Spring 2017 Entrepreneurship + Innovation Competition Winners Announced

May 5, 2017

FIL, a service technology product designed to increase efficiency and revenue, improve experiences, and encourage repeat business, won the top prize and $500 at the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship's Spring 2017 Entrepreneurship + Innovation Competition, a semester-end competition that showcases pitches for business concepts developed by students in ENTR 485: Innovating: Creating the Future. Safe Access, which provides a cost-effective 3-in-1 solution to homeowners to enhance their wireless network while keeping their home or business safe, won second place and $100. 

"Frankly, we are shocked and humbled and honored," said Davis Millar, a finance major on the FIL team. "We put a lot of work in over the course of the semester and we're really proud of what we accomplished. We are also proud to be Mark's students and be able to offer him a sweep on this big day." 

Lecturer Mark Peterson taught the sections from which both winning teams came. 

"I'm really happy, but the credit goes to the students who did a great job," he said. "I'm really proud of them. I couldn't be more pleased."

See photos from the Spring 2017 Entrepreneurship + Innovation Competition

ENTR 485 fulfills the Eller College of Management's strategic objective that every undergraduate student graduates with transferable knowledge and skills in innovation and entrepreneurship. Each semester, there are 9 or 10 sections of the course, each containing around 50 students. Students form teams to develop an idea into a viable business opportunity by the end of the semester.


"Having a good team behind you is the key to success," said Mozamil Ahmed, MIS major who was on the Safe Access team.

Each section holds an internal competition to determine which team will compete in the Entrepreneurship + Innovation Competition, which is a great opportunity for students to showcase their skills to potential employers, Peterson said.

"I think being able to take part in a competition is an important experience for our students," he said. "It's something to put on their resume and I think it makes them far more marketable. Having a competitive spirit is something that employers are looking for, so this is an opportunity for students to show they have that drive and want to win."

Finalists from six of the nine sections of the class chose to compete in the Spring 2017 Entrepreneurship + Innovation Competition on Wednesday, May 3. In addition to FIL and Safe Access, the Spring 2017 finalists were:

  • Artha, a web-based platform for innovative and immersive cultural education meant to connect students around the world and foster true societal understanding.

  • Life Prep High School, which aims to teach students the real life skills that adults are expected to know but never taught.

  • Makeup Match, which uses digital image processing to capture women’s faces, detect the correct shade of makeup, and allow them to digitally test products before purchase.

  • Naturally Composed, which joins natural language processing and machine learning with traditional publishing services to transform and innovate the technologically lagging education industry.

The winner and runner-up were selected by a panel of judges made up of local business professionals and investors:

  • Rose Lopez, the CEO of Intermountain Centers for Human Development, a nationally recognized leader for innovations such as behavioral health group homes and foster care models. During her tenure at Intermountain, Lopez has overseen an extensive expansion of behavioral health services across Arizona. Lopez has significant experience as a finance and operations executive in healthcare companies, and previously served as the COO of Growing Home Southeast in South Carolina. She has her degree from University of South Carolina’s Moore School of Business.

  • Jason Makansi, President of Pearl Street, specializes in technology deployment for the electricity and energy industries. His clients include electric utilities, Fortune 50 global energy firms, growing technology firms, and garage shop inventors. A lifelong entrepreneur, he has raised venture capital for clients, launched and managed a hedge fund focused on the electricity supply and delivery value chain, started innovative publications in energy and environmental affairs, helped tech-based companies grow in preparation for acquisitions and exits, started and managed two policy groups to support the grid-scale energy storage business, and launched a publishing company. He is the author of four books, a frequent keynote speaker, guest lecturer, workshop leader, panelist, and presenter on technology, business, and policy innovations for energy and electricity. 

  • Raised in Tucson, Mike Wall graduated from Flowing Wells High School, received his associates degree in Criminal Justice and later went on to get his undergraduate degree and MBA from Colorado State University. He has been in commercial banking for 11 years, with the last five of his years at Wells Fargo as a commercial lender. Mike also owns a Green Valley Dry cleaners and laundromat, which he acquired in 2013. Between working full time at Wells Fargo meeting business owners along the various stages in the life cycles of their businesses, as well as owning and operating a business himself, Mike stays very busy and looks forward to using his knowledge to select the winners of this competition.

Makansi and Wall both said they picked the winners because the teams identified a clear problem and articulated a very defined product as the solution.

"You can see the sustainability of both products," added Lopez. "As an investor, you always want to know what the sustainability factor is.