UA Startup Specteros Takes Grand Prize and Wins $31,300 in Awards at the McGuire New Venture Competition on April 28

April 28, 2017

Student new ventures won a total of $40,000 in cash and prizes at the event.

UA Startup Specteros Takes Grand Prize and Wins $31,300 in Awards at the McGuire New Venture Competition on April 28

TUCSON (April 28, 2017) – Specteros, an energy management company specializing in indoor horticulture solutions for sustainability and growth, bested 17 other University of Arizona McGuire Entrepreneurship Program student startup teams to win the grand prize of $10,000 at the McGuire New Venture Competition (NVC) on Friday, April 28. The team also won three additional awards, including a $5,000 Microsoft Social Impact Award, six months of office space provided by Connect Coworking ($11,600 value), and dealbook hosting by StageXchange ($4,700 value). 

The 18 student startup teams presented their innovative new ventures in a rapid-fire rocket pitch competition and trade show. More than 80 students teamed up over the past academic year to develop the new ventures, which included sensor technologies for self-driving cars, virtual reality home tours, socially responsible cosmetics, a treatment for autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, indoor horticulture solutions, and much more. With more than $40,000 in cash and prizes on the line, the stakes were high and the excitement even higher. 

The top three winning teams were:

  • Grand Prize ($10,000): Specteros
  • Second Place ($5,000): Nunami Labs
  • Third Place ($2,500): Pocket Pantry

“We’re so proud of all of the student teams who competed in this signature McGuire Center event,” said Joe Broschak, McGuire Entrepreneurship Program director. “For the past year, they have immersed themselves in intense work transforming their early-stage innovative ideas to viable ventures. It was very rewarding to watch them pitch their polished ideas to a panel of industry experts and investors.  We congratulate all the teams on a remarkable job, but especially the winning teams for their outstanding presentations.”

The 2017 McGuire NVC was the culmination of a year of hard work for the McGuire Program students, who receive experiential education that engages them in the process of moving innovation from an early-stage idea to a sustainable launch-ready venture. The cohort-based immersive program is an offering of the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship at the Eller College of Management, but the McGuire Program is open to UA undergraduate and graduate students from all fields of study. 

This was the first McGuire NVC for Remy Arteaga, who joined Eller College in January 2017 as the new director of the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship.

“As someone who spent more than 20 years launching and managing successful startups, accelerators, and corporate innovation initiatives before becoming involved in entrepreneurship education, I can recognize when a venture team has done their due diligence. Our students and faculty deserve tremendous credit for their hard work and dedication, which clearly showed during this intense competition. In addition, we’re grateful to our partner organizations and judges who share our commitment to helping students develop an entrepreneurial mindset and skills,” Arteaga said.

Five successful business and entrepreneurship leaders from across the country with experience in technology innovation, startups, and philanthropic endeavors evaluated the student teams. (Meet the judges). The first round was a rapid-fire rocket pitch competition with each of the 2017 McGuire Program new venture teams giving a three-minute presentation. The judges invited six teams to return for the final round, which involved a two-minute legal presentation, a more detailed five-minute pitch, and five minutes of intensive Q&A with the judges.


The NVC Winning Team. Specteros. From L: Cory Owan (Electrical and Computer Engineering ’18),
Edward LaVilla (Doctoral Candidate, Optical Engineering ’18), Jonathan Besquin (Marketing and
Entrepreneurship ’17), 
and John-Michael Stilb (Marketing and Entrepreneurship ’17).
Photo by Sarah Mauet. Header photo also by Sarah Mauet.

The six finalists were: 

  • Groupdup
  • OneBlock Systems
  • ChangeOver
  • Pocket Pantry – Third Place and $2,500
  • Nunami Labs – Second Place and $5,000
  • Specteros – Grand Prize and $10,000

Christopher McGuire, vice president of programs and director of the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation, was one of the event’s venture judges.

“Specteros gave a great presentation. They have a product with an impressive growth potential. Their venture was very well thought-out, and they are the most likely team to establish their product in the short-run,” McGuire said. 

Microsoft, the McGuire Center’s 2017 Social Impact Partner, awarded the $5,000 Microsoft Social Impact award to Specteros. Mike Miles, senior director of Datacenter Community Impact and general engineering manager of Microsoft Cloud & Infrastructure Operations, presented the award. 

“Our rubric was corporate social responsibility fused into their business plan, the community social impact of their venture, how they’re going to scale outside of Tucson, and how likely they are to launch. Of the six teams that applied, it was incredibly hard to pick a winner,” Miles said. “All of the teams had been very thoughtful around at least some aspect of the social impact rubric, but Specteros best met the full criteria. I’m encouraged that these students are thinking about corporate social responsibility; it’s refreshing to see that it’s a core part of their business plan.” 

Additionally, partner organizations provided prizes for teams serious about launching their new ventures. Specteros won both awards: Connect Coworking awarded them six months of office space ($11,600 value), and StageXchange will provide the new venture with dealbook hosting ($4,700 value). 

Audience members also had a chance to weigh in on the People’s Choice Award during the event. October Sports Group received the most votes and won the People's Choice Award and $1,000.  

The four Specteros team members were elated with the outcome of the competition.

“We’ve had such a tremendous experience in the McGuire Program, between our mentor Dan Janes and program director Joe Broschak and the whole staff supporting us along the way. It is surreal to get to this point now and have people believe in our idea as much as we believe in it, and have an opportunity to pursue our passion, and pursue our venture. We’re tremendously thankful for the McGuire Entrepreneurship Program and what it has provided for us,” said Edward LaVilla (Doctoral Candidate, Optical Engineering ’18).