Student Ventures Awarded $100,000 in Seed Money

The third annual Idaho Entrepreneur Challenge attracted student ventures from eight of Idaho’s colleges and universities in March.

Ali Hardy May 1, 2017

Sponsored by Zions Bank and Boise State University, the challenge received 75 applications that went through a preliminary judging round before 26 finalists were selected. Teams gathered at Boise State where $100,000 in seed money was awarded to help student-generated ideas become real businesses.

Entrepreneurs Come Together

“Entrepreneurship is a critical ingredient to a growing economy and a growing state, and the Idaho Entrepreneur Challenge is the catalytic event that brings us all together,” says Gordon Jones, founding dean of the College of Innovation and Design at Boise State. Jones, who recently ran Harvard’s Innovation Lab, brought in 28 finalist judges from Boise, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, New York, Seattle and Boston to enhance the event.

Grand prize winnings of $15,000 each were awarded to top teams in four tracks in an awards ceremony at Boise State’s Alumni and Friends Center. Multiple runner-up teams also took home thousands of dollars.

Style Her Empowered

Winner of the social, cultural or environmental impact track was Style Her Empowered, a nonprofit that aims to empower women and improve access to education by providing school uniforms and sewing training to young girls in developing countries.

Founded by University of Idaho’s Payton McGriff, the company will use the $15,000 in seed money to launch a pilot project this summer in Togo, Africa. The company’s initial startup effort will provide school uniforms to 800 young girls.

New Approach to Livestock Fence Repair

WynderHUB, a quick tensioning system that tightens wire fences, earned first place in the agriculture and ag technology track. The Idaho State University team was founded by Naif Alghamdi, Colby Borup, Gary Day, EJ Lopez, Miguel Mata and Morgan Rasmussen. Their product fixes the tension in sagging barbed wire fences in under two minutes. Sagging and broken barbed wire fences let livestock out and predators in, and are typically time consuming to maintain and repair.

The Drone Reimagined

In the technology, consumer product or service category, the winner was Silent Arrow, a biodegradable, heavy-payload, autonomous-delivery unmanned aerial vehicle designed to inexpensively carry up to 750 pounds of supplies in support of humanitarian relief or military operations. The aircraft is an emissions-free, disposable, folding-wing glider, and is launched when dropped out of standard transport or cargo aircraft.

Silent Arrow was developed by Brian Von Herbulis, a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps and student in BSU’s Executive MBA program. Von Herbulis plans to use the seed money to fund continued prototype development and testing.

A Focus on Improving Daily Health

Judges selected two winners in the health and healthy living track: The Forever Shower and Berry Box.

The Forever Shower is designed to conserve 21,000 gallons of water per year for a family of four, saving hundreds of dollars in energy bills. It also removes trihalomethanes from treated water — a chemical associated with childhood leukemia and various other cancers. The Forever Shower was developed by University of Idaho’s Alex Boatman, Edward Hall, Maria Horta-Vorse and Chad Vorse.

Berry Box is a customizable feminine hygiene product subscription founded by BSU student Sydney Axtell. The company will launch its service in April, and plans to contribute a portion of its profits to help provide menstrual hygiene products to those who cannot afford or access them, with a special focus on homeless women.

In addition to the seed money to help launch these student-founded companies, Zions Bank offered each of the finalists $300 and banking and networking support through its Elite Entrepreneur program. Bankers will work closely with the finalists to support and scale their startups. Zions Bank is committed to enhancing Idaho’s entrepreneurial ecosystem because small businesses create jobs, strengthen communities and make enormous contributions to the local economy.

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