Neatly timed to coincide with Global Entrepreneurship Week, the Vogt Awards demo day took place Thursday at the Pointe in Butchertown. Susan Barry, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Louisville, and Greater Louisville Inc. CEO Kent Oyler co-hosted.
The Vogt Awards were started in 1999 by the late Henry V. Heuser Sr., whom Barry said was “a tinkerer and very engaged with the manufacturing community” and that he “very much liked to get on the floor” of the Vogt Manufacturing Co. Heuser even mentored Mayor Greg Fischer and helped the mayor’s drink dispensing company get its big break showing at a Chicago restaurant convention.
The Vogt Awards first selected four finalists out of around 50 applicants — all local manufacturing companies — awarded them $20,000 in non-diluted capital, and put them through a 10-week mentorship program.
On Thursday evening, the four teams pitched their companies to anonymous judges for the chance to win the grand prize: $100,000 of non-diluted funding.
What wasn’t surprising? The fact that Chris Bailey and Jason Harrington’s GearBrake won. They are serial pitch-contest winners with a product that only gets more interesting and relevant the more work they put into it.
What was surprising? How darned good the competition was.
Jeremiah Chapman presented Fresh Fry, an inexpensive pod-type filter that absorbs impurities in cooking oil so restaurants don’t need to change the oil as often. The pods are inexpensive — eventually when they’re able to mass produce them, they could be as little as $3 a pod. Chapman said there are around 900 restaurants in the Louisville area who use a commercial fryer. Restaurants can save more than $1,000 a year on oil costs by using the filters. They are already working with Mayan Cafe, their first customer.
MBDevice’s CEO Vas Abramov presented the continual cervical monitor for expectant mothers. This monitor wirelessly sends information about the baby’s health and the status of the cervix to your cell phone. The intention primarily is to watch for signs of premature birth so the mother can get to a hospital and doctors can work to preempt the birth until the baby is of a healthy size. Abramov imagines the device first would be marketed to at-risk mothers — mothers who have had previous premature births or miscarriages — but that eventually mothers in general would be their market.
Many people have seen Daniel Johnsen pitch his Recovery Station pre-and-post-workout protein shake kiosk enough times that we can cite the statistics along with him. But yesterday’s pitch was his best “performance” thus far. So much so that Nicole Oivino of EnterpriseCorp said he could sell ice to an eskimo. The idea was launched at Startup Weekend Lexington a year ago this weekend, and last weekend he set up the kiosk at the Downtown YMCA, where the machine made 51 total sales ($3.99/each) in 39 hours of operation on two of the slowest days for the YMCA — Saturday and Sunday.
Bailey and Harrington have already sold 238 of their brake light modules, which use an accelerometer to sense when a motor cycle or manual car is slowing down and signals the brake light. While they sell online and at select retailers, their time during the Vogt Award program convinced them that they should focus more on OEM and retro-fit markets. CC Power Sports already has agreed to retro-fit all of their inventory with Gear Brakes. Janus Motorcycles is a manufacturer in Indiana. They’ve agreed to install Gear Brakes on the bikes they build.