June 05, 2020 • By Sydney Charles
Zarina Bahadur MIE '20, took home first place in the 15th annual New Venture Competition (NVC) with her start-up Baby Box. The subscription-based service, powered by artificial intelligence for parents of children 0-3 years, won cash prizes totaling $25,000. The New Venture Competition is presented by the Beall Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at The Paul Merage School of Business.
The competition is a seven-month journey open to all UCI students, staff members and researchers as well as community members. Teams compete for $100,000 in cash prizes and attend a series of workshops and mixers.
The competition consisted of three rounds. For round one, contestants submitted a three-page concept paper and a video pitch. In round two, each team pitched their business concept to a panel of judges. For the third and final round, teams who won first and second place in round two compete head to head in a live Shark Tank inspired quick pitch for an Ant Tank Grand Finale.
Bahadur is a member of the inaugural class of the Master of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (MIE) program.
“I am grateful to attend a university that supports my goals and ambitions as well as participate in a truly remarkable program,” said Bahadur. “To be surrounded by so many amazing people who support and only want to see your success is truly astounding. They’ve made my graduate school experience a positive one, and I am beyond blessed to be a part of this thriving ecosystem.”
Bahadur will leverage her prize money for R&D and new customer acquisition.
Bahadur said: “Baby Box has grown rapidly as many people are turning towards online shopping as opposed to retail due to the current climate. We have gained more brand awareness as well as traction due to our successful influencer campaigns.”
This was the first year NVC held an “Ant Tank” finale that showcased all ten finalists.
“I have been a judge in the NVC for five years and also the Chair of the Beall Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship,” said Ken Neeld. “As an entrepreneur myself, I am passionate about developing an ecosystem to inspire and support entrepreneurism in Orange County. Over the past decade, I have seen tremendous development in OC to make it a hub of innovation and entrepreneurism. When coupled with the intellectual resources available at UCI, OC has the potential of being a top center of innovation in the world.”
Finalists competed in five different categories. Teams that won first place in their category won $10,000 and second place winners took home $5,000.
Second place winner, Bottle Built, constructs affordable housing using recycled PETE Plastics as the primary building material. First place prize went to Conshus Clothing; the sustainable fair-trade fashion brand aims to financially empower underprivileged women.
The company CannTek claimed the prize in the life science category. A unique electrochemical device, CannTek detects current levels of THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, in order to provide concrete evidence to ensure a safe environment for roads, law enforcement officials, district attorneys and workspaces. ImmunoTarget Therapeutics, Inc. – a treatment tailored to an individual patient that has the potential to replace current treatments to fight cancer – took home first place.
Business products and services
The multi-platform software application, Instinct, won second place. The program measures real-time stress levels and provides nudges through AI-based engines to improve productivity and health over time. First place winner, Ardha Health, is a cloud-based team collaboration software service for healthcare provider groups servicing post-acute care (PAC) facilities.
Prophet Predictive Modeling won second place for using significant models to offer money management services through its website to accredited investors. No Decaf Allowed claimed first place with its unique coffee subscription service that delivers fresh, whole beans from premium third-wave roasters right to your door.
Voltek, a blind spot detection device for bicycles that utilizes camera sensor technology to reduce accidents and collisions involving bicycles, took home second place. First place for this category, and winner of the overall competition, was Baby Box. The subscription service targets new parents and utilizes AI to create customized boxes tailored to a baby's age and developmental stage.
Bottle Built also won the $1,000 audience favorite prize through a popular vote during the live Ant Tank Finale.
“Our world is drowning in plastic, but our team has a solution that will recycle our past and build our future,” Aryan Ghanadan, CEO of the company, said. “Bottle Built is a social enterprise that is transforming how we look at plastic waste.”
All ten teams went home with a cash prize and a newfound experience regarding selling their product and startup ideas.