More oversized checks and startup capital were dished out this week to budding local entrepreneurs.
Teams of Virginia Commonwealth University undergrads and graduate students competed for funding on Wednesday to turn their ideas into viable businesses through the school’s third annual Venture Creation Competition.
Karen Hymes, a student at the VCU Brandcenter, and a team of undergraduates took home the top prizes.
Hymes’ Tagather, an online social shopping platform, won first prize for the graduate division, scooping up $4,000 in cash and $5,000 worth of legal services from the law firm Cooley LLP.
Tagether will allow users to tag consumer goods that appear in photos on social media sites and potentially earn rewards from those consumer brands for their efforts. Hymes said it will take $100,000 to $200,000 to develop Tagether and an additional $1 million in backend “data development.”
Cush, a product devised by students Calvin Peterson, Kaitlin Taylor, Wallace Pitts and Elliot Roth, won first place for the undergraduate division. The cushion that helps prevent bedsores earned them $4,000 through the contest.
The win helped the Cush team feel extra flush. Last week, the team members won $2,500 at the i.e. Start-Up Competition.
The VCU da Vinci Center hosted the Venture Creation Competition in Snead Hall at 301 W. Main St. Richmond-based Health Diagnostic Laboratory financed the event, including the prize money, with a gift of $25,000.
Ten teams – divided into graduate and undergraduate divisions – each had 20 minutes to persuade a panel of 14 local business people to award them funding.
Second-prize winners, Team Vida and Team PENdulum, each were given $3,000. The Vida teammates – Jonathan Sekerak, Garrick Sheldon, Plautz Rick and Wynn Buzzell – want to turn food scraps into fruit and vegetable bars. Sahil Aggarwal and Ahsan Ahmad of PENdulum want to create a nonprofit that facilitates written correspondence between HIV-positive youth in Swaziland and college students in the U.S studying to become a sexual healthcare services provider.
Momento, a wristband and app that helps users remember the names of people they meet, and mySound, hands-free music-recommendation software, each got $2,000 for placing third in their divisions.
Gametrotter, Southern Cream Tea, G33K3D and RendeZoo each received $1,000 for making it to the finals.
The judges considered about 40 written pitches before selecting the 10 finalists who competed April 23.
All currently enrolled VCU students were eligible to participate. Teams were allowed to have non-VCU students involved so long as half the team was made up of students.
“My vision is connecting different disciplines,” Kenneth Kahn, director of the da Vinci Center, said. “The judges have commented that every year (the teams) are getting better and better.”
Last year’s graduate division winner, Tumi Oredein, went on to have his erasable wristbands, Skribs, sold on Walmart’s website.
The judges for this year’s contest were: Karen Booth Adams of Fahrenheit Technologies, William Daughtrey of Dominion Resources GreenTech Incubator, David Gallagher of Dominion Payroll, Graham Henshaw of New Richmond Ventures, Christian Iodoti of Snagajob, Darrell Jervey of Worth Products Group, Dick Menendez from Anapse Resources, Tonya Mallory founder of HDL, Mike McGinley from New Dominion Angels, John Mills from Cooley LLP, Mark Morton of Mark Morton Consulting, Tom Palmer of Wells Fargo, Scott Tolleson of Iron Works and Eric Whittleton from Allied Technology Group Inc.