AIM Tech wins 2017 Cardinal Challenge. | Photo by @cardchallenge

The problem: Every year more than one million babies die of respiratory illnesses, most in low-to-middle-income countries.

The solution: an affordable, high quality, low-tech pressure ventilator.

AIM Tech, of the University of Michigan, which created a ventilator to help children in developing countries, won the 2017 Cardinal Challenge business plan contest on Sunday.

NeoVent costs less than 1/100th the price of existing ventilators, the team says, is easy to use and requires no electrical power. AIM Tech won $15,000 cash and a $100,000 Launch in Louisville incentive of in-kind services, provided the company locates in Louisville.

Maggie Galloway, CEO of Inscope Medical Solutions, a past winner, was the guest speaker at Cardinal Challenge, which took place at the Louisville Downtown Marriott over the weekend.

Galloway and her team have created a laryngoscope system that combines several devices into one, improving patient safety and saving costs for hospitals. During her time on the business plan contest circuit, Galloway and her team won a grand total of $327,000 in contest earnings and was invited to close the Nasdaq on Aug. 17, 2015.

Twelve teams from across the country and Canada competed all weekend in various types of competitions. All teams earned $750 just for coming to the event.

More than three dozen Louisville-area judges, speakers and mentors also participated in the event.

Suzanne Bergmeister, recently promoted to assistant director of the Forcht Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Louisville College of Business, said that all of the judges were equity investors. She said, “They were equally tough and fair.”

Bergmeister said that what set the winning team apart was how deftly the members handled “such hard questions with confidence and real-world examples.” She said that theirs is a large market and that they have a solid team of advisers.

2nd Place: Kitchen Table — Yale– $5,000

Kitchen Table provides flash-frozen plant-based meal kits that you allow you to create a fresh, nutritious meal on the stove in 15 minutes or less. Bergmeister said that the advisory team included experts from Whole Foods and Honest Tea.

3rd Place: MetaCT — University of Louisville — $3,000

MetaCT is essentially an “Uber for asphalt trucks.” The mobile app allows contractors to request and track asphalt trucks for construction sites. Bergmeister is the team’s professor.

4th Place: RED Biobattery — University of Arkansas — $1,500

RED Biobatteries makes biological batteries for medical implants like pacemakers and defibrillators that can conceivably last the life of the patient and not need to be replaced.

The four teams beat out the other eight to advance to the weekend’s final round. Teams were made up of graduate students but they did not have to be MBA students.

Bergmeister said that the true purpose of business plan competitions was to “get in front of real investors and get those tough questions answered.”

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