By Lisa Craig, firstname.lastname@example.org
For the first time in the history of the LaunchTown Entrepreneurship Awards, one university swept all three top spots — The University of Akron.
Six finalists out of 30 teams made their final pitches and vied for $10,000 in total cash prizes at the 11th annual competition, held April 27 at The Bit Factory in downtown Akron. The event, which is sponsored by the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, is an idea competition for new businesses, products or services that is open to all students, majors, colleges and universities in Northeast Ohio. Additional sponsorship of the event was provided by the Akron Global Business Accelerator, a program of the city of Akron.
Winner of first place and a $7,000 prize was OncoSolutions, which uses a special 3-D cellular technology to evaluate new medicines for cancer treatment. This technology provides greater reliability in preliminary testing, saving up to six months of research and hundreds of thousands of dollars in research costs. The team is led by Stephanie Ham, a biomedical engineering Ph.D. student, and Brandon Sieteski, an Akron Law student, and advised by Dr. Hossein Tavana, an associate professor of biomedical engineering.
Second place, and $2,000, was awarded to Cool-Aid. The technology is used in helmets to help keep users cool in very hot conditions by cooling the air outside the helmet. The technology is initially being used in motorcycle helmets, hoping to improve the safety for riders who don’t normally wear helmets in warm months. The company’s goal is to extend their technology to other applications where helmets are used. The team is led by by Harry Harris, an aerospace systems major, and advised by Dr. Nicholas Garafolo, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering.
HungerPerks, the third place winner, received $1,000. It is a fast food marketing app that uses geo-fencing to offer free food to people who take surveys from restaurants. As users walk into an area of a restaurant using the app, they are able to answer questions and get free food or food specials in exchange for answering surveys. Restaurants benefit by driving traffic and getting marketing results in real time. The team is led by Kyle Flynn, marketing and sales management; Julia Millinak, marketing and sales management; and Sam Borick, computer science. Robert Chalfant, director of UA’s Fitzgerald Institute for Entrepreneurship, is the advisor.
A finalist in the competition was Yes We Khan — an orthopedic drill angle indicator. The team is led by biomedical engineering majors Nicole Kelley, Aaron Howkins, Reno Dannels and Ian Banks, and advised by Dr. James Keszenheimer, a visiting design instructor in biomedical engineering.
LaunchTown’s leadership team consists of regional professional and university leaders who volunteer their time to manage the competition and advise the teams’ members. UA members are Keszenheimer, Barry Rosenbaum, University of Akron Research Foundation Senior Fellow; and Dr. Gopal Nadkarni, associate professor in mechanical engineering.
Ron Seide, founder and former CEO of Summit Data, and former vice president at Laird Technologies, served as the event's keynote speaker. LaunchTown’s 2015 top prize winner, UA’s own Kathleen Stitzlein, president and co-founder of Triple Beam Technologies, which manufactures the Cannibuster marijuana intoxication detector, also spoke at the event.