The Buzz is Back!

The Buerk Center’s entrepreneurship competitions return the art of persuasion to the exhibition hall

After creating innovative remote experiences for the past two years, the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship’s new venture competitions blasted back in person this year—with an electrifying buzz in the air as student entrepreneurs and judges once again danced in a pageant of persuasion.

Here are this year’s biggest winners:

The 25th annual Dempsey Startup Competition awarded its $25,000 Herbert B. Jones Foundation Grand Prize to OnDeck Fisheries AI, a team of students from UBC and Simon Fraser who created an automated monitoring system to address declining global fish stocks.

CathConnect, a spinout of the UW’s Engineering Innovation in Health Program, won the $15,000 BECU Second Place Prize for its device that improves the safety of urinary catheters. The $10,000 WRF Capital Third Place Prize went to OneCourt, a team of UW students touting a unique sensory experience that makes sports media more accessible and engaging for the visually impaired. And team inSTENT Connection, also from the UW, won the $7,500 Friends of the Dempsey Startup Fourth Place Prize by creating the first naturally absorbing stent for patients undergoing GI tract surgeries.

At the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge, the $15,000 Alaska Airlines Grand Prize was awarded to Catalytic Carbon, a partnership of UW aeronautics, informatics and entrepreneurship students behind a process that dramatically increases the percentage of plastic that is recyclable.

The $10,000 Herbert B. Jones Foundation Second Place Prize went to Just Right Bite, a team of Foster MS in Entrepreneurship students developing a suite of pet foods that use insects as a sustainable protein base. The $5,000 Starbucks Third Place Prize went to Arctic Biotech Oath, from the University of Alaska, for their bio-mining process that sustainably extracts rare earth elements using microorganisms.

The Holloman Health Innovation Challenge issued its $15,000 WRF Capital Grand Prize to inSTENT Connection. Judges awarded the $10,000 Herbert B. Jones Foundation Second Place Prize to CathConnect. And the $5,000 Fenwick & West Third Place Prize went to the UW team behind EquinOx, creator of a pulse oximeter that corrects skin-tone inaccuracies in real time.

Buerk Bits

The Buerk Center presented its first UW Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year Award to Amber Ratcliffe (MBA 2003), the co-founder of NanoString Technologies (Grand Prize winner at the 2003 Dempsey Startup Competition). Ratcliffe is currently the founder and CEO of Arbor Health, Inc., and president of the Decipher Group.

Amber Ratcliffe (center) receives the inaugural UW Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

And Washington Research Foundation announced a $1 million endowment to establish a new student innovation fund through the Buerk Center.

Ed Kromer Managing Editor Foster School

Ed Kromer is the managing editor of Foster Business magazine. Over the past two decades, he has served as the school’s senior storyteller, writing about a wide array of people, programs, insights and innovations that power the Foster School community.