From left, Chip Hunter, Carson College of Business dean, with Appiture team members Thomas Goble and Lars Neuenschwander at the Business Plan Competition awards ceremony. Also pictured are Marie Mayes, Center for Entrepreneurship director, and Mike Bauer, director of Herbert B. Jones Foundation.

Student Startup Teams Compete for $75,000 at WSU’s 17th Annual Business Plan Competition

By Meagan Garrett

The WSU Center for Entrepreneurship hosted its 17th annual Business Plan Competition (BPC) April 25. More than 30 student venture teams, representing nearly 150 students, presented their business ideas and competed for cash and in-kind prizes totaling more than $75,000.

The top six teams in the college league were awarded prize money, with Appiture winning $15,000 for first place. Appiture created a device and app pairing system that can screen for Autism Spectrum Disorders, allowing earlier detection and enabling children to receive intervention services at a younger age.

This year, the BPC welcomed competitors from outside WSU in an open league where team HAYTECH won first place and $5,000. Additionally, Videsse won first place and $5,000 in the high school league.

Solutions for real-world problems

Crimson Medical Solutions

The full-day event included a presentation and final round of competition, a trade show where student teams displayed their product and service ideas, and an awards dinner with a keynote address given by Lee Rhodes, founder of glassybaby, a Seattle company that creates hand-blown glass candle holders and drinking glasses.

Rhodes spoke about the power of being a social entrepreneur and the impact a business can have when it gives back in purposeful ways to the communities it serves. She mentioned how inspired she was by the number of student teams working on projects that would have a tangible impact on problems their communities, and the world, are facing today.

Highlights included a device for a less-invasive method for detecting pancreatic cancer, a new way of growing an environmentally sustainable coral, a web platform for cryptocurrency trading, pet wellness supplements, a device to organize IV lines in medical environments, and medical devices to assist those with impaired or lost hand function.

  • 27 college teams entered the competition representing 111 students from majors across the WSU system:
    • Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture: 49
    • Carson College of Business: 40
    • Edward R. Murrow College of Communication: 13
    • College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences: 5
    • College of Veterinary Medicine: 3
    • College of Education: 1
  • 19 college teams from outside WSU entered the open league, entering from regional colleges and universities as far away as New Mexico
  • A record 42 teams entered the high school league, nearly doubling last year’s number
  • Nearly 80 business professionals and entrepreneurs from the Inland Northwest business and entrepreneurship community served as judges in the screening, presentation, and final rounds

Winning teams announced

The Herbert B. Jones Foundation sponsored the league grand prizes as well as merit awards worth $2,500 each for best written plan, best presentation, best technology venture, and best social impact business. BECU Credit Union sponsored a FinTech merit prize, awarded to the team that presented the most innovative idea in the financial technology space.

A new merit prize was added this year for exemplary ideas in agricultural innovation. The $5,000 prize was sponsored by KT Farms and NW Biologic.

The first ever BPC Trade Show prompted the creation of two additional $5,000 merit prizes: the Best Trade Show Team and the Most Outgoing Engineer, sponsored by Larry Gross, WSU alumnus and president of Relay Application Innovation, Inc.

All awards were announced at the event’s gala dinner.

The winning teams are:

WSU college:

  1. Appiture – created a device and app pairing system that can screen for Autism Spectrum Disorders
  2. Crimson Medical Solutions – created a noninvasive modular organization system for intravenous lines in the medical environment
  3. Hitchhiker Carpooling – created a ridesharing app for college students traveling long distances
  4. All Aboard – created an Airbnb model for personal boat sharing that allows for customizable experiences on the water
  5. Obsidian Bot – created a website that enables cryptocurrency traders to automate their trading strategies

Honorable Mention:

  1. BioMech – developed a Grip Glove that improves dexterity and grip strength for people with impaired hand function

Open league:

  1. HAYTECH – created precision agriculture methods for hay bailing to save hay producers time and money

High school league:

  1. Videsse – created Pullman’s first video production company focused on making promotional videos
  2. Chloe’s Lavender – created artisanal lavender soaps and lotions to sell online and at local farmers markets
  3. Vintage Soul Leather Co. – designed handmade leather earrings
  4. The Bent Carrot – created a smoothie bar that utilizes the food that would be thrown away because of imperfect looks but is otherwise fine to eat
  5. The Paint Box – created a monthly art subscription box that focuses on 2-D and ceramic art

Merit prize winners:

  • Best Written Plan: Appiture
  • Best Presentation: Appiture
  • Best Technology Venture: All Aboard
  • Best Social Impact Business: DevCo
  • Best FinTech: Obsidian Bot
  • Ag Innovation Prize: HAYTECH
  • Best Trade Show Prize: Neuroche Meditation
  • Most Outgoing Engineer: Shawyon Jaffarbhoy
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