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UPenn’s AppITUP startup challenge gets 200 submissions [DATA]

Mostly coming from graduate students in business and engineering, the University of Pennsylvania’s first AppITUP tech transfer challenge is giving its broader community the opportunity to create the next big mobile app-backed business themselves.

Receiving nearly 200 submissions, the University of Pennsylvania’s first AppITUP tech transfer challenge is giving its broader community the opportunity to create the next big mobile app-backed business themselves.

“AppITUP,” is the brainchild of Karina Sotnik a consultant at Penn’s Upstart program, which transitions academic research into toward private businesses. The competition was designed to give anyone with a valid Penn email address (undergrads, graduate students, faculty and staff and anyone associated with the hospital) the chance to come up with an idea for an app and if lucky, see it come to fruition.

Participants submitted before Oct. 20th a brief explanation of their app in 255 characters or fewer along with who the target audience would be to the “AppITUP” website where it was then reviewed and rated by local investors.

Judges then scored the idea on four different criteria:

  • can it be commercialized
  • is it fundable
  • is it marketable
  • and is there a “cool” factor behind it.

Based on the strength of those ratings, the top ten apps will be presented to software development companies and five of the ten will be selected to have a prototype built.

Below, find a breakdown of the nearly 200 submissions to the challenge.

appitup numbers

Graph by Penn’s Center for Technology Transfer. Click to enlarge.

The 10 finalists will take part in a “Shark Tank”, as Sotnik puts it, type of event tonight where they will present their idea to the five development companies, Chariot Solutions, the Fort Washington based company active in regional tech conversations, Excellis Interactive in Chesterbrook, Pa., Valex Consulting in Horsham, Sempercon in Furlong, Pa. and Kanda Software, from Massachusetts.

The companies will then in turn each make an offer to the app they would like to back. If a contestant should receive more then one offer, the tables are turned and they then get to question the development companies before picking which one they would like to partner with.

The inspiration behind the “AppITUP” challenge grew from a desire to hear ideas from individuals from all types of fields at Penn, not just the typical ones associated with web and application development and existing tech transfer efforts.

“We wanted to open this competition up to poets, and doctors and lawyers,” Sotnik said. “ Engineers and Wharton students may have an idea of what to do [with a possible app idea], but the majority of us don’t and if someone out there has an idea that’s really interesting we want to be able to uncover it.”

And while a large portion of the 199 submitted app ideas did in fact come Wharton (51 submissions) and Engineering students (26 submissions) a strong showing was also seen from the School of Arts and Sciences (36 submissions), the School of Nursing (22 submissions) and School of Medicine (19 submissions).

Just as the contest itself was designed in a way to be accessible to students from all types of disciplines, so to is the structure of the prizes.

“We’re not interested in building apps,” Sotnik said. “We’re interested in building companies, that was the goal from the beginning.”

But that doesn’t necessarily mean a potential winner wants or has the time to start a company, an issue Sotnik said has already been addressed.

“If a winner is an MBA from Wharton and they just want to run the company, we will gladly let them fly with it,” Sotnik said. “But if they’re say a chemistry professor who just had an idea and doesn’t want to run a company, we will look to both Wharton students and entrepreneurs from the community as a whole to take over.”

And while the option of signing over the company to the university and collecting a 30 percent royalty is available, at least two of the finalists say that they would want to take a more hands on approach to seeing their app idea through.

Titilayo Oshinaya, a senior Decision Processes major at Wharton, developed a health tech app that she would like to continue to develop.

“There is the hands off approach where you just kind of give the idea over to Penn,” Oshinaya said. “But since my idea grew from very personal experiences I would definitely want to continue to be apart of it.”

Fellow finalist Michael Stawnychy, an adult gerontology primary care nurse practitioner at Penn also developed an app rooted in health services. Like Oshinaya, Stawnychy would like to continue to be involved with the development of his app idea given the opportunity.

“I like to do things myself,” Stawnychy said. “I would love to be as hands on as possible…learning the business aspect would be so invaluable and working with a team it would just be a great learning experience more so then I could get in a classroom.”

Whether or not Oshinaya or Stawnychy will get the chance to be a part of their own company remains to be seen.

“The final event is going to be very entertaining,” Sotnik said. “But more then that it will truly be the beginning of five different companies.”

Companies: Chariot Solutions / SemperCon / University of Pennsylvania

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