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May 8, 2017

Isenberg holds 2nd-annual Innovation Challenge MinutePitch competition

Flickr/Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

The next visionary could be found at the University of Massachusetts.

At least, that’s what the 33 entrepreneurs competing with ideas for new products hoped for at yesterday’s second-annual MinutePitch competition held in the Isenberg School of Management.

In conjunction with the UMass Innovation Challenge, the competition allowed for no prototypes or visuals of any kind, and each team was given 60 seconds to give their pitch.

Most teams were groups, though some individuals chose to work alone.

Four prizes of were awarded at the end of the competition, three by a panel of judges with entrepreneurship expertise and one by audience members through live text voting and social media.

The audience prize amounted to $250, while the other three were meant to be $1,000, $750, and $500.

But at the end of the night, two groups – Green Latrine and Video Conversation – each walked away with $1,000 prizes due to a tie between the judges.

Above Average Business Solutions,  a website that employees can post on to try and get a co-worker to cover their shift if unable to make it to work on time or on a certain day, won the $500 prize, and Radius Apparel took the $250 prize.

Green Latrine, in collaboration with the Gates Foundation, created a toilet that composts human waste as well as creates energy out of the waste. Their market looks to primarily third-world countries where there is insufficient access to sanitary facilities as well as a lack of useable and reusable energy sources.

Video Conversation intends to revolutionize the way video conferencing works, turning it more into a conversation and closing loopholes and bugs in current programs, such as those run by Cisco and Polycom.

Due to the record number of entrants in this year’s MinutePitch, the competition had to be separated into two rooms for a preliminary round, where eight teams – four from each room – were chosen to compete in front of the entire audience for their shot at the prizes. The rooms were separated by the two general categories of Innovation and Small Business.

Out of the eight final groups chosen, five of them were individuals working independently and the remaining teams were comprised of groups.

The UMass Innovation Challenge is different from other competitions by other universities in that it limits entry to only current students or those who just recently graduated.

Event Coordinator Heather Demers said that MinutePitch and Innovation Challenge is an important experience for both marketing students and engineers because they will work hand-in-hand in the business world.

While each of the products presented at MinutePitch is a genuine idea, none of them are on the market.

“Bringing a product to market is a long process, and this is just the beginning,” Demers said.

The $3,000 in prize money awarded at MinutePitch is a fraction of the money awarded by the Innovation Challenge throughout the academic year. All of the money is donated from the private sector, meaning that no money comes out of student tuition to fund the competition.

Green Latrine hopes to continue the work that they’ve started with their toilets. They have an experimental prototype that they are working with in Ghana and would like to use their winnings to go back to the country to check on it.

“A thousand dollars goes a long way to get one of us back,” group member Joe Goodwill said.

Patrick Hoff can be reached at pphoff@student.umass.edu.

 

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