The ninth annual Minnesota Cup has announced the 57 teams of entrepreneurs, inventors, and innovators that will advance to the second round of the 2013 competition. Among the 10 student semi-finalists are eight Carlson School student teams that developed their ideas in experiential entrepreneurship classes.
The Minnesota Cup is a statewide contest designed to seek out, support, celebrate, and promote Minnesota's newest and most innovative business ideas. On Aug. 19, three student finalists will be chosen to present their business plans for the divisional round, competing for a portion of the $200,000 of annual cash prizes. The student winner will receive $10,000 and compete against the other divisional winners on Sept. 11 for the $40,000 grand prize.
Meet some of the finalists, who devised innovative products to meet real-world needs.
Sante markets snack dip
Sante Foods leveraged the Greek yogurt trend by creating a line of non-fat, all-natural Greek yogurt style dips. Led by Kelsey Atherton, the business was developed in the Entrepreneurship in Action class by a team of 10 students who took only three months to conceive the idea, develop a licensed manufacturing process, and make the product available at six Twin Cities co-ops. Atherton is working to scale up production and reintroduce the product this fall.
Render LLC merges form and sound
The minds behind Render LLC invented a means for consumers to wear a song or phrase around their wrist. The "Soundband" is a 3D, physical representation of sound waves, translated into the form of a wristband. Invented by Brandon Folkes, Mac Cameron, and Bohdan Tyshynsky, Soundbands were designed to foster belonging among groups. One variety of band, made especially for Carlson School alumni, represents the sound waves of the Minnesota Rouser.
"The Soundband conveys a message that may not be obvious to an onlooker, but holds a deep meaning to the wearer," says Folkes. "Our mission is to build increased engagement, pride, and spirit among targeted groups by creating wearable products that draw on shared memories and experiences."
All incoming Carlson School freshmen and transfer students will receive a Soundband at Welcome Week this August.
Lipbrau gets serious about gaming
Full-Time MBA students Spencer Evans, Charlie Rota, and Zachary Johnson's first game, Hogstead: Dots and Boxes, will be available for download this summer. The team founded Lipbrau, a game development startup focused on mobile social games. And they aren't playing around: the young entrepreneurs have won seed funding to fuel the company, and staked their territory in the fast-growing mobile gaming market.
The team owes its initial success in part to following lean startup tactics and gathering feedback from potential customers early and often. But not only are the lessons from the Carlson School guiding the team's choices, the faculty and student clubs have supported its efforts since the beginning.
ShedBed curbs pet hair
Full-Time MBA student Nathan Conner envisions a line of dog and cat beds that use electronic technology to attract and contain shed pet hair and dander. The bed is safe for pets, reduces pet hair that otherwise litters the home, and cuts allergenic pet dander in the air. Conner is confident he hit the sweet spot of a successful venture by solving a painful problem for a huge market-there are 73 million households in the United States that include furry companions.
Playtabase rethinks the interface
Finance and management information systems major Ryan Manteufel hopes his business will someday provide wearable technologies for users to interact with their electronics. His team's debut offering is the Playtabase Wave, a wireless, wrist-worn device that allows the user to control their gadgets using hand gestures. Manteufel hopes the simple "point-and-gesture" interface will prove intuitive for users and have applications for the internet of things, wearable control, and healthcare markets.
MODIRON smooths out ironing
Economics major and management 2013 graduate Natalie Herrild set out to simplify a tedious chore. She and her team invented an ergonomic iron that presses clothing faster, and without an ironing board. The recent Carlson School grad believes the quality and convenience of the design will someday earn the MODIRON a place in closets everywhere.
Herrild won the semi-annual Biz Pitch Competition with her pitch for MODIRON. The University-wide event challenges undergraduate students to present an "elevator pitch" in 90 seconds to a panel of judges and fellow students.
"In our introductory entrepreneurship class, we developed a new product that solved a real problem," she says. "We were taught to showcase our idea, while demonstrating our commitment to a high standard of excellence."
The Carlson School congratulates all the semifinalists you read about here, as well as William Kaye with ConnectToMe, and Ryan Carlson with UAV Spin Off.