Judges Theo Edmonds, Taylor Trusty and John Williamson
Judges Theo Edmonds, Taylor Trusty and John Williamson

Ron Karoll of Collabra served as emcee for last night’s 5Across event at Velocity SI. The usual emcee, Velocity SI director Tony Schy, was “in the happiest place on earth,” said Karoll. (I was assuming it was someplace involving bourbon, but it turns out he’s at Disney World).

5Across is a pitch competition started by Awesome Inc. in Lexington. Here’s the gist: 5 companies have 5 minutes to pitch their business plan and have a chance to win $500.

Judges for last night’s 5Across were:

  • John Williamson, a project manager for ZirMed, formerly the founder and CEO of Ucloser real estate software
  • Artist-entrepreneur Theo Edmunds, founder of I.D.E.A.S. 40203
  • Taylor Trusty, owner and president of Blackstone Media

The winner of the event was LensFactory, a company that manufactures replacement lenses for your eyeglasses. Insider talked to Brandon Powers of LensFactory last December. The company contracts with Vision Dynamics and is housed in the same building. If your prescription changes, but you love your trademark glasses, you can pop those glasses in a box (LensFactory will even send you the box) and send them off to LensFactory; in just a few days and for around 70 percent less than a brick and mortar eyeglass store, you can have new lenses placed in your old glasses.

Winner Brandon Powers
Winner Brandon Powers

The other competitors:

You Me Blue was the winner of the most recent Startup Weekend. Amelia Gandara presented two examples of her sustainable, decorative kitchen tiles. The tiles, made with fly ash, concrete and glass, are more eco-friendly than most tiles for several reasons; they’re made from recycled materials and they do not need heat in the curing process. Gandara and her team have two signed letters of intent from local stores promising to carry the tiles. They intend to manufacture here in Louisville.

Terena Bell, owner and CEO of In Every Language translation service, presented a new social media translation software that brand managers can use to compile, translate and evaluate brand mentions on Twitter. Currently 66 percent of Twitter users do not tweet in English. Bell drew laughs when she said context matters when translating: “‘Your company is shit’ is very different from ‘Your company is the shit.'” A number of potential clients have told Bell she should charge anywhere from $2,000 to $20,000 a month for a subscription and services.

CopyMEcrazy is a web platform for posting videos of karaoke and celebrity spoofing. The website explains it: 

Show the world as you copycat your favorite celebrity by simply uploading a video of you doing karaoke of one of their songs, spoofing one of their songs, or acting out a scene from one of their movies or shows, also follow other CopyCats and judge their videos! Its simple, its copyMEcrazy!

Founder and CEO Troy Brown is planning an eight-city tour this summer to promote the site by throwing karaoke parties/contests on college campuses. The kick-off event is Aug. 7 at the Clifton Center. Brown said there’s a social good aspect to this effort; he wants to give kids something creative and fun to do — a timely effort in Louisville.

BentCanvs is a “donation based crowdfunding platform” — essentially a Kickstarter for charitable causes. Founder Randy VanHoose will feature nine vetted charities each month and each campaign will last exactly a month. Like most crowdfunding platforms, BentCanvs is sustained by charging the charities a small percentage for administration. Currently two nonprofits are using the site to raise money.

It’s worth noting that this is the second time in a row the winner of Louisville’s 5Across has been an established and functioning business. Zack Pennington of US Chia was the last winner of the event.

Last night’s participants displayed a wide spectrum of experience and their companies were at vastly different stages. After the event, many people expressed disappointment in this. Several people suggested it’s not as “fun” to see $500 go to a company for whom the money is just a drop in the bucket; $500 could be transformative for a truly early-stage company.

Two teams that were expected to present dropped out at the last moment, so there was some scramble to fill the schedule. On May 29, the five winners of the past five 5Acrosses will compete for $5,000.

Chris Hall of Velocity SI said there’s a lot of discussion about how to improve the event. Questions include: Should all companies be at the same stage? How does Velocity SI fill the 5Across line-up sooner? Should companies undergo some mentorship before participating in 5Across? And of course… the perennial question: What is startup?

Debate below or email your thoughts.

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