Virtual Pitchfest

Buerk Center entrepreneurship competitions roll online

Year two of a global pandemic couldn’t dampen the enterprising spirit—or diminish the quality of ventures and presentations—across a veritable spring fling of online startup competitions hosted, as ever, by the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship.

A record $90,000 was awarded to student teams in the Dempsey Startup Competition, which crowned Afterlife Listings its champion. The collaboration of UW biochemistry, communications and informatics undergrads won the $25,000 Herbert B. Jones Foundation grand prize for its online marketplace for funeral planning, burial plot transactions and financing.

The $15,000 BECU second place prize was awarded to Puget Buoy, a team of mechanical engineering and business students from Olympic College and the UW Foster School who are developing secure fishing gear designed to prevent whale entanglements. The $10,000 WRF Capital third place prize went to Ananta, a team of chemical engineering students from WSU developing a bioreactor that can rapidly expand T cells for use in cancer immunotherapy. And the $7,500 Friends of the Dempsey Startup fourth place prize went to HealthXpress, a network of mobile health clinics in remote regions of the world developed by students in the Foster School’s MS in Entrepreneurship Program.

At the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge, the $15,000 Alaska Airlines grand prize went to Dempsey Startup runner-up Puget Buoy.

GreenLoop, a team of UW business, biology and computer science students developing a sustainable and biodegradable plastic, won the $10,000 Herbert B. Jones Foundation second place prize. Scrapless, a platform connecting eco-minded consumers with local food producers to distribute surplus food that was developed by applied science, arts and commerce students at the University of British Columbia, took the $5,000 Starbucks third place prize.

The Hollomon Health Innovation Challenge awarded its $15,000 WRF Capital grand prize to Sound Sustainability, led by a hearing-impaired military veteran in Foster’s MS Entrepreneurship Program who has developed a high-quality yet affordable hearing aid.

The $10,000 Herbert B. Jones Foundation second place prize was awarded to Nascent Diagnostics, a team of UW materials science and engineering students developing a biosensor array capable of improving the diagnosis and monitoring of various diseases. The $5,000 Fenwick & West third place prize went to Under Pressure, a team of UW chemical, electrical and mechanical engineering students developing a non-invasive blood pressure monitor for the operating room.

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 people, programs, insights and innovations that power the Foster School community.