In celebration of Valentine’s Day, the West Virginia University IDEA Hub and LaunchLab Network co-hosted the second annual “I Heart IDEA Hub Pitch Challenge,” providing students, faculty, staff and community members who utilize any of the IDEA Hub’s services the opportunity to showcase their innovative ideas and compete for cash prizes.
Six individuals and teams pitched their innovations in five minutes to a group of esteemed judges from across West Virginia, followed by the judging panel’s question and answer period.
The top three teams took home a share of the $2,500 prize money to help advance and develop their innovations, winning $1,250, $750 and $500, respectively.
William Creek a sophomore in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, and Casey Youngblood, a sophomore in the John Chambers College of Business and Economics scored first place for their company, SUPR, an innovative non-lethal projectile for law enforcement. Their prototype for the event was made in the LaunchLab’s Maker Lab. Taking home second place was Anthony Garber, a freshman in the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. His idea of the Easy Leash involves a new take walking your dog. The Yard Service in a Box by Steven Chettleburgh, a freshman in the John Chambers College of Business and Economics secured third place with his idea that provides an entrepreneurial yardwork package for middle and high school students. Cameron Keefe, a sophomore in the John Chambers College of Business and Economics received the People’s Choice award with her idea of the Thermoroller, a modified muscle roller.
Additional competitors who participated in the challenge were Amy Drvar, director of Undergraduate Medical Education Programs at the WVU School of Medicine and Julian Figaretti, owner of the Little Hemp Seeds, LLC. Drvar’s creative idea, the Pour N’ Play, is a product that makes children’s bath time more fun and less messy. Figaretti, on the other hand, has created a new nutrient-packed energy bar named Beet Bites.
“I think the successes here with our competitors was that they were really looking at real problems and coming up with real solutions. That’s what makes this so special,” said LaunchLab business advisor Anne Jones.
The panel of judges included: Ray Glymph, a local business owner; Scott Werdebaugh, founder of Integrity Financial Planning and co-owner of Vast Holdings, LLC; Peter Prokopchuk, co-owner of co-owner of Vast Holdings, LLC, and owner and broker of Real Pro Commercial Real Estate; Mike Green, Chairman of the West Virginia Growth Investment Fund and Managing Director of Mountain State Capital.
One of the judges, Ray Glymph commented on the event, “The competition was great – a lot of innovative young people with a lot of initiative. They all had great ideas that could really be brought to market.”
“This was one of the best pitch competitions we’ve ever had,” remarked Carrie White, Vice President of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “The judges were completely impressed. They had a really difficult time selecting the winner and the votes were close. We’re really that these entrepreneurs are going to get some funding to move them forward.”
Supporting entrepreneurs and innovators at every step of their journey, the LaunchLab Network offers everything from one-on-one mentorship to prototype development facilities to a variety of resources and connections to investors.
The LaunchLab Network is part of the WVU IDEA Hub, a university-wide network of centers, offices and programs that fosters and supports innovation and entrepreneurship among WVU students, faculty and staff while engaging the statewide community. By showcasing the vast network of resources and opportunities across the University, the IDEA Hub elevates an integrated web of WVU’S entrepreneurs, inventors and innovators who are applying entrepreneurship and innovation to solve problems and embrace change toward more innovation, growth and resilience across West Virginia.