Last week, 20 teams pitched their ventures at the Henry W. Bloch School of Management Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. All of the student entrepreneurs were solving problems through their business ventures that ranged from tech products to beauty products to apps and platforms to connect busy parents. Teams pitched in 10-minute time slots with 5 minutes for the pitch and 4 minutes for questions and answers. The next round of the UM System EQ Pitch Competition is in March 2020.
Here are the 12 ventures:
Thomas Murphy, business administration, undergraduate; Kyla McAuliffe, business administration, undergraduate; Abdulmajeed Baba Ahmed, mechanical engineering, undergraduate; Ami Khalsa, computer science, undergraduate
Pegasus upfits traditional bicycles to run with battery-electric-power assistance. The company is intent on creating an alternative and affordable transportation option for all residents. The target audience identifies as low-income, which drives Pegasus to provide a more effective and reliable mode of transportation for individuals to reach jobs, school and communities. An included bus pass will help manage instances of inclement weather. The team said market-rate customers will experience value from Pegasus’ cost leadership strategy, because an upfit will cost half the price of an equivalent quality new e-bike.
Vortex Cooling Systems
Jordan Berg, mechanical engineering, undergraduate
According to Berg, there is an unmet demand for a business to create and sell direct water-cooled central processing units and graphics processing units. He said Vortex Cooling Systems would provide in-house integration of a cooling system and processor to create a much more powerful system than what is currently on the market. By professionally bonding a cooling system to the CPU, the thermal resistances present in currently-available cooling systems would be bypassed and the new cooling system would perform far better. The customer could then purchase the CPU and cooling system combo directly from the company instead of purchasing each component separately. Other business capabilities would include retrofitting customers current CPUs with a cooling system, or custom chained cooling system based on customers’ requirements. The goal of the company would be to keep up with the customizable nature of the gaming community.
Koil Hair Dryer
Konnie Wells, mechanical engineering, undergraduate; Zion Guerrier, mechanical engineering, undergraduate
The product is a hair dryer designed to help individuals with curly and coily hair textures to dry and/or straighten their hair. The student entrepreneurs said customers will no longer have to buy multiple devices to straighten or dry their hair, because attachments will be made specifically for curly and/or coily hair types. The hair dryer will also have an ergonomic handle that has better sensors to offer great heat control and power control. In addition, Wells and Guerrier said the attachments will be strong, because coily hair can place a large amount of resistance on them compared to the resistance from straighter hair textures. The hair dryers will be available online or can be bought in stores, giving customers a device tailored specifically for them.
Good Bitter Best
Jennifer Agnew, business administration, graduate
Because many of bars and restaurants in the Kansas City area use generic bitters, or make them in-house, Agnew plans to offer local bitters that are made from locally-sourced ingredients. Agnew said giving bars and restaurants access to a local company will allow them time to mix more creative drinks without the mess, hassle and expense of making their own. Providing local bitters would also allow for drink menus to change with the seasons or different events rather than sticking with one flavor all year. Good Bitter Best has already created a line of bitters, giving Agnew the bittering agents and experience with what works best to get the most flavor out of the ingredients.
Nathaniel Worcester, computer science, undergraduate
Worcester believes the industrial food service and restaurant industry needs an across-platform recipe sharing application that supports different file-types. As the market stands, recipe sharing applications do not support file transfer in their native file format (docs, .txt, pdf, video, etc). Worcester said this requires the chef to manually update and replace old recipes by filling in fields in a recipe sharing application. Where the tech world has moved to “drag and drop,” functions, he said the food industry still uses the equivalent of static html applications that do not allow multimedia or anything outside a filled out form. File-sharing applications provided by Apple or Google Drive are currently being used in many instances in the food-service industry, but these programs do not support role-based access for files to allow the employee to edit, change or share a recipe where they should only be able to view it. Because of the hassle, Worcester said some companies are still using paper recipe books.
Compost Collective KC
Kyle McAllister, business administration, graduate
Compost Collective KC solves two fundamental problems – the first is a global issue. McAllister said food waste is a major threat to the environment and is produced in the United States at an alarming rate. Approximately 30% to 40% of all waste going to landfills in the U.S. is food. He said that equates to approximately 33 billion pounds of food in landfills per year. That volume would fill the entire Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, each day for an entire year. McAllister said this is a problem because food waste breaks down in a landfill without oxygen and, as a result, the process emits methane gas. Depending on the study, McAllister said methane gas has 25 to 84 times the climate-change impact than carbon dioxide. Given this issue, people are looking for more sustainable alternatives. McAllister cited a recent Yale study that found that 70% of Americans think environmental protection is more important than economic growth. McAllister believes Compost Collective KC can help solve the second problem – give people a simple way to have a positive environmental impact by composting.
Fahad Qureshi, medicine, undergraduate/graduate
When Qureshi started shadowing physicians, he saw an unexpected problem when any surgical operation involving an X-ray or radioactive imaging technology requires the health care professional wear a heavy lead vest and skirt – the equipment was very heavy and often weighed between 30 and 69 pounds. Because failure to wear protective gear results in carcinogenic radioactive exposure, wearing of protective equipment is required by law. When questioned, Qureshi said surgeons complained of back pain and hindered operational mobility due to the excess weight. In addition, Qureshi said the pain worsened for physicians as they worked long surgeries and as they aged. To solve this problem, Qureshi realized he needed to add an engineering element to his medical background. He started an apprenticeship with a local engineer and learned how to work with his hands. Qureshi said his eyes were opened to the problem-solving nature of the field. He soon started constructing his own prototypes in the fashion of the pulleys and levers. The prototype consisted of a lead vest/skirt with a tether. This tether was hooked to a cord that ran to a small hook on a ceiling. Finally, the cord was connected to a weight that offset the weight of the vest. In this way, a simple pulley was created. He contacted an interventional nephrology practice that uses radioactive imaging called A.I.N. in Chicago who allowed him to build a model in the operating room with special sterile materials. Qureshi used a 50 pound weight to make a 60 pound vest and skirt feel like just 10 pounds. The physicians at the practice were astounded and asked for more, citing their immense need.
Travis Fields, business administration, undergraduate
Fields is creating a 21st century solution to the fragmented local music scenes left in the wake of the 20th century recording industry. Unity Gain is a brand, anchored by a live music venue, artist’s hostel and a 24-hour diner built on local music communities offering local and touring musicians the resources, networking and support necessary to make their musical careers sustainable. By offering hostel-style sleeping quarters for touring musicians, as well as membership based production studios, digital marketing resources, mentorship and more to musicians, Fields said Unity Gain will create a community and value that will attract top talent, and in turn, the live music fans and supporters in those communities. Fields also expects to build relationships with the influencers of tomorrow.
Adeesh Parvathaneni, medicine, undergraduate/graduate
Pythagorus provides an online service that would allow young people and athletes to have physical therapy whenever and wherever they would like it. By providing an online physical therapy experience using a webcam, the application would use copyrighted code to detect angles and thus, the exercise that the young person made. Therapists can then let patients know whether or not they did the exercise right. The program would also count the amount of reps completed, allowing a physical therapist to use the software to prescribe a workout to a young athlete through a video demo. The patient could then complete the exercises under the guidance of the software. Parvathaneni said the application differentiates itself by not only its marketing strategy, but by being the sole company that allows for physical therapy online. In addition, he said the solution is proprietary and utilizes Intel OpenVino software, which leverages deep learning technology.
Brad Starnes, information technology, undergraduate
DivviUp would solve the problem of sharing or splitting automatic payments between peers. Currently, Starnes said consumers have to put one card on file if they plan use auto pay, and use other methods to get funds to their peers or make multiple payments to their merchant for a simple bill pay. DivviUp would allow consumers to put a virtual card on file with their merchant for monthly recurring transactions to then be separated by an algorithm for each person’s portion of their transaction via an ACH withdrawal. The DivviUp team integrated with a third-party banking service, Plaid, which allowed them to conduct real-time balance checks on consumers’ individual accounts prior to allowing the transaction to go through on a monthly basis. They utilize user input of each person’s percentage of the transaction to charge the dollar amount to each user’s checking account each month. Plaid allows them to check each user’s account to see if they have their specified amount, and if not, they send a notification rejecting the transaction. Starnes said this program gives the opportunity to transfer funds and re-attempt the transaction when funds are available. DivviUp will utilize data entered by the consumers on a mobile app, specifying what utility company in use, to market to those companies for an online API integration to reduce cost.
EEG Controlled IoT Devices
Syed Jawad Shah, computer science, graduate (PhD)
Shah has identified a problem for people who are physically disabled and don’t have an effective communication medium. EEG Controlled IoT Devices is a brain-computer interface that directs IoT devices to take certain actions. It is an assistive and non-invasive technology that enables physically challenged individuals to complete their daily tasks with some degree of independence. They can also communicate with others in a more effective manner. Examples would be turning the light on or off or calling for help. The device also enables health care providers to provide better services to patients. The interface uses deep learning technology to learn distinct patterns in EEG signals and associates them to trigger certain actions on IoT devices. For example, a patient with no ability to move or talk can turn on a light in a dark room by thinking of an illuminated light bulb. In this way, Shah hopes his product will increase users’ confidence and provide positive a experience.
Greyson Twist, bioinformatics and computer science, graduate (PhD)
The core of Genalytics is to prepopulate data from experts in line with current FDA approved and supported/drug gene interactions in the required/proprietary format. Access is shared across all possible target customers but the interface and interaction may differ. In direct-to-consumer, uploaded relevant demographic information as well as genomic information, customers can present a potential medication, via barcode scanner or the drug NDC code. The system will screen the active ingredients and the genomic data, and return a red light or green light based on the results. A green light means it is safe, based on known information to take the medication. A red light means that some concerns exists. With the red/negative indication, the team would like to provide alternative medication options, such as a product minus the offending active ingredient, or suggestions to consult a pharmacist or doctor for dose adjustment guidance.
Read about the last pitch competition