June 03, 2019 • By Jessie Yount
A murmur swept over the crowd as the first place winner for the Life Sciences category of the New Venture Competition was announced: ELF Therapeutics.
It was their second win of the night, after placing first in the Tech Surge category. They win in that category provides not only funding for their product, but also a home at Beall Applied Innovation's Wayfinder Incubator for the next year.
What exactly is their product? Well, it’s a handheld medical device that uses an electrochemical reaction to destroy fat cells without any surgery, so that you can have six-pack abs in 5 minutes or less.
ELF Therapeutics was just one of 54 teams to advance to the final round of the New Venture Competition, out of 106 who initially competed. A cash award of $103,000 was distributed among the top teams – the largest award in the history of the compeition, which is hosted by the Beall Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the UCI Paul Merage School of Business.
Eyes on Success
The New Venture Competition began in 2006. Recently, the program has been advanced by Imran Currim, director of the Beall Center and distinguished professor at the Merage School. He has worked to build UCI’s entrepreneurial community by helping students discover their passion.
To take the competition to the next level, Currim has relied on his personal experience in business school. “During the first year of the program, I didn’t have a goal in mind. So I had all of these electrons of information thrown at me, and they just flew off into outer space.”
“Then I got passionate about something,” he added. “Once I got passionate about something, in retrospect, it formed a nucleus. And then, in some magical way, every electron of information that was thrown at me got into an orbit around that nucleus. It did not get tossed out.”
That’s the kind of experience the Beall Center hopes to spur in each and every individual who participates in the New Venture Competition. Whether students continue their entrepreneurial journey, depart from it or return at some point, the experience of the competition benefits their long term career goals.
In addition to providing team winners with funding for their product or business idea, the New Venture Competition hosts workshops and mixers throughout the year to help students learn how to write a concept paper and build a winning pitch deck, among other skills.
Next year, the New Venture Competition will also include a wild card round in which a team that is eliminated during the concept paper round will have the chance to earn their way back into the competition. There will also be a public-facing Grand Finale ANT TANK pitch, which will be open to the community.
Eyes on the Prize
The six-month journey culminates in an evening reception and awards ceremony, during which competition sponsors present awards to the first and second place winners in six different categories – but it doesn’t stop there. Students should see the finale as a starting point, rather than an end point, to achieving their goals, Currim said.
Below, read about this year’s winners in the various categories.
While ELF Therapeutics took first place for its fat-zapping handheld device, P-FLAPs was awarded the second place prize for its projection surgical device, which allows surgeons to perform surgery with a projector and stensil to ensure accuracy.
VolunteerCrowd won first place for its online volunteer marketplace, which connects nonprofit organizations with high school students looking for volunteer opportunities. Meanwhile, giv, a charitable giving platform and web application similar to Instagram, took second place.
ELF Therapeutics once again received first prize in the Life Sciences category. The second place winner, Embryologic, was recognized for its technology that assesses the quality of an embryo for in vitro fertilization and, in turn, leads to healthy babies.
Business Products & Services
First place winner UniSafe developed a campus safety app that includes an on-campus escort button and a location-sharing feature. Jiffal was awarded second place for its proposal to manage the New Venture Competition – and starting next year, Jiffal will be in charge of organizing the community event.
myHealth Today won first place for its senior-friendly version of Alexa, which helps users keep track of medical appointments and the like. There was a tie for second place, and the prize was split between Curbd, an app that makes use of unused driveways in crowded urban areas by pairing homeowners with those in need of parking, and SwappIt, an ecommerce platform for trading streetwear.
First place winner Poo Pal developed a product that allows dog owners to clip a used doggy bag to their dog’s leash until they can find a trash can. Meanwhile, second place went to Steth ‘n Go for its magnetic stethoscope holder, which keeps the device clean and easy to access.
Win the Future
In addition, the Beall Center partnered with the International Elites in Suzhou, and six winners were selected to travel to Suzhou, China, and compete in the final round of its “Win the Future” New Venture competition.