All summer long the state has been hosting eight regional “Shark Tank”-style startup competitions. These competitions will send regional winners to Frankfort in the fall for a final showdown. The events will take place in Ashland, Pikeville, Murray, Elizabethtown, Richmond, Covington, Lexington and Louisville.
It was Louisville’s night last night. The event, hosted by GLI’s EnterpriseCorp, featured pitches from FantasyHub, GearBrake, HelioMap and The Recovery Station. The judges were Suzanne Bergmeister, Steve Huey, Vik Chadha and Greg Langdon. GLI had to add chairs to the room to accommodate the size of the turnout.
Dean Harvey, executive director of the Von Allmen Center for Entrepreneurship in the Gatton College of Business and Economics at the University of Kentucky (phew!), represented the Kentucky Angel Network and introduced some interesting statistics. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says Kentucky leads the nation in business creation. In 2006, we were 40th in the nation in entrepreneurial activity. Now we are seventh, according to the Kauffman Foundation.
Each of the four teams had 10 minutes to present, followed by a five-minute Q&A with the judges:
Chris Bailey of GearBrake came away the winner of the $1,000 first prize and will advance to the finals in November. We’ve written quite a bit about Bailey at Insider. He was a member of the second class of the Velocity accelerator program. He also won the prestigious Venture Sharks competition earlier this year and more than $11,000 in cash and services. During Venture Sharks Bailey won both the competition and “fan favorite.”
GearBrake is a device that is an aftermarket add-on to a motorcycle or any manual transmission vehicle. Manual transmission vehicles can effectively slow down to a near stop without even braking by using engine braking or downshifting. But downshifting and engine braking don’t light the brake lights. GearBrake uses an accelerometer to sense when the vehicle is slowing down and sends a signal to flash the brake lights. Bailey hopes GearBrake can help radically reduce rear-end collisions.
An unscientific poll of around a dozen audience members during the judging period yielded interesting results. Eleven people had chosen the same “top two” companies (albeit not in the same order), including 6-year-old Max who was there with his dad because he “loves ‘Shark Tank.'” Only one person dissented over one of the two companies. The double bill was always GearBrake and The Recovery Station.
And we had it right.
Daniel Johnsen started work on the concept of The Recovery Station around a year ago. And just around a month ago, he quit his job working at The Learning House to devote himself to his startup full time. Johnsen is a member of the current cohort of the Velocity accelerator, and we’ll have a profile on his company soon.
The Recovery Station (the name will change soon) is a pre- and post-workout protein shake dispenser to be installed at gyms. Gyms can either buy the machine outright or lease it. Americans will spend around $6 billion on supplements this year.
Johnsen’s second place earned him $500.
Andrew Busa of Fantasy Hub, “fantasy hub meets crowdfunding,” also competed. This platform allows individuals and nonprofits raise money for charity. The average fantasy sports player spends upwards of $100 a year to play — maybe some of that money could be channeled to charity organizations.
One of the benefits of Fantasy Hub is bringing young men into the charity space. Seventy-five percent of their users are men and most of them are under 30.
Busa seemed to be unclear about the tax implications for donors and what they would and wouldn’t be able to write off as a donation. Some judges seemed concerned that Fantasy Hub’s 20 percent commission seemed too high for working with nonprofits.
Busa also made a comment about the Fantasy Hub platform being “so easy Nicole could do it … Lisa could do it” (that’s Nicole Oivino and Lisa Bajorinas, assistant director and director of EnterpriseCorp). When asked by the judges which nonprofits would make a good match for Fantasy Hub, he listed several good matches but suggested that AIDS charities probably wouldn’t be interested because they cater to the LGBT community.
Alex Frommeyer, of Beam Technologies and Uproar Labs, and Sam Ellis introduced HelioMap for the first time to the public. Described as a “web-based quoting and UAVs for solar panel installation,” the company essentially is a lead-generation machine for solar panel installers that uses a Google Satellite interface to calculate the approximate amount of solar panel real estate you have on your roof. The program returns the information the consumer needs in an elegant and easy to read design.
But here’s the kicker: Once the lead is nailed down, the installer can hire HelioMap at $250 a pop to send out a UAV (unmanned ariel vehicle — a drone) to map your roof precisely and plan the install to within an inch of accuracy.
Ten minutes just didn’t seem adequate to explain how this company, at its core — a lead generation platform for solar panel installers — was different from the considerable competitors out there. And drones — drones!! — are very exciting but there are still so many unanswered questions surrounding commercial UAVs.
The final pitch competition where the region winners will go head to head is scheduled for Nov. 13 in Frankfort; Gov. Steve Beshear is expected to attend.