Seven Student Startups Awarded in Graves Undergraduate Business Plan Competition


Seven student startups were awarded cash prizes in the ninth annual University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Graves Undergraduate Business Plan Competition last week.

The students competed through three rounds of judging for first, second and third place in two different categories—high growth businesses and lifestyle businesses.

First-place winners won $5,000, second-place winners received $3,000 and third-place winners won $2,000. This year there was a tie for third in the high growth category, so the two teams each received $1,000. In total, $20,000 of donated prize money was awarded to the seven winning teams through the competition sponsored by the UT Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

David Herberich, a senior in industrial engineering, and Jesse McCrary, a sophomore in construction engineering, took first place in the high growth category with ImmersaCad. ImmersaCad is a system for immersive visualization of three-dimensional Computer Aided Designs (CAD) that allows the professional designer and their customers to experience and navigate a CAD model in virtual reality.

Second place went to the Amerus Enterprises, LLC team comprised of

Dimitriy Petrov a junior in mechanical engineering with a minor in entrepreneurship, and Zach Issacs, a junior in business. Amerus Enterprises has developed the Rush Brush, a patented toothbrush with built in flosser that’s designed for use on the go. Its unique design eliminates the need to apply toothpaste or carry floss and the product is biodegradable.

Tied for third place were SilkOps and Gifted Analytics. SilkOps is a software-as-a-service company co-founded by Taylor Adkins, a senior in business analytics, and Thomas West, a senior currently enrolled at Virginia Tech. SilkOps is a fully functional order management system that caters to custom printing companies, enabling users to input orders, manage production and generate invoices. Several printing shops are already using SilkOps.

Gifted Analytics, thought up by Will Lifferth, a sophomore in Computer Science, is a company using powerful machine learning to generate gift ideas for gift givers. Their product, the Gift Finder, allows users to describe the gift recipient with both demographics and psychographics, after which Gift Finder automatically recommends a list of unique gifts. Lifferth hopes to launch his product later this year.

In the lifestyle category, first place went to Kevin White and Gameday Weekenders, a startup providing UT fans with travel, accommodations, and tailgate activities for away athletic events. White, a senior majoring in business analytics, launched his company last fall, taking customers to four Tennessee road games.

Second place went to “mooch”, an app that allows individuals to save money by borrowing what they need, and make money by lending what they don’t. The “mooch” team is comprised of Jared Smith and Kyle Bashour, both seniors majoring in computer science, and Kaleigh Veca, a junior graphic design major.

Third place went to MBD Cleaning, co-founded by Beatriz Satizabal, a junior in the College Scholars Program. MDB Cleaning specializes in cleaning small businesses and high-end residences and focuses on strong personal relationships and environmentally friendly cleaning practices.

The Graves Undergraduate Business Plan Competition is held every spring. It is open to UT undergraduate students from any field of study. An outside panel of judges from the business community select the winners. Since it first began in 2008, this competition has awarded $170,000 to student startups. It has funded 50 startup ideas, 36 of which went on to become legally established companies.

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