Twelve student entrepreneurs pitched their ideas for a new technology-based business, product or service that addresses a market need to a mock investment panel at the annual LaunchTown Entrepreneurship Awards semi-finals at Kent State University on Monday.
Of the 12 entrepreneurs, just five were selected to advance to the LaunchTown Entrepreneurship Awards finals, which will take place on April 16 at the Well Community Development Corporation (CDC). The finalists will compete for $10,000 in investment offered by the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, along with coaching from the LaunchTown leadership team.
The 2018 LaunchTown Entrepreneurship Awards finalists are:
- Boundary Laboratories, led by Case Western Reserve University mechanical and aerospace engineering major Prince Ghosh. Boundary Laboratories’ technology includes a dielectric barrier discharge plasma actuator adhesive strip that can stick to the surface of wind turbine blades, plane wings and truck trailers. When activated with an electric control system, the plasma actuator controls the air flowing around the body, which increases overall efficiency by up to 4 percent.
- Mussel, led by University of Akron student Daryl George Philip. Mussel is an innovative wall plug designed to anchor heavy objects in construction.
- Protein Stabilizer, led by University of Akron polymer science major Cesar Lopez Gonzalez. Protein Stabilizer is a material that can disperse proteins and potentially preserve them for longer periods of time at higher temperatures, which would save costs of freezing during storage, increase the shelf life and simplify handling.
- Path Robotics, led by Case Western Reserve University mechanical engineering major Alexander Lonsberry. Path Robotics’ technology is a robotic welder that operates without needing to be programmed by hand. It uses proprietary artificial intelligence methods to autonomously find all seams that need to be welded.
- iRes, led by University of Akron chemical engineering Ph.D student Seyedeh Neda Mehdizadeh. iRes is a customer assistant system located on restaurant tables that interacts directly with customers via smartphones. The system allows customers to use their smartphones to order food from a real-time graphical digital menu, ask for service, request their favorite music and pay their bill.
Part of what makes LaunchTown different from other pitch competition is the coaching offered to participants, according to TechGrit CEO and LaunchTown Leadership Chair Anthony Margida.
“Most of the pitch competitions that you see are one-night events. LaunchTown is an experience, a journey for students,” he said.
Members of the all-volunteer LaunchTown leadership team, which consists of 18 representatives from Northeast Ohio universities and business leaders, help coach students throughout the process.
“We’re also trying to give the best and brightest the opportunity to stay in Northeast Ohio and launch businesses here. We’re helping them now, where they got their start, and hopefully they remember that and set down some roots here,” said TechGrit President and LaunchTown leadership member Andrea Margida.
“We make ourselves available to help support (the teams) as they proceed forward. And when you look back at who has won in the past, they are doing some pretty amazing things now,” said Andrea Margida.
Stephanie Ham, who received a doctorate degree in biomedical engineering from The University of Akron in 2017, won the 2017 competition. Her business, OncoSolutions, which she co-founded with Hossein Tavana and Elyse Ball, uses 3-D cellular technology to evaluate new medicines for cancer treatment.
This is the first year the final event will be held at the Well CDC, part of a long-term strategic effort to boost the entrepreneurial community there, according to Anthony Margida.
“We are reaching out to the people who live right in the (Middlebury) neighborhood to come to LaunchTown and see what’s possible, what these kids are doing, so they can be inspired,” said Andrea Margida.
It’s also the first year the leadership team has offered the LaunchTown Chef Competition. Emerging culinary entrepreneur Dion Millender of Shaboys was selected as the winner. He will receive $500 in funding and cater the LaunchTown Entrepreneurship Awards final event on April 16.
“It’s his first huge catering job,” said Andrea Margida. “We are working with him every step of the way to make sure he is very successful that evening.”
The LaunchTown Entrepreneurship Awards final event is free and open to the public. Mike Maczuzak, CEO and founder of SmartShape, will serve as keynote speaker for the event, which kicks off at 5 p.m. Attendees are asked to register in advance for the event.