Mimi Phan and her mother accept an outsized check from Lisa Bajornas of EnterpriseCorps | Photo by Melissa Chipman
Mimi Pham and her mother accept an oversized check from Lisa Bajornas of EnterpriseCorp | Photo by Melissa Chipman

Five early-stage companies competed in the second annual Louisville Regional Kentucky Innovation Pitch Competition on Wednesday, vying for a $1,000 first prize, plus a trip to the state finals this fall. Greater Louisville Inc. hosted the event, which was sponsored by the Kentucky Angel Investors and the Cabinet for Economic Development.

Imagine bringing a swatch of fabric from your bridesmaid’s dress to a nail salon, and having the nail technician scan the color and whip up a tiny bottle of matching polish in a matter of minutes. Think what happens at Lowes or Home Depot when you go to the paint shop. That’s what Mimi Pham, CEO of Hue Innovations and winner of the $1,000, imagines as the future for nail salons.

Her product — MiColor — is more than just a solution for consumers; it would revolutionize nail salons. Salons buy an average of 3,500 bottles of polish a year to the tune of $17,000, but close to 50 percent of the polish goes to waste. MiColor would be virtually wasteless. Pham, who has been in the nail salon business for 20 years and who manages her family salon, told the audience how daunting doing inventory was and that it takes hours every week.

Pham has a rough prototype but is looking for a solution that will make this custom nail polish less toxic to both salon workers and customers. She said that 54 percent of all nail salons in the U.S are owned by Vietnamese people and that network tends to share innovations quickly.

Second prize — $500 — went to Jay Hoying, CEO and vascular biologist for Angiomics Inc. It’s a biotech company that develops new technology to aid researchers of vascular diseases. They have developed a testing mechanism that gives researchers the ability to test heart disease drugs on real human capillaries rather than on just vascular cells. The company currently harvests those capillaries from discarded fat from liposuctions.

The other three presenting companies were:

Engagely is a company that seeks to replace web security systems like Captcha, which have been routinely hacked by machine intelligence programs. Engagely serves up a form that uses a one-question survey to track the movements of the mouse across the screen and verify that there is a human, not a bot, behind it.

Paddlewheel Industries has created a system that “ages” bourbon faster and helps distillers bring the spirit to the market faster. The Angel’s Cradle slowly rolls the barrels in place, keeping the liquid swishing around inside it. This increases the amount of time the spirit is coming into contact with the charred oak and “ages” it faster. It also cuts down on evaporation because the barrel stays wet — evaporation increases when the wood is dry and contracts.

Weather Check is a consumer-facing website that allows homeowners to monitor weather events and see when a hail or windstorm has likely damaged their roof. Demetrius Grey is the owner of a roofing company and the CEO of Weather Check. The company facilitates homeowners’ insurance claims and cuts down on survey work for roofers.

The judges for the event were Greg Langdon, angel investor; Vik Chadha, Managing Director, GlowTouch Technologies; and Steve Huey, CEO of Capture Higher Ed.

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