A startup company with software that ups the accuracy of GPS coordinates on smartphones took home the top prize — and the most cash — Thursday evening during UC Santa Barbara’s 15th annual New Venture Competition.
ShadowMaps, a cloud-based service software, won the $10,000 grand prize and an additional $10,000 super-sized cardboard check for coming in first place in one of two categories in this year’s Technology Management Program contest for would-be student entrepreneurs.
Another startup, Salty Girl Seafood, may not have come in first, but the group also made off with a big bite of the $40,000 in cash awards.
The four-hour finale at UCSB’s Corwin Pavilion featured 10-minute pitches from six finalist teams, divided evenly into either the “Tech Push” or “Market Pull” categories depending on whether ventures were based on technology or a new idea to solve a gap in the current marketplace.
A panel of four experts had the honor of asking questions and narrowing down a field that already had been whittled down from 22 small groups of undergraduate and graduate students, who competed in the New Venture Fair last month.
Different this year was that almost all finalists were graduate students.
“This is such an exceptional bunch,” TMP program manager Mike Panesis said.
The Tech Push category featured a startup whose scientific breakthrough aimed to better generate clots in blood-loss cases to save lives (Cayuga Biotech) and another that presented a new approach to generating white light (Fluency Lighting Technologies).
Both teams presented such good business plans that judges couldn’t choose, and awarded each a $2,000 prize and tie for second place.
ShadowMaps and its team of Andrew Irish, Daniel Iland, Jason Isaacs and Dayton Horvath nabbed first place in Tech Push, earning $10,000.
The group’s software, which supplements GPS in urban environments with a special algorithm and 3D maps, could reduce the GPS error by 10 times, an issue Horvath dubbed “the shadowing problem.”
First place in the Market Pull category — and the accompanying $5,000 — went to Bottle Branders, a startup hoping to help small breweries distribute beer with better advertising and improved quality by creating growler tap and magnetic labeling and bottle products.
Salty Girl Seafood, a sustainable seafood company that sources seafood products directly from fishermen and ships them direct to chefs, took the $2,500 second-place prize in that category, and the $1,000 third-place award went to Echo, a smartphone application allowing customers to order and pay at a restaurant with Bluetooth.
Salty Girl Seafood members Norah Eddy, Laura Johnson, Gina Auriemma and Andreas Viggen also earned the $5,000 People’s Choice award and a $5,000 Elings Prize, given by Virgil Elings himself and determined by “luck” — literally pulling a name out of a hat.
The group will put money to work creating an online marketplace that requires participation from both chefs and fishermen.
“If you don’t know when your seafood was caught, you have no idea how fresh it is,” said Eddy, who co-founded the venture.