This post is provided by guest contributor James Feuereisen, a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania. Above photo courtesy of Lamont Abrams.
Kinecthesia, a belt-mounted navigation device for assisting the visually impaired, (see a demo) took first place and a $5,000 prize after besting 11 other finalists of the University of Pennsylvania’s PennVention competition where a total of $20,000 in prizes was awarded.
Demo Kinecthesia: Philly Tech Week Signature Event
- WHAT: open bar and light appetizers, expo of locally-produced tech
- WHEN: Fri. April 27, 6-9 pm
- WHERE: Moore College
- RSVP $30 here
Forty-three student teams, a competition record, entered the first phase of the competition back in February, with a rigorous process to narrow the field to 12. The first place company was started by by junior computer engineering students Jeffrey Kiske and Eric Berdinis, who have been working on their product for nearly a year. PennVention is part of the Weiss Tech House, which hosts other entrepreneurial events throughout the year and houses an in-house fund for startups.
“After seeing the competition this year, I can’t really say I was expecting to win,” Kiske said after the event. “All of the teams were so well put together and presented very well.”
Watch a demo video below.
In second place was Invisergy, which makes a solar powered window that is completely transparent and can be implemented into existing infrastructure. Invisergy has participated in other pitch competitions and is in the running for the MIT Clean Tech Competition.
Third was The Campus Rep, a tool for startups to easily access students to represent them on college campuses across the nation. They are already on the ground at several schools and are planning a large scale expansion.
A panel of nine judges, who selected the winners and the sponsored prizes, included Michael Aronson of MentorTech Ventures, serial entrepreneur Jay Tapper, and Jason Glickman and Bert Navarrete of the newly established TigerLabs incubator. The competition has been heating up over the years and companies have seen success after the competition. Last year’s winner, uBeam has been featured in the All Things Dconference and one of its founders, Meredith Perry was one of Forbes 30 under 30 for 2011.
New this year was the automatic placement of two selected teams (Firefly and TouchMe) from the PennApps Hackathon in January to the final round. TouchMe was the winner of the hackathon and Firefly is a screen sharing software that can help companies improve the efficiency of their customer support.
Penn has seen a flurry of successful entrepreneurial ventures recently. Coursekit, the academic social network started last year by three Penn students, has since received six million of funding and now have a team of 12 in New York. See Technically Philly’s coverage of the company here. One of the co-founders of Family Leaf is is a Penn student who has taken the year off to work on his company in Y-Combinator. Warby Parker started by MBA students a few years ago has disrupted the eyewear industry through its online collection of glasses.
Previous to the competition, Kinecthesia received $50,000 at the newly established Intel Innovator Award competition, which had over 100 applicants nationwide. In October the company won Google Zeitgeist, an invite only TED style event.
The winners this year included:
- 1st place-Kinecthesia: $5000
- 2nd place-Invisergy: $2500
- 3rd place-The Campus Rep: $1000
- Nursing Innovation Prize-BodyWars: $500
- Social Innovation Prize-The Global Latrine : $250
- Dr. Chris Mader Award for Information Technology-Firefly: $1,000
- Design Circle Inc Award-Kinecthesia : $3,000 in-kind
- RJ Metrics Business Software Award-SizeSeeker : $6,000 in-kind services
The finalists included:
- Graphene Frontiers-Production technology to make advanced graphene manufacturing cost effective. Richard Liu
- StudyHeist-A forum where students can exchange class materials with fellow students. Samuel Stern.
- SizeSeeker-Uses Kinnect technology to make clothing measurements in one’s home in order to facilitate online fashion purchases. Mona Safabakhsh, Ian Campbell
- Ledao-Online marketplace to buy professional services intended for Chinese students. Yuanjiao Shen, Haoda Li, Yang Wei, Yanwei Lu, Qi Zhang
- Body Wars!-Board game to teach youth about healthy habits. Antonette Shaw, Mackenzie Mapes, Kristen van der Veen
- Urban Herb Garden-Home hydroponic system that uses less water and energy than current models. Gabrielle Pettinelli
- SmallSmall & The Global Latrine Project-A communal toilet design that can improve sanitation in impoverished regions across the world.
- Kinecthesia-A belt to help the visually impaired navigate that uses vibrations and senses to alter a wearer of objects in their pathway. Jerey Kiske, Eric Berdinis
- Inivsergy-Treatment to make solar powered windows that are transparent and can be implemented existing infrastructure. Ryan Marschang, John Foye, Rishabh Jain, Steven Shimizu
- The Campus Rep-Site that connects startups and brands with potential campus reps on college’s across the country. Elizabeth Wessel, Andrew Harrington, Jason Mow, JJ Fliegelman, Kendall Haupt
- FireFly-Screen sharing software to help customer support agents save time that is all in-browser and HIPAA compliant. Patrick Leahy, Dan Shipper, Justin Meltzer
TouchMe-Uses sound vibrations to make any surface into a dynamic device. David Wang, Thomas Ly, Bezhou Feng, Eric O’Brien
James Feuereisen is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania and was an organizer for the PennVention competition. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org