On Friday, April 8th, we hosted the Grand Finale of the 12th Annual Duke Start-Up Challenge. This event was a showcase of entrepreneurship at Duke University. We had the seven finalists pitch for one-minute each to give our students, alumni, and online viewers a chance to see some of the most interesting startups coming out of Duke.
In addition to being a showcase, we awarded the $50,000 Grand Prize, a runner-up award (selected by a panel of judges prior to this event), audience choice award, and a $1,000 speaker’s choice award. A special thanks goes out Rich Lee and Melissa Bernstein for their generous contributions which helped make tonight’s prize money possible.
The evening began as hundreds of spectators welcomed J.B. Pritzker '87: a remarkable Duke alum, venture capitalist, philanthropist, and a champion of humanitarian work worldwide. After introductions from hosts Tim Canavan (Nicholas/Fuqua '12) and Vidhan Agrawal (Pratt '12), Pritzker addressed the audience with insightful lessons from his lifetime of entrepreneurship.
About J.B. Pritzker - Keynote Speaker
J.B. Pritzker ’87 is an entrepreneur, technology venture capitalist and philanthropist. With degrees from Duke University (AB ’87), and Northwestern University School of Law (JD ’90), Pritzker is an attorney who has used his business, law and civic leadership ability to become a leading advocate for civil rights and young children in poverty. He founded one of the Midwest’s leading venture capital firms, New World Ventures, and co-leads The Pritzker Group, a private investment firm. Mr. Pritzker is also a principal owner of Hyatt Hotels Corporation and TransUnion Corporation. Also under his leadership, the Pritzker Family Foundation is one of the nation’s leading philanthropic organizations for early childhood education and development. He has also applied his entrepreneurial efforts as a tireless advocate for human and civil rights on a national and international scale; serving as Chairman of the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center and a principal funder of the Cambodia Tribunal Monitor. He is a member of the Illinois State Bar Association and Chicago Bar Association and lives in Chicago with his wife and children.
J.B. had four lessons to share
- Be tenacious to the point of sheer lunacy.
- Don't let your setbacks and the cynics define you. Let your actions do the talking.
- Find your own path.
- Remember that leadership matters.
Each team had exactly 1 minute each to convince the judges and audience why their start-up is worthy of thousands of dollars of investment and prizes. Tonight’s Finalists were:
A social mobile platform combining group messaging capabilities with target-driven coupon delivery designed for operation in China. Team Lead: Stephanie Chang, Pratt '11
HyTower Energy Storage
The HyTower system converts out of service water towers into power storage units. Their pumped-hydro system builds on proven technology to deliver safe, reliable energy storage at higher efficiency and lower cost than competing technologies. Company is planning to enter the $1.5B annual market for energy storage. Team Lead: Matt Kaufmann, Nicholas/Fuqua '11
Medici Medical Technologies
Medici develops innovative devices to restore control to women suffering from urinary incontinence. The company plans to provide a high control and high convenience solution for the 28 million Americans who suffer from urinary incontinence $20B is spent annually in this market. Team Lead: Jeff Kovick, Fuqua '11
Sidewalk helps customers and businesses by uniting them together with time sensitive deals. Sidewalk makes it incredibly simple for local merchants to increase customer traffic and by helping people spend wiser. Team Lead: Rhianon DeLeeuw, Fuqua '11
The most efficient way to buy and sell university textbooks among college students. Team Lead: Tito Bohrt, Trinity '13
Accion Emprendedora USA
Accion Emprendedora will offer business management education, training and coaching for Hispanic entrepreneurs in North Carolina to help them overcome the barriers they have for growth and economic development. Team Lead: Ignacio Torres, Sanford '11
Plans to reduce hospital acquired infections through utilizing RFID tracking which will increase human hand hygiene compliance. Team Lead: Jessica Liu, Pratt '11
The Winning Teams
The judge’s choice grand prize was chosen by the judges of the investor pitch finals competition, and the audience choice prize was determined in real time via text message voting.
Winner of the Audience Choice Award:
Medici Medical Technologies
Winner of the $1,000 Speaker’s Choice Award:
Runner-up to the Grand Prize:
AND THE WINNER OF THE $50,000 JUDGE’S CHOICE GRAND PRIZE:
HyTower Energy Storage
Thanks to Rich Lee for enabling us to double our grand prize
Congratulations HyTower Energy Storage and to all of tonight’s winners and competitors throughout Duke Start-up Challenge XI. And special thanks to contributors Rich Lee (Former CEO of Hosted Solutions) and Melissa Bernstein (Co-founder and Co-CEO of Melissa and Doug) and to all of the generous supporters and sponsors of Entrepreneurship at Duke. See you next year!
- Watch a recording of this event on Ustream
- See the full set of pictures
- Read the article in the Chronicle
- Stay informed about our many events around the world through DukeGEN
- And keep tabs on our on-campus events through Entrepreneurship At Duke
Written by Trevor Scott
Edited by Howie Rhee '04
Thanks to Hamid Ali for the live-tweeting