Weave takes top prize at CLU’s New Venture Competition
In a bid to end the age of bulletin boards on college campuses, social network Weave took the top prize at the 2017 California Lutheran University New Venture Competition featuring five teams on April 27.
The Weave platform offers a way for students to find out about events, services and conversations happening within a close geographical community.
“At its core, this is a snapshot of what’s being talked about on campus at any given time,” said co-founder Austin Janik, adding that the hope is to get them quickly off the platform and into social situations.
The team won the $3,000 award for its unique approach, using advertising revenues from local small businesses to fund the app, said Chris Herbert, CEO of Santa Barbara-based TrackR and one of the four judges.
“Besides the magic tricks during the pitch, which were a lot of fun, it had business potential and solved a problem that people care about.”
HypoxAware took second place for its solution to the medical problem of hypoxia, a lack of oxygen in the blood that pilots frequently don’t realize they have, even while experiencing symptoms like headaches, tingling, nausea and euphoria mid-flight. The system, designed by Ryan Gibson and Tyler Gross, would alert pilots to irregular vital signs or when oxygen levels dropped below a certain point and give them audible instructions.
“We want to give pilots the tools to manage the risks and have a safe flight,” Gross said.
Evan Brandt and Jake Gould debuted their app ChorStor, a platform for families to help assign, organize and track progress on kids’ chores — and their rewards. Connecting with an Amazon wish list, the app would allow kids to earn points toward items, swapping out a cash allowance for direct end goals and taking a commission on sales to avoid inventory costs.
“We’re trying to solve a significant problem for families and make chores fun,” Brandt said. The concept netted them third place, and the people’s choice prize.
A group of Westlake Elementary fifth grade students participating in a program called StartUp Kids — Grace Keatts, Kaden Youmans and Marissa Margolis — opened the event with their marketing and production plan for WarmItUp, a product for moms, kids and outdoor enthusiasts (or simply people who want to save money on heating their homes). The line of heatable accessories such as beanies, gloves and scarves would be made of all natural, organic materials.
Their competitors, Youmis said, primarily use materials like polyester and only sell to adults, “which I think is a little unfair.”
A group of CLU students — Dariush Apfelthaler, Tyler Lucas, Zujaja Tehreem and Nathaniel Thompson — created the StartUp Kids program to bring entrepreneurial spirit and training to elementary school students and has already trained three cohorts in its eight-week course. The StartUp Kids program itself was pitched at the competition as a nonprofit startup and took fourth place.
Tapping a largely overlooked area of the wearable market, SoleFit’s team of Mackenzie Hiatt, Sam Ott, Bhushan Parulekar and Molly Strawn pitched their fix for aching feet.
After shipping customers a pressure-sensing shoe insert, the team’s app would track data about a user’s stride and foot activity, eventually allowing them to create customized orthotics. SoleFit finished in fifth place.
Herbert, a veteran of pitch competitions at UC Santa Barbara, said he was blown away by the quality and the product demonstrations. In his first year as a competitor, he took last place. But he came back the next year to take the top prize and go on to sell millions of tracking devices.
“Just because you don’t win, it’s not any reflection on the viability of the business,” Herbert said.
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