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Vandals Win $100K in Spring Entrepreneurship Competitions

May 10, 2018

The IRIC atrium filled with excited chatter as students pitched their business ideas to as many judges as possible on Friday, April 27, at the biannual Idaho Pitch competition. After 65 minutes, the tallied business cards given for successful pitches revealed the winners of startup funding:

  • First place, $1,250 – Virtual BLOCK Fest, a combination of two apps that incorporate block play into everyday activities to help build STEM skills: Brittnay Davis, Moscow, College of Business and Economics (CBE); Andrea Graf, Post Falls, College of Art and Architecture (CAA); Serendel McPhereson, Newberg, Oregon, CAA; Nathan Buchheit, Coeur d’Alene, CAA; Dusan Jevtic, Sombor, Serbia, CAA.

  • Second place, $1,000 – Pro Forge, which designs and sells affordable 3-D metal printers: Henry Elias, Hailey, CBE; Nerissa Schmechel, Twin Falls, CBE; Mitchell Williams, Coeur d’Alene, College of Engineering (Engineering).

  • Third place (tie), $500 each – The Perfect Pour, an automatic bartender ensures quicker service, consistent pours and better profits: Abdulaziz Alazemi, Kuwait City, Kuwait, Engineering; Jacob Ramey, Coeur d’Alene, CBE; Rylie Zucker, Weiser, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS); and PickItUp, an app that connects users to drivers with trucks to move items: Chase and Hayden Pratt, Austin, Texas, CBE.

On Saturday, April 28, eight teams went head-to-head in the Business Plan Competition. All eight teams won $500 for being finalists, and the top four got additional funding:

  • First place, $6,000 – PickItUp

  • Second place, $5,000 – Nomadic Donuts, a unique eatery space for students and community members: Dakota and Jett Jones, Kuna, CBE and CALS.

  • Third place, $4,000 – ProForge

  • Fourth place, $3,000  Virtual BLOCK Fest

Idaho Entrepreneurs from different disciplines and with a wide range of ideas competed very well in business plan competitions this spring, winning just over $100,000. Virtual BLOCK Fest won first place and $12,000 at the Idaho Entrepreneur Challenge in Boise on March 16. Vandals won first place in all three categories of the annual Northwest Entrepreneur Competition on April 17 in Spokane, netting $10,000 apiece.  

Winners of last year’s Idaho Pitch and Business Plan Competition also won at regional and national competitions this year. This includes Blue Collar Virtual Reality, which builds workforce training simulators and came home with $10,000 from the Northwest Entrepreneur Competition; and the multidisciplinary team behind The Forever Shower, who traveled to Boston on April 6 and came home with $15,000 in prize money. 

Idaho Pitch judges included previous winners who are now running successful startups: Payton McGriff ’17, the executive director of S H E (Style Her Empowered); and Tim Ledford ’16, president of Safeguard Equipment.

Media Contact:
Emily Linroth
Marketing and Communications Manager, College of Business and Economics
[email protected]

About the University of Idaho

The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 12,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky Conference. Learn more at