“Sweet Sixteen” semi-finalists for the first ever ‘Cuse Tank are vying this week for the “Shark Tank” style prize competition to be held Friday, October 26 from 9 a.m. to 11:30 .m. in the Peter Graham Scholarly Commons, Bird Library. The event is co-sponsored by the Blackstone LaunchPad and Syracuse University Libraries, and all are invited to watch the pitches and show support for the teams.
A distinguished panel of judges who are SU parents and successful entrepreneurs from a wide variety of industry sectors will be narrowing down the field of 16 to the “Elite Eight” who will pitch for $10,000 in prizes. The event is the kick-off to SU Family Weekend, and an opportunity for families who are visiting from around the country, and around the world, to experience the entrepreneurial spirit of SU innovators.
In Family Weekend spirit, there are two teams of brothers competing in ‘Cuse Tank. Will McKnight, founder of Farm to Flame, is facing off against Phil McKnight, co-founder of Promptous, while brothers Richard and Peter Mignacca, co-founders of TowelVac square off against the entire field, making the event even more fun to watch.
“Sweet Sixteen” contestants come from across campus, and are working on diverse ideas. In alphabetical order, they are:
- Art Inspires You, a multi-platform brand and studio that provides digital services to artists. While artists are the largest group of social media users, 91% go undiscovered because they do not know how to make a website, use Search Engine Optimization to reach more clients, or how to develop content, build a brand, and engage in strategic marketing with a strong digital presence. Art Inspires You is a studio that offers integrated digital services for creatives working across traditional arts, media, film, animation, music, photography, 3D and interactive arts. The venture offers packages for websites, social media strategy, and copywriting services, as well as education and consulting services to help established artists grow their business. The founder is an artist and has experience creating digital content for an established customer business. — Geena Matuson, founder
- Blood, Sweat, and Beers Brewery, a woman-veteran owned startup brewery. While the craft beer business is growing exponentially, there are currently no brands sold at military exchanges around the world, largely because craft breweries have not navigated the complex civilian contracting process. Blood, Sweat, and Beers Brewery is working with industry experts in the brewing and distribution industry, along with civilian contracting sectors already approved to sell into military exchanges, to create a line of craft beers specifically for military audiences. The target market is 1.4 million active duty personnel, 21.8 million veterans, in the US, and 2.2 million Reserve and National Guard members, along with 68,000 civilian contracting enterprises. The founder is a Syracuse student who is an active military member. — Amanda Rylee, founder
- Cllctve Agency, LLC, a creative agency that connects brands with strategy content and college creatives who can execute transmedia content. CLLCTVE connects revolutionary strategic concepts with collaborative transmedia content to reposition brands for success, while simultaneously nurturing the freelance community on college campuses across the country. For students, it serves as a resource by providing direct access to skills and leadership-based knowledge, and a community for professional development. For brands, it serves as a creative consulting agency, with content generated by Gen Z content creators – a large demographic brands want to reach. For universities, it serves as an anchor for creative innovative and creative students, with social impact. Clients have included Coca-Cola, Land Rover, PUMA and Syracuse University. The team is already working with 50 universities and expanding to more. It is hosting a major conference, “The Art of Finesse,” on October 28 at SU. — Kelsey Davis and Ryan Williams, co-founders
- Compress-aid, a bandage that improves upon conventional medical dressings. Created at the Invent@SU program, this is a prototype for a new type of bandage. Conventional medical dressings do not apply necessary pressure to a wound in order to stop bleeding. The Compress-aid solution is an adjustable, disposable bandage secured by Velcro with an absorbent pressure bar. It is intended for lacerations, particularly to the limbs. While there are other pressure bandages on the market, they are inflatable, bulky and impractical. They also lack adjustable pressure, which Compress-aid can create. — Anne Caldwell and Michael Yacubov, founders
- Farm to Flame Energy, a smokeless, odorless, biomass generator that can use any feedstock, providing energy to off-the grid communities. Winner of several campus impact competitions, as well as a regional finalist for the prestigious Hult Prize competition, Farm to Flame is a fully patented, biomass-powered generator and grinder system that can provide power to off-the grid communities in Africa, Asia, and remote portions of North America. Farm to Flame generators are smokeless and odorless, and can use any feedstock or agricultural waste. Farm to Flame has already established relationships with small utility companies in sub-Saharan Africa. One unit can power 32 houses, and is more efficient and cost effective than multiple diesel generators. They can also provide reliability to disaster-prone communities that need secure and resilient backup energy to supplement electricity delivery. Local governments and small utility companies in Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo have expressed intent to buy the first units and pilot the technology. The technology is fully protected through a patent. — Founder, Will McKnight
- FibreFree, a device that traps microfibers shed from synthetic clothing to prevent them from entering oceans and aquifers. Winner of the campus Impact Prize, and finalist for the Dyson Innovation Competition, FibreFree developed its prototype through the Invent@SU program. FibreFree traps tiny plastic microfibers that are shed from synthetic clothing before they go into the water system and make their way into the food chain. 83% of tap water is contaminated with microfibers, and 70% of textiles shed microfibers that contain 8,000 different chemicals known to cause health problems. FibreFree resembles a conventional laundry ball, but its unique porous shell and novel filter, made of 100% recyclable materials, traps microfibers in the laundry process. Preliminary testing has demonstrated FibreFree to be 40% efficient at removing microfibers in the washing machine. The inventors have filed a provisional patent, and are working to complete the full patent application, as well as engage commercialization partners to introduce the invention to market. FibreFree is also currently a New York State finalist for the Global Student Entrepreneurship Award. — Charles Keppler and Serena Omo-Lamai, co-founders
- Gira Tech, a revolving door with a gear technology that can generate energy. Buildings consume 70% of all electricity and release 40% of all greenhouse gases. Gira Tech’s mission is to work with building owners to help them become more energy efficient and minimize their carbon footprint. The company has developed a revolving door that simultaneously saves HVAC energy and produces electrical energy through a unique gearbox system that harvests kinetic energy, and converts it to usable kWh. The team is targeting installations in U.S. Green Building Council LEED certified buildings. The sustainable energy sector has grown 8-9% in gigawatts for the last nine years, and is expected to continue at this pace. There are currently 82,000 LEED certified buildings, and Gira Tech hopes to work with them to design, renovate, or construct new building entrances. Gira Tech estimates that its door system will have the potential to generate 5,000–15,000 kWh. — Teodoro Delellis, founder
- Halo,a smarter community alert system that does not require cellular or internet service. Neighborhoods surrounding campuses tend to be higher crime areas for robberies, assaults and burglaries. Most alert systems require students to find and trigger an emergency beacon, like a Blue Light system, or call for help on a cellphone. But, cellphones are often taken in an attack. It can take time to find and activate a Blue Light after an attack, delaying an emergency response, as well as minimizing the chances that an assailant can be found. Halo is a small wearable transmitter that students can trigger in an emergency. The alert is based on GPS location, and uses radio frequency to transmit to a Halo receiving unit that immediately alerts authorities. Halo offers universities the opportunity to reshape campus safety, protecting students and aiding in the quick apprehension of those committing crimes. The prototype was developed through the Invent@SU program, where it won second place, and a provisional patent was filed. The co-founder recently completed an NSF I-Corps training course on technology commercialization and plans to build a team to take the idea to market. — Jaclyn Hingre and Annie Lincoln, co-founders
- In-Spire, a wearable bracelet style asthma refillable inhaler that can deliver an emergency dose. First place winner of the 2017 Invent@SU program, In-Spire also won first place in SU’s Impact Prize, RvD/iPrize, and Panasci Business Plan Competition, and was the campus winner of the ACC InVenture Prize. The team, which has filed a non-provisional patent, is working on a path to commercialization for its stylish bracelet that integrates a small refillable inhaler, providing on-the-go relief, particularly for exercise induced asthma. The bracelet augments a standard inhaler, which is easily forgotten, or left at home because it is bulky to carry. In-Spire is designed for active adults, as well as children, who otherwise lose or forget their inhalers on the go. Technical advisors with significant expertise are helping the team develop a strategy for FDA approval, as well as final design for a production equivalent model for testing. It is currently a New York State finalist for the Global Student Entrepreneurship Award. — Kayla Simon and Elizabeth Tarangelo, co-founders
- MedUX, a wearable, lightweight IV shoulder device that frees patients requiring infusions from being tethered to IV poles. First place winner of the 2018 Invent@SU program, MedUX is a team of industrial designers who are creating innovative medical device solutions for inpatient, at home, and mobile care. Its first product is a wearable, portable IV system that allows people who need infusion treatment to receive it without being tethered to a traditional pole mount unit. It is particularly suited for stand-alone infusion centers, cancer centers, post-op hospital settings, and palliative care where a patient needs intravenous delivery, but also wants to be more mobile and comfortable. It can also be used in emergency and disaster situations where IV systems mounted on poles are not practical. Using new and pre-existing technologies, the lightweight shoulder-mounted device uses a pressure flow system to control a desired flow rate without the use of electronics or heavy batteries that need to be frequently changed. It frees up patients from bulky IV pole systems which keep them tethered to a bed or chair, and make it difficult to walk, use the bathroom, or enjoy mobility while receiving treatment. The team has filed a provisional patent for the system and is working with experts from Welch Allyn and other med tech companies. — Alec Gillinder and Quinn King, co-founders
- OptechVR, a standalone, affordable social VR headset that is plug and play, eliminating wires and external computers, and allowing for a multi-user VR experience. While the consumer virtual reality (VR) software and hardware market size is growing, the industry has not yet even begun to reach its full potential. For applications from gaming to medicine, to education and enterprise, there is an opportunity to create a better, more affordable all-in-one headset that offers a multi-user experience. OptechVR is unique in several ways. It is a plug-and-play, all-in-one device, eliminating the need for high-powered external computers or game consoles, or wires. It incorporates dual hand and room tracking technology, replacing complicated controllers with the user’s hand movement. It can connect to other headsets, enabling users to work in teams or experience VR together. OptechVR has crafted a solid business model that reflects significant growth potential, based on extensive research and in-depth conversations with industry leaders. It has already developed a supply chain, talent pool, and potential corporate partners for advanced R&D to fully develop and commercialize the idea. Advisory board members include the founder of Xbox and the founder of Vision Machines. — Matt Shumer and Sam Hollander, co-founders
- Prioritage, an integrated technology platform for triage and real-time patient monitoring in emergency or disaster situations. In events such as mass casualty situations, disasters, or large crowded ER rooms, a patient’s condition can deteriorate rapidly after initial triage, especially if there is a high ratio of patients to medical professionals. Post initial triage, there is no way to monitor and assess patient changes – particularly in cases of internal bleeding or other “silent” indicators. Prioritage, a first place winner of the NYC Invent@SU program, is a wearable armband that monitors a patient’s vital signs to detect changes after triage, sending wireless alerts if conditions change, and suggesting prioritized treatment based on the rate of change post initial assessment. The information is viewed on a central monitor, and can be sent to mobile devices through a local area network (LAN) that displays real time information on blood pressure, heart rate, and other indicators. Using algorithms, it can prioritize an assigned Emergency Severity Index (ESI) level to assign a new treatment order. The goal is to use smart, real-time monitoring technology to help save more lives in emergencies. — Angelica O’Hara and Ibnul Rafi, co-founders
- Promptous, a decentralized and autonomous insurance claims processing platform using blockchain technology. Major problems exist in the current dental insurance industry. Promptous has created a new model using blockchain technology, smart contracts and ACH to create transparency, more predictability, and prompt payment, eliminating the need for a costly third-party benefits administrator. The streamlined system is simpler, easier to understand, and provides for prompt payment through ACH, creating secure transactions through a decentralized and autonomous platform – the blockchain – a digital ledger that records transactions between two parties efficiently, and in a verifiable and permanent way. The team are software technologists with deep blockchain skill sets, and have built an initial prototype, using feedback from focused interviews with users to ensure that it is customer-focused, easy to use, and compliant with all regulatory and HIPAA legislation that provides data privacy and security provisions for safeguarding medical information. — Joshua Jackson, Timothy Kelly, Phil McKnight, co-founders
- SOAR, a non-profit serving the needs of survivors of PTSD and C-PTSD with alternative therapy in a retreat setting. SOAR is an aspiring non-profit organization seeking to serve survivors of PTSD and C-PTSD with alternative therapy services in a retreat-styled setting, regardless of ability to pay. The therapy is targeted to survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence, community violence, combat violence, and substance abuse. SOAR’s retreat-minded and trauma-informed services will bring survivors together in a safe space, with expressive arts therapies, mindfulness and meditation, yoga, nature-based therapies, community building, veteran-taught self-defense courses, and other methodologies such as transcendental meditation. SOAR plans to offer these services for free or on a sliding scale model, and will create a sustainable business model through fundraising, grants and other funding streams. — Jessica McGhee, founder
- SWIP, an all-in-one refillable beverage and flavor system that is a new way to consume beverages with low environmental impact. Last year alone, the sales of non-alcoholic beverages grew by $2B, creating an increasing volume of disposables in landfills and oceans. SWIP is a streamlined, reusable bottle that uses flavor pods to easily craft flavored beverages that can either be stored or consumed for personal use. SWIP plans to develop both the bottle and the flavor pods (which will be returnable for repurposing). Sales will be through distributors and to retail outlets, as well as on-line. The target market is families, age 35-55, and students and young professionals, age 20-35, who value sustainability, and environmentally friendly and energy conscious activities. The founder is working on product development, and is seeking expertise in the physics and chemistry behind the delivery system, unique carbonation process, and the flavoring in the pods. It plans to offer four initial flavors – ginger ale, orange, cola, and grape. — Daniel McMurray, founder
- TowelVac, a healthy alternative that uses vacuum pressure rather than heat to dry hair. Current methods of drying hair are inefficient and cause damage to the hair and scalp. TowelVac provides a convenient and healthy alternative, using vacuum pressure rather than heat to remove water. A hood-shaped microfiber towel, compatible with desktop pumps, or small portable pumps, it can be used for salon or home use. It works as quickly as a conventional dryer, but avoids dehydration, frizz and split ends. The unit is machine washable for easy maintenance. The team of two brothers participated in Invent@SU and has filed a provisional patent. — Richard Mignacca and Peter Mignacca, co-founders