For entrepreneurs competing in Grow Utah’s Concept to Company contests, the culminating Crowdpitch event in which entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to the audience can mean big bucks and in-kind services to assist in getting their company off the ground.
At the event held at Dixie State University’s Holland Center, three southern Utah companies received cash prizes and in-kind support services. The Smart Hub by Lumos received the top cash prize of $10,000. Audience IN, by Velocity Webworks, and Quick Connect by On Car Mechanic were the runners up, each winning $5,000 in cash and $4,000 in services. Diesel CNG was the $500 crowd favorite winner.
Crowdpitch was the final component of the southern Utah Concept to Company contest, produced by Grow Utah, Zions Bank, SEED Dixie and the Utah Science Technology and Research initiative (USTAR). Eight finalists who participated were selected from 30 entries focused on technology. Teams presented expo style to judges who evaluated the uniqueness of their ideas, management teams, the customer need and market.
Shane Cox, CEO of the Smart Hub, says that often a teacher or facilitator comes to a classroom and attempts to connect their device with the projector and it doesn’t work. Smart Hub’s hardware solves the problem of multiple technical devices in a classroom by allowing teachers to seamlessly interact with the class using whatever technology they choose.
“It was an amazing opportunity to compete with some great companies and ideas, and to see the innovation that is happening in Utah,” said Cox. “We loved the opportunity to get feedback on our product as well as our presentation. We are thrilled to be able to give educators the tools they need to create an exciting and effective classroom environment.”
Audience IN allows presenters to import their presentation slides and add interactive engagement tools such as quizzes, polls and games. Participants use web enabled devices to interact with the presenter, increasing engagement.
Scott Hoopes, founder of Audience IN, says the $5,000 will be essential in assisting the company as they continue product development and mature the technology to transition to the consumer.
“We are grateful that these types of events are put on and allow us to get capital to help us get our products to market,” said Hoopes. “Also it is beneficial for us to think through some of these hard questions and look at our ideas from an investor’s perspective so we can find the weaknesses in our business ideas and make them strengths.”
On Car Mechanic’s patent pending software, Quick Connect, has a wireless adaptor that turns a smart phone into an On-Car Mechanic to make sure users don’t get ripped off in automotive repairs. This allows On-Car Mechanic to remotely check the electronics of a computer system, alerting the owner to changes in the car from virtually anywhere. The $5,000 cash prize will help On-Car Mechanic finish their technology development, execute marketing and pitch to angel investors.
“This was our first chance to do something like this, and to have a program to help us get started is great,” said Marv Ray, founder of On-Car Mechanic. “It feels good to be able to show the validity of our product.”
Jill Elliss, Southern Utah USTAR director, said these types of projects have the potential to become job creators.
“The next year will determine if these innovators can execute on their plans,” she said.
In addition to the winner of the 2014 contest, those who were involved in the 2013 event had the ability to compete for the title of Rookie of the Year. As with the funding for the Crowdpitch winners, the prize money for Rookie of the Year came from private contributions.
“This year we received an additional $20,000 in cash to be awarded to the Rookie of the Year,” Elliss said. “Rx Trax, a mobile device software used by pharmacies delivering drugs and medical devices, won the Rookie of the Year. They demonstrated they are the company achieving the most traction in the startup year.”
Ellis noted that this year’s Concept to Company applicants will be eligible for next year’s Rookie of the Year.