Thursday, November 19, 2009

Duke Start-up Challenge 2009 – Day 4 Products & Services Track Summary

Welcome to Day 4 of the Duke Start-up Challenge

Taking the spotlight on Thursday night’s continuation of the Duke Start-up Challenge were the Social Enterprises Track and the Products & Services Track. With only a matter of hours remaining before the start of the Finals competition, tonight’s Tracks competed for $250 in cash prizes and the right to compete for $1,000 in the Finals.

Hosting the evening held at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, were Duke MBA candidates Dan Weinstein and Jonathan Gibbs. For the Products & Services Track, 15 company start-ups pitched their company concepts to a panel of distinguished judges. Judges for tonight’s competition were:

Jay Mebane ‘90, ‘99 – Co-Founder and CFO of US Handbags.

In addition to serving as the co-founder and CFO of US Handbags, Jay has also co-founded or owned several other North Carolina companies including such names as,, First Analytical Laboratories and Arcametrics. Jay graduated from Duke University in 1990 and the Fuqua School of Business in 1999. Prior to Fuqua, Jay practiced corporate finance law with Moore & Van Allen, PLLC in Charlotte, NC.

Michael Olander – President and CEO of Apple Gold Group.

Michael Olander is the president and owner of the Apple Gold Group, which he founded in 1979 after graduating from law school. The Apple Gold Group currently owns and operates a total of 80 restaurants in four states.

Peter Heffring – President of Futures, Inc.

Prior to joining Futures, Peter was the co-founder and CEO of Ceres Integrated Solutions, which quickly became a leading provider of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software and analytical services for clients such as Wal-Mart, JCPenney, Lowes Home Improvement, Wells Fargo, and Travelocity. Ceres was acquired by NCR for $90M in 2000. Prior to founding Ceres, Peter served in senior executive management at the IBM Corporation.

After an insightful introductory speech by Jay Mebane featuring his experience with founding and developing start-up companies, the Products & Services Track took flight with a persuasive first pitch by Intelligent Irrigation Solutions.

Products & Services Track Update
An innovative line-up of prospective company pitches filled the evening at the Fuqua School of Business. The live audience was treated to multiple hi-tech product pitches including a derivative of an MIT innovation called Micropower.

The Micropower system attempts to revolutionize contemporary battery technology by utilizing a miniature combustion engine which runs on ethanol. With just a few ounces of fuel, it has the capacity to run a typical netbook laptop for over a day. Additional competing companies included:

Intelligent Irrigation Solutions - Using advanced sensor technology and localized weather forecasts, IIS can optimize existing irrigation systems to reduce water use by 20-40%.

Dorm Room Cleaning Service - Does your room look like a tornado went through it? Never able to find anything after your room party last night? We'll set your room in order.

Wasabi - Wasabi is the first restaurant franchise to serve fresh, high quality sushi using the have-it-your-way ordering system. Rivals Subway and Chipotle's convenience and quality.

Micropower - Developed a microscale heat engine for use in portable power applications.

Kibbitz - Offers to help student groups find and get the resources they need to make innovation happen.

25th Hour Media - 25th Hour Media focuses on creating streaming audio, with a human voice, from blog and news text content which is delivered to mobile devices.

Start-up Concepts for the Products & Service Track
During the second half of the evening, the Products & Services Track continued to showcase exemplary business concepts from agricultural irrigation solutions, to a revolutionary fabrication of the world's longest carbon nano-tubes.

General Nano, a start-up affiliated with Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, has produced the world’s longest carbon nano-tubes which are stronger than steel, conduct electricity better than copper, and lighter than cotton. General Nano’s nano-tubes, which are 300 times stronger than steel, currently have applications with the US Air Force, the US Navy, Boeing, Northup Grumman, and other defense contractors. They are also developing an application of their nano-tubes to replace the copper wires in fighter jets resulting in an average weight savings of 5,000 lbs. Additional Products & Service Track contestants included:

Catch-a-Ride – A Duke car-pool system. Student drivers going off campus post vacant seats on our website, where other students can see and buy those spots.

Sound Syntax - A Language Maintenance Company that provides opportunities for people with strong foreign language skills to use their target language after being abroad.

Duke International Youth Challenge - We seek to satisfy Asian students’ desire for awards for college applications by hosting contests in Asian countries with participatory fees.

General Nano - Spinning carbon nanotubes (stronger than steel and lighter than cotton) into electrically conductive thread for use in multiple industries.

DukeBoxes - DukeBoxes is a summer storage company providing students the affordable, most convenient option for insured shipping and storage.

eFit Health Solutions - Web-based hub for all people to get highly personalized fitness and diet plans tailored to their goals, ability and motivation.

Entrepreneurship Week – Day 4 Wrap-up: Products & Services Track
A full evening of start-up pitches concluded with a round of affirmation from the judges to all pitches in the Products & Services Track. Directly after the final pitch by eFit Health Solutions, the judges retreated to an undisclosed location to decide the recipient of the Judges Choice Award. Simultaneously, the audience was invited to participate in the Duke Start-up Challenge’s live text-message voting system to determine a winner of the People's Choice Award.

The suspense finally broke once the judges returned and the winners of both categories were announced:

For participants in the Products & Services Track:
People’s Choice Award: 25th Hour Media
Judges Choice Award: General Nano

Congratulations to the winners of tonight’s Products & Services Track!!!

The winners of the People’s Choice Award and the Judges Choice Award will be eligible to compete tomorrow night at the Fuqua School of Business for the Duke Start-up Challenge Elevator Pitch Finals Competition. The competition will feature Bill Maris as a guest judge and keynote speaker from Google Ventures. This will be the capstone event for the week and is sure to be a memorable time for everyone.

Less than 24 hours left until the Finals competition at the Geneen Auditorium at Duke University! See you there!


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