Some of the newest companies in Utah presented their products and business plans to judges while putting their best foot forward and vying for a $40,000 grand prize.
The 10 companies from universities across Utah were judged the best of 30 finalists in the Utah Entrepreneur Challenge, hosted by a division of the Pierre Lassonde Entrepreneur Center called the Utah Entrepreneur Series, which is sponsored by Zions Bank.
“Obviously there’s the money that’s always grabbing your attention,” said Zach Bombsta, a member of the team who developed Owlet Baby Monitors. “But getting out here, practicing our pitches, getting to know people, getting the contacts. The all-around experience is really great.”
The team behind Owlet is from Brigham Young University and has been developing their product since January. They have already garnered national attention.
The monitor consists of a sensor embedded in a sock that wraps around the baby’s foot. The sensor sends blood oxygen level and heart rate information to a receiver, which then transmits the data to a computer, iPhone or iPad.
Bombsta said the leading cause of death in babies under 18 months old is from respiratory problems. This device monitors vital signs and will alert parents if the baby is in danger — bridging the gap between newborn hospital care and home care.
There is so much to think about from intellectual property to marketing that developers don’t normally think about when developing a product, said Joshua Hadley, co-director of UEC and a first-year master’s student. The competition allows new companies access to mentors and people who can help them further develop their business.
“[The competition] offers so much,” Hadley said. “We provide them with feedback from the final round judges as well as mentors to help coach them on not only presenting their ideas but in the business model itself.”
Naziol Nazarinia, a third-year law student at the U, has been working with a team to develop and commercialize a device that would help breast cancer surgeons remove all the cancerous tissue during surgery — reducing the chances of the patient undergoing a second operation.
“I practice in law, and I think about the legal implications of a device like this, but you don’t think about the market for a device like this,” she said. “You don’t think about if people are going to want it, if doctors are going to use it or if patients are going to like it. You need to know how much to charge for it, business, marketing [and] demand. It might be a great idea, but if it costs too much it’s not going to work.”
Hadley said the highlight of this year was a 33 percent increase of applications to techTITANS, the first competition in the UEC series. They also receive a 70 percent increase to the second phase of the competition: Opportunity Quest.
“There is a large number of up-and-coming entrepreneurs and general interest in entrepreneurship,” Hadley said. “We are really excited to see what happens next year.”
Owlet Baby Monitors walked away with the grand prize of $40,000. Daakye, a social company from Westminister College that sells purses to fund elementary education in Africa, received the prize for best written business plan. FiberFix, a company from BYU that developed a low-cost permanent repair tape, won the prize for best presentation.