Friday, December 3, 2010

And the Winners Are!

Yesterday I had the distinct pleasure of attending the sixth annual Innovation Challenge at UMass Amherst in which 11 teams competed during this first phase in the 2010-2011 challenge. These 11 teams were the finalists out of 25.

I highlighted this competition in an earlier blogspost. What impressed me was the number of teams with green / social entrepreneurship themes.

In my humble opinion, ALL of the TEAMS are winners -- they delivered their 2 minute elevator pitches to a large audience and a panel of judges and were subject to intense questioning from the judges about their startup company ideas and business plans. There was at least one case of stage fright when the speaker could not go on. Another team-mate stepped in to save the team.

The event took place on the tenth floor of the UMass Campus Center with gorgeous views, even of the sun setting.

The teams that were selected to receive financial funding (all from private donations) for this phase are:

o 3D Therapeutics - $2,500
o Aha! Productions - $1,000
o Bacteriotix - $2,500
o Flexolyte - $2,500
o Posytive - $1,500.

Both the first and third teams above had ideas dealing with drug delivery (and testing) mechanisms as service providers. Flexolyte proposed a battery for electric cars that would not be sensitive to exploding (as lithium batteries can be). Posytive has developed software to assist in engineering design and Aha! Productions competed last year and also has potential engineering apps.

Note that out of all the "green" teams only Flexolyte received funding, at this stage.

I was impressed by GreenAgency with its potential to "jump over" the smart grid, and with GreenNav's thrust into determining optimal routes of travel using different criteria (but as someone who researches this topic I hope that a distinction is made between system-optimization and user-optimization). Climate Risk Planning has a potential partner already with an insurance company. I am interested in finding out which peer-reviewed climate models that group would actually be using at a high level of disagreggation. Safety Through Green proposed specially-treated bamboo and house designs so that cement would not be used in production and these structures would be more resilient to earthquakes (and their production more environmentally-friendly, apparently).

I also enjoyed listening to Last Mile Wireless with potential to bring broadband to parts of western MA which lack it now.

The last team, SHM, may give Groupon a run for the money, some day.

What also impressed me was that several teams mentioned the importance of algorithms to their proposed companies.

All can still compete in the second phase with the date of April 28, 2011.

Congrats to all the teams for their passion and ideas and best of luck!

Thanks to VCRE Dr. Mike Malone and to Ms. Heather Demers for a truly thrilling event!

It was an honor to serve as a Faculty Advisor for this competition.