Student-Led Startup Echo Takes Home $10,000 Grand Prize at 2019 McGuire New Venture Competition

April 28, 2019

Echo, a new venture that is a comprehensive information source for bar-goers and the most efficient marketing platform for bars, bested 22 other University of Arizona McGuire New Venture Development Program student startup teams to win the grand prize of $10,000 at the 2019 McGuire New Venture Competition on Thursday, April 25.

This year’s event took place in the North Ballroom of the Student Union Memorial Center, where more than 200 people watched as 23 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.

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: 

  • Joann MacMaster — CEO of Desert Angels, one of the country’s leading angel investor groups. MacMaster served as the sr. director of venture development for the University of Arizona’s Tech Launch Arizona team, focused on the commercialization of university research through the development of startup companies. She’s served as a startup founder, mentor, investor and educator, and is a recipient of the Larry Hecker and Sherry Hoskinson Lasting Community Builder Award. She is an AUTM board member and University of Arizona Academic Leadership Institute Fellow, and previously served as president of the Arizona Business Incubation Association. She returned home to Tucson in 2000 after living and working in Europe for over a decade and holds an MBA from Edinburgh University Scotland.

  • Christopher McGuire — As the 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, an Arizona alum, and his wife, Carol. They, and the California-based Berger foundation, have provided significant financial and personal support 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, 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, 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

The first round of the competition involved three-minute rocket pitches from each team. The judges then asked six teams to return for a final round. For the final round, each of the six teams delivered five-minute pitches and engaged in five minutes of Q&A with the panel of judges, who picked the top three winning teams:

  • Grand Prize Award ($10,000): Echo, a comprehensive information source for bar-goers and the most efficient marketing platform for bars.

  • Second Place Award ($5,000): Vivify Tea Co., a CBD tea company that sells high quality CBD-infused teas for tea lovers who want to enjoy the many benefits of CBD in a relaxing and refreshing way.

  • Third Place Award ($2,500): FOND, a sparkling mead company that crafts their mead with real American honey to support a healthy local bee population.

Other notable awards included:

  • Perkins Coie Award and $10,000: ZAP

  • Microsoft Social Innovation Award and $5,000: Athena VR

  • Startup Stay in Tucson Award - $15,000 value: Vivify Tea Co, Guided, Exakt Technology

For more details about this year’s student venture teams, visit the McGuire New Venture Competition event page.

“We’re so proud of the growth that these students have shown since their first days in the program,” said Ted McGuire, community relations coordinator at the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship. “We truly believe that they have a very bright future and that the local Tucson community is in good hands.”

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, 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 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: Six 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 patioand 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

Arizona Center for Innovation Award: $500 cash, three-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