Genesence, a new venture that is unlocking the power of pharmacogenetics, bested 21 other University of Arizona McGuire New Venture Development Program student startup teams to win the grand prize of $10,000 at the 2018 McGuire New Venture Competition on Friday, April 27.
This year’s event took place at a new venue, the Leo Rich Theater in downtown Tucson, where more than 250 people watched as 22 student startup teams presented their innovative new ventures in a rapid-fire rocket pitch competition and trade show.
The student entrepreneurs are enrolled in the Eller College of Management's McGuire New Venture Development Program, where they have received nearly a year of intensive experiential education that engages them in the process of moving innovation from an early-stage idea to a sustainable launch-ready venture. The competitive-entry program is open to undergraduate and graduate students from across the University of Arizona. The New Venture Development Program class of 2018 is made up of 86 students from nine colleges: Eller College of Management; College of Agriculture and Life Science; College of Engineering; College of Fine Arts; College of Humanities; College of Letters, Arts and Science; College of Pharmacy; College of Science; and College of Social and Behavioral Studies.
Student teams are often made up of individuals from diverse backgrounds. Genesence's team members are Juhyung Sun, a dual masters MBA/MPH student with prior background in healthcare delivery and policy; Grace Gainey, an undergraduate senior at the Eller College of Management with a double major in management and entrepreneurship; Joshua Uhlorn, a PhD student in physiological science with an undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering; and Mok Oh, a PhD candidate in pharmacoeconomics with past experience as a pharmacist in Korea.
With more than $40,000 in cash and prizes on the line, the stakes were high as a panel of judges rated each team on market need, product-market fit, customer acquisition strategy, operating plan and financial viability. The judges were:
- Base Horner — An Executive Board Member and Chairman of the Screening Panel for the Desert Angels who also serves on the board of Eller Executive Education and at several other companies. He is a co-founder of Arch Partners LLC, a team of successful entrepreneur-investors who utilize their expertise in go-to-market strategy and execution, financing, and exit strategies to build and realize value for the owners of their portfolio companies. In 1999, Mr. Horner co-founded US Capital Partners LLC.
- Katina Koller — A former Chairwoman, CEO and owner whose teams she led have been recognized for many awards, including the INC 5000 list as one of the fastest growing privately-held companies in America for two consecutive years. Building on improvement and service, Katina is an Entrepreneurial Operating System Implementer. She works with a variety of companies in the fields of service, product, technology, manufacturing and non-profits, and also facilitates peer advisory groups on the Chief Executive and Key Executive levels as a Vistage Chair and Strategic Advisor.
- Christopher McGuire — Vice-President of Programs and the Director of the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation, he is responsible for executive leadership, vision and oversight for a variety of programs and services, and has initiated new philanthropic endeavors. The McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship and the McGuire Program were both renamed in 2003 in recognition of Mr. McGuire, a UA alum, and his wife, Carol. They, and the California-based Berger foundation, have provided significant support — financial and personal — to the Center and its program since its inception.
- Adam Tank — Director of Smart Cities for SUEZ, an international water company headquartered in France. He accepted this role after his last company, Industrial Optic, was acquired in early 2018. There he served as the Founder/CEO and led the development of a submersible robot capable of repairing buried pipelines without the need to dig up streets. Prior to this Adam led GE Water's Digital Water division as their business development and Ventures lead, focused on crafting software solutions for water utilities and investing in startups with ties to GE's mission.
- Matt Williams — Founder and CEO of Pro.com, a home services marketplace where customers get instant price estimates for home projects, find trusted pros and schedule appointments online. After earning a B.S. in Business - Entrepreneurship in three years, Mr. Williams co-founded LiveBid.com, a Seattle-based company that pioneered real-time, event-based auctions online. After his startup was acquired by Amazon in 1999, Mr. Williams spent 11 years in a variety of executive roles at the company. Mr. Williams was CEO of Digg from September 2010 until completing the sale of the company in July 2012. He spent a year as Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Andreessen Horowitz before starting Pro.com.
The first round of the competition involved 3-minute rocket pitches from each team. The judges then asked six teams to return for a final round:
- Blare, which makes tech-equipped jewelry to discreetly alert trusted contacts and law enforcement of a user’s location in dangerous situations.
- Ecocrete, which manufactures and sells construction materials made of recycled byproducts that are safe, cost-effective and eco-friendly.
- Genesence, which offers DNA testing for genes related to medication and nutrition, empowering you to take informed steps to a healthier you.
- Gradeology, which empowers students by transitioning education management from a reactive to a proactive experience.
- Photo Op, which connects businesses looking for photographers with professional photographers looking for work.
- Shanker and Sons, a company established to capitalize upon the suffering golf industry and provide non-conforming golf equipment to reverse the traditional stereotypes of golf.
The final round involved 5-minute pitches and 5 minutes of Q&A with the panel of judges, who picked the top three winning teams:
- Grand Prize Award ($10,000): Genesence
- Second Place Award ($5,000): Gradeology
- Third Place Award ($2,500): Shanker and Sons
"Congratulations to our top three winners — Genesence, Gradeology, and Shanker and Sons — who bring solutions to some of the most serious challenges in health, education... and fun!" said K Krasnow Waterman, McGuire Center Lecturer and Entrepreneur In Residence who mentored all three winning teams. "Nearly 2 million people in the US are hospitalized every year for taking medications as prescribed. The Genesence team is offering a DNA report that has the promise of drastically reducing those numbers by identifying genetic mutations impacting the absorption of medication. Gradeology captured the judges' imagination with the power of big data, showing how complicated academic data can be harnessed to provide students with better choices now and in their future. And Shanker and Sons showed how important salesmanship is to a pitch; they had the audience cheering!"
Other notable awards included:
- Connect Coworking Award - $11,600 value: Gradeology
- Microsoft Social Innovation Award and $5,000: Ecocrete
- Arizona Center for Innovation Award - $2,075 value: Genexam, promoting better lifestyle decisions and reducing future health risks by delivering a comprehensive genomic profile.
- Startup Stay in Tucson Award - $2,000 value: Ecocrete
- People's Choice Award and $2,000: Algoe Chemicals, which provides chemical manufacturers with a reducing agent to drive stronger, better reactions.
For more details about this year’s student venture teams, visit the McGuire New Venture Competition event page.
“Congratulations to the winning teams for their outstanding presentations,” said Remy Arteaga, Director of the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship. “One of our goals with this competition is to prepare our students to shine in front of industry experts and investors. We’re grateful to our generous sponsors who make this signature McGuire Center event possible. Additionally, we are proud of all of the teams that competed, and we encourage them to continue to work on their remarkable innovations.”
The H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation and Microsoft, the McGuire Center’s Annual Social Impact Sponsor, co-sponsored the event, with additional prize sponsorship and support from Connect Coworking, Arizona Center for Innovation, Startup Tucson, and Southern Arizona Leadership Council.
The H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation is a catalyst to help others achieve their goals and demonstrate that success can be achieved by mutual cooperation, clear goals and steadfast determination. Upholding the values and interests of Mr. and Mrs. Berger, the Foundation often awards financial and real estate support for educational, health and social services organizations and programs that “help people help themselves.” The Berger Foundation is a longtime supporter of the McGuire Center, and sponsored the Grand, Second Place, Third Place, and People's Choice Awards at the the New Venture Competition.
Microsoft Social Innovation Award: $5,000 cash for a team that incorporated social innovation or corporate social responsibility into its venture.
Microsoft is the McGuire Center’s Annual Social Impact Sponsor. Microsoft Social Catalyst is focused on engaging university students through Microsoft’s social impact stories and partnering to make a positive social impact on the world.
Connect Coworking Award: 6 months of free office space at Connect Coworking worth over $11,600. The Resident Desk package includes 24/7 access to the space, a dedicated desk, a filing cabinet and chair, mailing address, printer, copy, scan, fax, high-speed Wi-Fi, coffee, beer on tap, 8 monthly conference room hours, and access to patio and balcony, kitchen and lounge. In addition to the office amenities listed above, you will also be joining a network of professionals in Tucson who are eager to collaborate with you.
Located in the Historic Rialto Building in the heart of Downtown Tucson, Connect Coworking is a top-notch Tucson collaborative workspace that provides entrepreneurs, small businesses and freelancers everything they need to grow and evolve their businesses. Learn more at connectcoworking.com.
Arizona Center for Innovation Award: $500 cash, 3-month complimentary client at AzCI w/office space ($1,575 value), and a FastPass to the 2018 Perkins Coie Innovative Minds Demo Day pitch where Perkins Coie will award $10,000 (two $5,000 cash winners).
The Arizona Center for Innovation is a technology business incubator and fosters technology start-ups, emerging and mature companies develop their ideas, inventions and next evolution of product. We serve the University of Arizona's faculty and researchers as well as community entrepreneurs. At the Arizona Center for Innovation, you’ll find the facilities, services, and expertise it takes to grow your business. You’ll work side by side with other technology entrepreneurs in a fast-moving, collaborative, and creative environment. And you’ll have the advantage of hands-on support from people who have a track record of success.
Startup Stay in Tucson Award: Full Scholarship to Thryve (valued at over $2,000), courtesy of Startup Tucson and the Southern Arizona Leadership Council (SALC). Thryve is an 11 week Venture Development Program taught by Startup Tucson and their team of mentors. Building on what was learned in the McGuire NVD, the winner of this scholarship will join other startups and entrepreneurs to develop robust product market fit validation, create lean business experiments to prove traction, learn key launch methods and tactics and polish a more effective pitch deck for investors. Graduates will join 200+ entrepreneurs as part of the Thryve Alumni Network, all working to build their businesses in Tucson.
Startup Tucson is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit working to transform our region’s economy through entrepreneurship and education. Startup Tucson executes this mission by providing education and culture building programs and events to grow a high-impact entrepreneurial and innovative ecosystem. You can find information about the organization and upcoming opportunities to engage at startuptucson.com.
Southern Arizona Leadership Council’s (SALC) mission is to improve greater Tucson and the State of Arizona by bringing together resources and leadership to create action that will enhance the economic climate and quality of life in our communities by attracting, retaining, and growing high quality, high wage jobs. Learn more at salc.org.
Photo from left to right: Juhyung Sun, Grace Gainey, Joshua Uhlorn, Mok Oh. Photo credit: Thomas Veneklasen Photography