The competition was so fierce at this year’s Venture Sharks preliminary competition that the judges were granted the option of choosing five, not four, companies to advance to the money round. Lead judge Tendai Charasika said judging was difficult because the founders all had such different backgrounds and came from different industries.
Two of the advancing companies pitched on Wednesday night: You Saw Me, an LED safety vest, and Recovery Station, a protein shake vending kiosk.
Three companies advanced from Thursday’s pitch round: Louisville Fish Co., GearBrake, and Million Dollar Scholar.
Thursday’s competing companies:
Founder Bill Burke is an algorithms engineer for the Connected Home for GE. He’s created a web application for engineers for knowledge creation. The application allows engineers to create online notebooks in the cloud that can be accessed from any device and that can be shared among users. The application takes a project from analysis through collaboration right to publication. Burke is taking aim at the quantitative social research community, which he says is underfunded. Existing tools that carry out a similar function are incredibly expensive. This will be $25 for professionals, $15 for students. He’s hoping to have an MVP in time for fall semester.
Michael Tierney pitched his company that markets and distributes fish raised in Kentucky’s many aquaculture farms. With his company he intends to deliver live fish to regional restaurants and stores, so chefs can truly serve up a “catch of the day.” He is working with a team at Kentucky State University, which has a leading aquaculture program, and they are competing for a grant that will allow his company to inherit a distribution route that serves Cincinnati, Louisville and Indianapolis. In the meantime, he is processing smoked paddlefish and paddlefish caviar, which goes for $200 a pound for wholesale.
Chris Bailey has taken his company GearBrake through the Launch It program and through the Velocity accelerator. We profiled the company back in January. Since then he’s added a co-founder, Jason Harrington, and is in production with the product. GearBrake helps prevent rear-end collisions in motorcycles (and any vehicle with a manual transmission). It is wired directly into the bike’s brake lights and flashes when the vehicle downshifts or engine brakes. This gives trailing vehicles a sign that the bike is slowing down and gives the drivers several more seconds of response time.
Garrett Flanagan pitched CredentialedCare, which one of the judges described as Monster.com for the caregiver industry. Flanagan says hiring is difficult in the long-term care industry, especially now that it has been effected by new regulations from the ACA. This is a registry for caregivers, where they can fill out a profile with their preferences and skill sets and optionally pay $40 to have Credentialed Care perform a background check on them and certify them, making them more attractive to employers. CredentialedCare participated in the XLerateHealth accelerator.
On Monday, we told you about Therabracelet’s big $101,500 win at the “Super Bowl of Pitch Contests” in Austin last weekend. Perhaps that’s why they didn’t advance in this one, as one of the judging criteria is the impact that the prize would make on the contest. The Therabracelet team had three people delivering the pitch, and it was very rehearsed. Therabracelet is a therapeutic wearable solution to neuropathy.
Million Dollar Scholar also participated in this most recent cohort of the Velocity accelerator program. We interviewed founder Derrius Quarles back in February. Since then the company has secured two contracts to work with schools. Each student who has participated in the MVP program has earned an average of $7,000 in scholarships. Since the 1980s, college costs have gone up 1000 percent, says Quarles. He says kids know how to get into college but don’t know how to pay for it. MDS is like test prep for the scholarship application process.
The five advancing companies will get to pitch again, this time to a room full of investors. The final round of Venture Sharks will be held at the monthly Venture Connectors lunch at the Muhammad Ali Center on May 7. The winning company will take home $10,000 in cash and services.