Friday, November 12, 2010

5th Annual Elevator Pitch Finals with Greylock Partners!

With over 400 in attendance, Duke celebrated the cornerstone event of the fall, the 5th Annual Elevator Pitch Finals with Greylock Partners! The evening featured a lineup of 18 Duke student startup company pitches led by the winners of each of the 8 different qualifying track competitions held during the week. Each competing team had exactly 1 minute to convince the judges and the audience why their company was worthy of the $5000 Grand Prize.

Following a welcome from hosts Jonathan Lee (Fuqua ‘11) and Meghan Gallagher (Fuqua ‘11), tonight’s judges were introduced. Each judge had extensive experience with entrepreneurship and the challenges of building successful start-ups. Judge David Thacker also served as the Keynote speaker for the evening and addressed the lively, vuvuzela-wielding crowd with insightful lessons in entrepreneurship from his early experience at Google and more recently as a venture capitalist with Greylock Partners. Judging tonight’s event were:

David Thacker '97. Associate Partner at Greylock Partners, Menlo Park, California.
Joining Greylock in 2008, David’s primary focus includes consumer Internet and enterprise software. He played a key role in Greylock's investments in Cloudera and Pandora and is closely working with several portfolio companies including Auditude, Oodle, Redfin and TellApart. David is currently on the board of directors at Gowalla, a location-based mobile social network. Prior to Greylock, David was a group product manager at Google. During his five years at Google, he oversaw the development of key components of the AdWords advertising system and led a product management team focused on new products for advertising agencies and strategic partners. In addition, David relocated to Europe for two years where he built Google’s product development organization in the region and drove the expansion of Google’s products into international markets. Earlier in his career, David held product development, technical consulting and sales roles at pcOrder, an enterprise software company that provided e-commerce solutions to the computer industry. During this time, pcOrder held an initial public offering (NASDAQ: PCOR) and was later acquired by Trilogy Software. David has also worked at Credit Suisse First Boston, IBM, and Electronic Arts. David holds a BA in Computer Science and Economics from Duke University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Tom McMurray '76, '78, '80. Founder and President of Marine Ventures Foundation (MVF) and former General Partner at Sequoia Capital, Menlo Park, California.
Tom was a general partner at Sequoia Capital in Silicon Valley for nine years. He is the Founder and President of Marine Ventures Foundation (MVF), a family foundation that both conducts and funds innovative conservation research and advocacy for pelagic fisheries and also funds cold water stream restoration and advocacy work. Since forming the foundation in 2000, MVF has funded a wide range of scientific and educational programs for bluefin tuna, white marlin, bonefish, dolphinfish, whale sharks, striped bass, tarpon, trout and forage fish such as menhaden. The foundation is also engaged currently in field tagging studies of dolphin (mahi-mahi) and bonefish in the Bahamas and Caribbean and also the development of GIS tools for studying migration patterns of pelagic fish.

Christy Shaffer, Ph.D. Entrepreneur, Biotech Executive, and Former CEO of Inspire Pharmaceuticals, Durham, North Carolina.
Dr. Shaffer has been Consultant of Inspire Pharmaceuticals Inc. since February 22, 2010, and served as its Chief Executive Officer since January 1999 until February 22, 2010. She also served as President of the organization from July 1, 2005 until February 22, 2010. She joined Inspire Pharmaceuticals Inc. in June 1995 as its first full-time employee, Director of Clinical Operations. She has fifteen years of experience in drug development within the pharmaceutical industry. She previously served in a variety of positions in the clinical research division of Burroughs Wellcome Co. including International Project Leader for cardiopulmonary programs. She served as Associate Director of pulmonary research in the department of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Burroughs Wellcome. She serves currently as a Director of Clinipace, Inc. and has been a Director of Inspire Pharmaceuticals Inc. since January 1, 1999. Dr. Shaffer served as a Director of The Council for Entrepreneurial Development from 2005 to 2006. Dr. Shaffer holds a Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of Tennessee and completed two years of postdoctoral training in cardiovascular research in the Biochemistry Department at the Chicago Medical School before her one-year postdoctoral appointment at University of North Carolina.

Peter Heffring. President and CEO of Expion, Raleigh, North Carolina.
For the past 15 years, Peter has been engaged in bringing the customer experience to the highest level at companies around the world. He was co-founder and CEO of Ceres Integrated Solutions, which quickly became a leading provider of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software and analytical services. Ceres was sold in 2000 to NCR for $90M. During Peter's tenure, Ceres provided solutions to over one hundred Fortune 1000 clients such as Wal-Mart, JCPenney, Wells Fargo, and Travelocity. Heffring is ready to jump back in with Expion. He is passionate about taking the principles of Enterprise Social Media Management and CRM to combine them with today's world of online social connections to yield even better customer engagement and retention.

Companies competing in tonight’s Elevator Pitch Finals event were:

IT and Media Track
Siren Alerts – a personal alert application used to replace restaurant pagers.
SideWalk – realtime, on-demand digital push promotions for small businesses via smartphones.
JobStock – a graphical method of displaying job postings for online job seekers.

Social Enterprises Track
WETOA – Women’s Empowerment Through Outdoor Adventure: providing a space for retreat and renewal for likeminded women.
The Rushie – a faith-based, lifestyle magazine targeting 16-24 year old women worldwide.

Energy & Environment Track
High Tower Energy – energy storage solutions utilizing existing water towers.
CarBone – the first ever organic bone battery - poised to enter a $16.9 Billion market.

Healthcare & Life Sciences Track
Camras Vision – a tool designed for ophthalmologists in treating glaucoma patients.
Clear Bolus – the first ever fully transparent x-ray bolus, used to focus radiation therapy x-rays.
Medical Learning Games – plans to utilize computerized gaming technology to address the bottleneck in contemporary medical training.

Products & Services Track
Drink-up Devices – a revolutionary alcohol concentration sensor that is portable, and inexpensive.
Advisync – Predictive data analytics for university student class schedules.

Women-led Start-ups Track
dreamPL8 – an online food vendor review website offering customized food solutions for people with special diets.
Bubble Tea Factory – a new competitor to coffee: an international beverage delight of sweet milk and chewy bubbles.

Undergraduate-led Track 1
Askapade – a simple online game where people can ask their friends for help and receive virtual gifts for helping others. – an online marketplace where students can post and complete favors for friends.

Undergraduate-led Track 2
Nooch – Allows for the instant, peer-to-peer, secure transfer of money allowing people to split bills among friends.
ShelfRelief – A novel and time saving textbook trading and selling site.

Tonight’s winners:
  • The Judges’ Choice Prize of $5000 was awarded to Nooch
  • The Audience’s Choice Prize of $1500 was awarded to Advisync

Additional mentions:
  • The Judges' Choice Runner-Up was CarBone
  • The Judges’ Choice for "Best Pitch Delivery" was

Thanks to everyone who attended tonight’s finals competition and congratulations to all of the winners!!
And thank you to Douglas Hanna '13 and A Small Orange, for sponsoring the Afterparty.

Pictures available at:

Written by Trevor Scott, edited by Howie Rhee

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Day 4 of the Duke Start-up Challenge Elevator Pitch Competition: Healthcare & Life Sciences Track and Energy & Environment Track

A solid night over in Schiciano Auditorium at the Fitzpatrick Center for Interdisciplinary Engineering, Medicine and Applied Sciences (CIEMAS).  5 teams are advancing (not the usual 4).

Energy & Environment Track

The judges were:
  • Luke Fishback, Founder and CEO of
  • Van Morris ‘78, CEO of US Microgrid

Advancing to the Elevator Pitch Finals with Greylock Partners on November 12th are:

  • Audience Choice: CarBone (also was the Judges' runner-up)
  • Judges' Choice: High Tower Energy

CarBone is a patented process that recycles waste animal bone, converting it into carbon electrodes for use in modern electronics. 

(It should be noted that CarBone also won this track last year, but they are eligible to compete since they were not a finalist in the Investor Pitch Competition in the Spring. )

High Tower Energy seeks to "Use retired water towers as high efficiency, low cost energy storage devices to take advantage of huge daily fluctuations in electricity prices."

The Judges' Runner-Up selection also went to CarBone.

Healthcare & Life Sciences Track
The judges were:

  • Jonathan Gindes ‘03, Co-founder and CFO of Affinergy
  • Matt Kane ‘06, Co-founder and CEO of Precision Biosciences

Advancing to the Elevator Pitch Finals with Greylock Partners on November 12th are:

  • Audience Choice: Medical Learning Games
  • Judges' Choice: Camras Vision
  • Bonus Judges' Choice*: ClearBolus

Medical Learning Games is a software company that leverages established sophisticated gaming technology to solve the clinical experience bottleneck in healthcare education.   

Camras Vision writes "We are providing ophthalmologists with a novel device, that can provide an effective first solution to glaucoma and stop the progression of blindness caused by this chronic disease."

ClearBolus is "a bolus for radiotherapy, with the novel property of complete transparency, allowing for more efficient and accurate skin cancer treatment."

* We had an administrative error (organizers fault, not the judges' fault) with the Audience Choice voting.  There was a tie (two teams had 6 votes), Medical Learning Games and Last Call.  The procedure is to let the judges break the tie. But when the information was passed from the MC to the judges, it was that "Team 1 and 5 are tied".  They looked at their sheets (not knowing their order was different) and they said "let's go with ClearBolus" (their Team 5).  (On a side note, it turns out that ClearBolus was already their Judge's Runner Up pick.)

We went forward with the announcements, not knowing there was an error. And we caught the error just after we announced that ClearBolus was the winner.  We paused the event, reconvened the judges and decided to break the original tie (Medical Learning Games and Last Call; they chose Medical Learning Games).  In addition, we didn't think it was right to tell ClearBolus they were now out.  So we added a Bonus Judges' Choice to let them in.  The Judges' Runner-up, it turns out, also went to ClearBolus (but was decided before the error happened).

Pictures of the event are here: (Thanks to Olgun Kukrer for taking the photos in both rooms)

Written by Howie Rhee

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Day 3 of the Duke Start-up Challenge Elevator Pitch Competition: IT & Media and Products & Services Tracks

A great night with almost 40 teams competing in the IT & Media Track and the Products & Services Track (which functions as a miscellaneous track for teams that don't fit the other functional tracks).  We had two rooms that were standing room only.

IT & Media Track

The judges were:
  • Brooks Bell ’02, Founder and CEO of Brooks Bell Interactive
  • Jed Carlson ’05, Co-founder and COO of ReverbNation
  • Jesse Lipson ’00, Founder and CEO of
  • Mike Rasmussen ’03, CEO of Republic of Fun
  • Joe Velk ‘85, Angel Investor 

Advancing to the Elevator Pitch Finals with Greylock Partners on November 12th are:

  • Audience Choice: SideWalk
  • Judges' Choice: Siren Alerts

Sidewalk describes itself as follows: "Get more, pay less: spend smarter with the Sidewalk app. Businesses get foot traffic on demand, and you get great deals - everyone wins."

Siren Alerts is a personal alert application to be used in lieu of restaurant pagers.

Also mentioned was the Judges' Runner-Up: Redeemio

Redeemio: the disruptive innovator in the daily deal “grouponomy.” Specifically? Aggregation. Personalization. Lead-generation. In a billion-dollar market.

Products & Services Track (miscellaneous)

The judges were:

  • Patricia Blizzard ‘99, Founder of Caju Salon
  • Chris Duke ‘87, Founder of Anna’s Gourmet Goodies
  • Jay Mebane ‘90 / ‘99, Co-founder and COO of
  • Sean Lilly Wilson ‘00, Founder of Full Steam Brewery

Advancing to the Elevator Pitch Finals with Greylock Partners on November 12th are:

  • Audience Choice: Advisync
  • Judges' Winner: Drink-Up Device

Advisync asks, "Ever wonder where will you go? Navigating the many different paths can be an arduous process, but what if there was someone, something out there that could help you find the path so you can get going, faster? Advisync is a new suite of tools to provide smart recommendations to you based on our unique data mining algorithms. Advisync. Sync Different, Be different."

Drink-Up Device asks, "Ever wonder what is really in the bottom of your red plastic cup? With this discreet alcohol concentration sensor you will know whether you are getting ripped off or should hold back on that second round."

Also mentioned was the Judges' Runner Up: AirMart

AirMart is a store that sells and packages groceries and other essentials conveniently for travelers upon landing at airports.

Pictures of the event are here: (Thanks to Olgun Kukrer for taking the photos in both rooms)

Written by Howie Rhee

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Day 2 of the Duke Start-up Challenge Elevator Pitch Competition: Undergrad-led Startups Track

29 Duke University undergraduate-led start-up teams pitched their business ideas tonight at the second sequential day of the Elevator Pitch Competition. From a company designed to pay users for watching commercials to a high tech firm promising batteries made from bones, diverse, innovative, and intriguing company concepts were presented before a live audience and judges - each team vying for a spot to compete at the Elevator Pitch Finals with Greylock Partners. The Elevator Pitch Finals competition will be held on November 12th at Fuqua, and the entire Duke community is invited to attend. That night, each of the two winners from the 8 tracks of enterprises will be allowed to compete for the $5000 cash prize selected by the judges and a $1500 audience choice prize which will be selected by the viewers using live text message voting.

Live from Duke University
Hosted live by Vidhan Agrawal (Pratt’12) and Dovina Qu (Pratt ’12) at Duke University’s Bryan Center, each of the 29 competing start-up teams were given exactly 1 minute to convince the judges why their company deserves to be funded with a seed round of investment capital. Judging the event was a panel of seasoned start-up business professionals: 

  • Justin Klein ’99, MD ‘06 – Principal at NEA Venture Partners
  • Doug Eisner ’07 – Co-founder and COO of Grassroots Bio
  • Taylor Mingos ’07 – Founder and CEO of 
  • Matt Kane '06 - Co-founder and CEO of Precision Biosciences
  • Jon Fjeld '90 - Executive Director, Fuqua Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Competition among the teams was tight. Well prepared pitches and passionate pleas for funding heightened the excitement of the evening’s already electric, entrepreneurial atmosphere.

Undergraduate-led Startup Track Contestants
For this track the rule was: "Whoever is pitching must be an undergrad, and the same people pitching in this track must pitch in all other tracks and in the Finals."

Tonight’s competitors were:

Track 1

  1. Auris Ingenum
  2. Airmart
  3. Gebshed
  4. inCadence
  5. Yoh Show
  6. CarBone
  7. Corona Enterprises
  8. Askapade
  9. Smart Shot
  10. EnergySync
  11. Pocket Blue Light
  12. (formerly
  13. Winyata
  14. ClearBolus

Track 2
  1. InterestIn
  2. Nooch
  3. The Ujamaa Project
  4. FriendCal
  5. Pure Hair Salon
  7. Connectwork
  8. Golden Diamond Mansion Certification
  9. Mufu
  10. AdApt
  11. time2work
  12. TheRushie
  13. Advisync
  14. Scribblit
  15. Smarticles

Each Track produced an:
  • Audience Choice Winner
  • Judge's Choice Winner
  • and a Judge's Choice Runner-up
In addition, a Best Freshmen-led Team* prize was awarded.

The Winners

The winners of the audience choice awards were (formerly and
  • (formerly is a network connecting students in need of college-related favors/assistance to students willing to oblige for a reasonable price.
  • ShelfRelief is a website startup that asks "Are you tired of paying hundreds of dollars for books and getting just a few bucks when you sell them back? Let us solve the problem for you."
The Judges' Choice for the overall winners of the Undergraduate-led start-up track were Askapade and Nooch.

  • Askapade is a Q&A platform that makes it easier and more fun to ask your friends for help.
  • Nooch is a revolutionary new Peer-to-Peer Money Transfer System. Web-based design will utilize social media and cell phones to allow quicker, easier and cheaper transactions. Immediate access to funds and low fees and will attract a wide range of users.

inCadence and were the Judges' Runner-ups in their respective tracks.

  • inCadence forges entirely new perspectives of the physical world through seamless on-locale augmented reality delivered on mobile platforms.

Both the Judges' Choice winners and Audience Choice winners will advance to the Elevator Pitch Finals event on November 12th at Duke University featuring Greylock Partners. Congratulations winners!

* To encourage freshmen to participate, we created a Best Freshmen-led Team prize of $150. We had four freshmen teams (who, randomly assigned, were all competing in Track 2). So as not to bias the judges, we did not tell them about this prize beforehand. In the case that no Freshman-led team was awarded points in the judging process, we were going to ask the judges independently to select a Freshmen-led Team prize winner. As it turned out, Scribblit received points in the judging process and was awarded the prize. 

Scribblit is "a textual (with optional integration of picture/sound/video within text) media-sharing website where users can read, create, and share original content for free. "

Congratulations, Scribblit.

Pictures of tonight's event can be found here:
(Thanks to Olgun Kukrer '12, and Tim Canavan '12)

Posted by Trevor Scott, edited by Howie Rhee '04

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

5th Annual Elevator Pitch Competition begins, part of the Duke Startup Challenge Elevator Pitch Competition

The 5th Annual Elevator Pitch Competition, hosted by the Duke Start-Up Challenge commenced with an eventful round of pitches from the Women-led startups track and the Social Enterprises track. Hosted by Meghan Gallagher (Fuqua ’11) and Jonathan Lee (Fuqua '11) at the Fuqua School of Business, 20 student teams pitched their startup ideas to mark the first day of competition among aspiring entrepreneurs throughout Duke University.

Summary of the Competition:
The 2010-2011 Duke Startup Challenge Elevator Pitch Competition begins with student entrepreneurs divided among 8 different qualifying tracks, competing in front of a live audience and a live panel of experienced judges. Each team has exactly one minute to pitch their business idea before the judges, and receive one question from the judges. At the conclusion of each qualifying track event, 2 Finalist teams are be selected to compete at the Elevator Pitch Finals with Greylock Partners on November 12th, 2010, hosted in Geneen Auditorium at the Fuqua School of Business, where they will be able to compete for a cash prize of $5000, selected by the judges, and an audience choice prize of $1500, selected via text-messaging.

More information can be found at:

Summary of the Women-Led Start-ups Track
Tonight marked the commencement of the Women-Led Start-ups Track, the second year of this track, meant to encourage women from across campus to be entrepreneurial. It was a strong showing. Teams were led by students from across Duke University and featured pitches by:
-Complete Makeover
-Bubble Tea Factory
-Pure Salon
-Street Snacks
-Asteria Propulsion
-Innovation Education International
-The Morph Purse
-K Kane
Our judges were Sarah Kate Fishback '09, Liliana Valle '09, and Nancy Zeleniak.

The Winners:
While the judges deliberated over their choice of a winner, host Meghan Gallagher directed the audience to the secure text-message voting system to determine the Audience Choice Award.

From the judges, the runner-up of the Women-led Start-up Track was Street Snacks and the overall winner was DreamPl8. And, after the audience's text-messaging votes were tallied, the winner of the Audience Choice Award was Bubble Tea Factory.

Both dreamPl8 and Bubble Tea Factory will advance to the Elevator Pitch Finals on November 12th with Greylock Partners.

dreamPL8 is an online food review website dedicated to helping consumers with diverse foodstyles find food vendors that can meet their needs and wants in their own community.

Bubble Tea Factory's goal is "Introducing Bubble Tea to the Netherlands: A fun, exotic and classic Taiwanese drink"

K Kane is a fine jewelry line whose pieces are as unique as the individuals who wear them. Dissatisfied with the monogram jewelry on the market several years ago, founder Kate Kane designed and handcrafted a pendant featuring her initials. When friends and strangers repeatedly asked for similar pieces, Kate realized that she was on to something. The economic downturn has caused consumers to be significantly more mindful of their discretionary investments, which has translated into more considered purchasing and gifting with a mind towards timelessness, quality and emotional significance. The unifying factor behind K Kane designs is personalization. While K Kane “signature pendants” currently allow Kate to grow her business on a highly customized level requiring very little start-up capital, the next step is “jeweled poetry,” a jewelry play on Magnetic Poetry that allows customers to build phrases of significance to them out of golden words – eventually available in several languages and fonts – and add these words to sophisticated chains and bracelets.

Pictures of tonight's event can be found here:

-Written by Trevor Scott, edited by Howie Rhee

Summary of the Social Enterprises Track

Tonight we had 8 great pitches in Social Enterprises Track

Our judges were:
- Bill Stevenson ‘96, Formerly Director of Social Investments at Lenovo
- Al Huntoon, Founder and CEO, Catalyst Consulting Services
- Keith Artin ‘99, COO of TROSA

The Winners:
Advancing to the finals event are WETOA the judges choice and TheRushie the audience choice.
Scribblit was selected as the judges runner-up.

WETOA stands for Women's Empowerment Through Outdoor Adventure and is provides women aged 30 to 60 with the opportunity to adventure in the outdoors and revitalize their mental and physical potential.

TheRushie is a "Social Network and Magazine for young Christian women

Scribblit is a textual (with optional integration of picture/sound/video within text) media-sharing website where users can read, create, and share original content for free.

A big thank you to all of our judges and competitors!

Don't forget to come to the Elevator Pitch Finals with special guest speaker David Thacker '97, of Greylock Partners, one of the top venture capital firms in the world. Investors in Facebook, LinkedIn, Pandora, etc... on Friday, Nov 12 @ Fuqua, Geneen Auditorium, 5:30pm Networking Event, 7:30pm Finals

Free vuvuzelas for everyone in attendance.

See for more details.

Pictures of tonight's event can be found here:

- Written by Tim Canavan '12