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UCSB Technology Management Program Names Winners of New Venture Competition

aPEEL Technology and Birdeez take top honors; Brightblu wins people's choice award

The UCSB Technology Management Program has announced the winners of its New Venture Competition.

Six teams, representing both graduate and undergraduate students, presented their ideas at UCSB’s Corwin Pavilion last Wednesday in front of a crowd of more than 200 and a panel of distinguished judges. The teams competed for cash and in-kind prizes to launch their ventures, showcasing their business ideas in 10 minutes and answering challenging questions from the judges.

Grand prize and tech push category winner aPEEL Technology presented a natural solution that can be applied to fruit to preserve freshness. The product, developed by James Rogers, a Ph.D. candidate in materials science, and Zubin Kuvadia, Ph.D. candidate in chemical engineering, will be sprayed on fruit, such as locally picked strawberries, before being packaged, increasing shelf life and potentially saving millions of dollars in spoilage losses.

“The new venture competition gave us the opportunity to turn the idea and our research into a real business and focus on solving real problems,” Rogers said.

The contest gave the winners an opportunity to win in-kind awards to help structure their businesses and interact with the local entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, such as judge and UCSB graduate Keval Desai of InterWest Partners.

This year’s competition started with 46 teams, which honed their business ideas over a four-month period, with help from professors and local business community mentors. The final event has become an integral part of the local business community, and also features local and national business sponsors, including Stradling Attorneys at Law, Procore, RightScale, Dow Chemical, Dun & Bradstreet and the Materials Research Lab at UCSB.

“The experience was amazing,” said Jeff Simeon, founder of Birdeez, a bird spotting app, bird alert system and social network that won first place in the market pull category. The Birdeez app targets a potential market that spends $23 billion on products to help them spot and track birds.

“As a birder, I identified an area in a large market that I thought could be improved,” Simeon said. “The Technology Management Program and New Venture Competition helped us to form our winning team and wrap a viable business model around the idea.”

Team Brightblu’s energy-saving solution to control lights and appliances by combining electrical plug adaptors, Bluetooth technology and mobile applications, won the people’s choice award, receiving the highest share of the 167 audience members who voted.

— Mike Panesis represents the UCSB Technology Management Program.

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