Four student startups at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, were named among the 13 finalists in Launch Tennessee’s 36|86: Student Edition Pitch Competition. The competition brings together student companies from universities across Tennessee as part of the agency’s statewide University Venture Challenge program.
GeoAir, SimPath, In With the Old and The Sorority Guide will pitch June 4 in Nashville as part of the 36|86 Entrepreneurship and Technology Conference, an event for entrepreneurs, investors and thought leaders from across the country.
Student teams will compete in four categories: commercialized technology, consumer goods/services, social enterprise and technology-enabled. Winners will receive cash prizes totaling $60,000, exposure at 36|86, ongoing growth support from Launch Tennessee and eligibility to apply for the TENN Master Accelerator program.
The four finalists placed in at least one of the eligible 2016-17 competitions hosted by the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in UT’s Haslam College of Business. Vol Court, the Graves Business Plan Competition and the Boyd Venture Challenge were selected by Launch Tennessee to participate in the UVC program as Tennessee University Partner Competitions.
“The opportunities provided by Launch Tennessee’s UVC program are invaluable to our programs and students,” said Tom Graves, director of operations for the Anderson Center. “We’re proud to see so many of our student teams progress to competition at this level.”
GeoAir, founded by recent MBA graduate Alex Adams from Bristol, Tennessee, will compete in the commercialized technology category. GeoAir provides a faster, more precise way to identify mold in fields by using a drone to take airborne samples of the field. That data is used to create a heat map, which identifies mold hot spots. This information allows growers to spot treat problem areas instead of the entire crop, saving time, money and crop production.
SimPath, founded by Rob Moseley and Ben Mohr, doctoral candidates with UT’s Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education, will pitch in the commercialized technology category. The company offers cost-effective streamlined research services to enable bioengineers to increase their productivity and innovation. SimPath’s DNA assembly services allow customers to reduce time and costs by outsourcing the building of synthetic DNA.
In With the Old, a social-media-based clothing retail service, will compete in the consumer goods/services category. The company was founded by Baker Donahue, a junior in communication studies from Franklin, Tennessee. In With the Old uses online social auctions to sell repurposed vintage college apparel. Initially focused on selling on UT-themed apparel, the brand now includes four other college campuses.
The Sorority Guide, founded by Kelsey Duncan, a sophomore in marketing from Nashville, will compete in the technology-enabled category. The values-based analytical tool uses a cell phone application to guide potential new sorority members through the recruitment process. The application eases the process by providing users with information about each sorority, facts about recruitment events and journaling options for users to privately record their experiences.
Launch Tennessee’s UVC launched in 2015 with the goal of increasing the number of student-led entrepreneurial ventures and creating an environment that enables them to succeed. In order to be eligible to compete in Launch Tennessee’s UVC, companies must be a winner in a competition hosted by an approved UVC partner.