Washington, Olykraut is investing in the health of local people, local farms, and the local economy.
Team: Sash Sunday (Bainbridge Graduate Institute MBA), Michelle Anderson (Bainbridge Graduate Institute MBA), Domonique Juleon (Bainbridge Graduate Institute MBA), Dorothy Mitchell (Bainbridge Graduate Institute MBA)
Awarded: $25,000

Uphill Designs

Uphill_screenshotUphill Designs produces innovative and sustainable hiking equipment for outdoor enthusiasts. The startup’s trekking poles are made of bamboo—a renewable and low-cost material that is stronger and more flexible than aluminum—and the pole handles are made of post-consumer recycled cork. And in keeping with its commitment to sustainability, a percentage of Uphill Designs’ sales will go to the Pacific Crest Trail Associations and the communities where the company sources its materials.
Team: Daniel Sedlacek (UW MS Material Science & Engineering),  Mounica Sonikar (UW MS Material Science & Engineering), David DeBey (UW Foster School MBA)
Awarded: $25,000

Todd Fishman, Nathan Kaiser, and Katlin Jackson: marketing your startup

Startups are hard—identifying opportunity, developing a business plan, understanding legal issues, marketing your product. Luckily, you can learn a lot about navigating the startup world from entrepreneurs who’ve been there, done that, and lived to tell the tale.

Resource Nights, presented during winter quarter by the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, feature experts from the local entrepreneur community sharing their knowledge on various aspects of starting a business.

This week’s class, “Marketing your Startup,” featured Todd Fishman (Evergreens Salad), Nathan Kaiser (2bar Spirits), and Katlin Jackson (Haiti Babi). The three entrepreneurs shared their thoughts on identifying their startups’ uniqueness, developing marketing strategies, and establishing footholds in competitive environments.

Read some of our favorite advice and insights below, watch the entire class video here, and check back weekly for more Resource Nights coverage.

Nathan Kaiser on identifying your uniqueness:

2bar_6.2013_2“Branding is how you play the game and grow your business to wherever you want to take it,” says Kaiser, “and our brand is about legacy.” His company, 2bar Spirits, takes its name from the family ranch back in Texas—a story that is shared with every potential customer. While the brand is also known for being entirely handmade from local ingredients, Kaiser believes that 2bar “resonates in the consumer’s mind for the reasons that are important: legacy and celebration.”

Todd Fishman on communicating uniqueness:

static1.squarespace.com“We communicate our uniqueness through our people,” says Fishman, explaining that it’s his employees who share Evergeens’ distinctive qualities—a focus on health, organic and sustainable ingredients, giving back to the community—with customers. “When we are hiring, we look for people with heart—with the ability to communicate and care—over people with technical skills,” he says. “We pay more for better quality employees, and we don’t rush the hiring process.”

Katlin Jackson on messaging:

HaitiBabi_set+stone+teal“Figure out what the customer actually cares about,” says Jackson, whose company employs moms in Haiti to knit baby blankets that are sold in the United States. “If someone has just one second to learn about [Haiti Babi], what is it we want them to take away?” she asks. For Haiti Babi, she says, “It’s hope. We want them to understand that this is a hopeful product.”

Todd Fishman on preparation:

“Take every meeting, meet with everyone you can, and follow up,” says Fishman, when asked what advice he’d give to those just starting out. “ When Hunter [his cofounder] and I moved from New York back to Seattle, we met with 320 people in three months. That is ultimately how we’ve succeeded to where we are now.” He continued, speaking directly to the students in the audience, “You are at a University that has unlimited connections and networks. Tap into that!”

Alaska Airlines takes the Environmental Innovation Challenge to new heights

EIC Banner 2015_541x138

If you’ve taken an Alaska Airlines flight recently, you may have noticed some changes on board—in-flight recycling, drinks served in InCycle Cups, 100% recycled paper products in the restrooms. These changes represent the many steps the airline is taking to become a leader in sustainability by reducing the environmental impact of its services—lowering fuel emissions and energy use, cutting waste, and using fewer non-sustainable resources.

In addition to these efforts, Alaska Airlines has committed to a 10-year sponsorship of the Environmental Innovation Challenge (EIC) at the University of Washington, demonstrating its dedication to innovation that addresses the world’s most pressing environmental problems.

The EIC challenges interdisciplinary student teams to define an environmental problem, develop a solution, design and build a prototype, create a business plan that proves their solution has market potential, and pitch to a crowd of judges at a demo-day event. Since its inception, the EIC has attracted 726 students (161 teams) from Washington colleges and universities, distributed $188,585 in prototype funding, and awarded over $140,000 in prize money. Each year, 250+ professionals from Seattle’s environmental and entrepreneurial communities participate as judges, mentors, and coaches in this annual event.

Pam Tufts with EIC 2014 winner Korvata
Pam Tufts with EIC 2014 winner Korvata

“Receiving a 10-year commitment from Alaska Airlines is huge,” says Pam Tufts, assistant director of the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship and manager of the Environmental Innovation Challenge. “It’s an acknowledgment that the EIC, now in its seventh year, is making significant contributions to innovation in clean technology and sustainability. The Alaska Airlines naming gift will provide long-term stability so that we can continue to expand the program and nurture cultivate cross-disciplinary environmental innovation for years to come.”

This year’s Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge will take place on April 2, 2015. Stay tuned—we can’t wait to introduce you to this year’s teams!

Want an idea of what’s to come? Meet last year’s winners.

Learn about another EIC sponsor.

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