TechSmarrt, a team of UT students, beat twelve competitors to win the fall 2015 Vol Court Pitch Competition last week.
The student team pitched software they developed for use in industry and pharmaceutical applications.
Eva Mutunga, Christine Ajinjeru, Adeola Adediran, and Akinola Oyedele—all doctoral candidates with UT’s Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education—along with David Keffer, professor of materials science and engineering, and Orlando Rios of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, developed the software, which streamlines the process of interpreting structures of materials.
While the current process requires hours on a supercomputer, TechSmarrt’s software enables the same information to be produced in seconds. The software runs on a laptop, further expediting the process of materials discovery.
The TechSmarrt team won $1,500, provided by Cirruspath, a new sponsor to the competition. The team will receive one year of free office space in the UT Research Foundation Business Incubator, consulting services courtesy of Pershing Yoakley and Associates and legal advice from Morehous Legal Group.
The team plans to use the prize money and services to simplify the software’s user interface and legally establish their company.
Second place went to Shahram Zarshenas and Financial Cents, cloud-based software that allows accountants and small business owners to quickly manage and understand financial statements. Zarshenas, a senior majoring in supply chain management, won $1,000 provided by Cirruspath, as well as six months of free office space in the UT Research Foundation Business Incubator, consulting services from Pershing Yoakley and Associates and legal advice from Morehous Legal Group. Zarshenas plans to use the money on development ahead of a private launch in which a small number of users will test the product before the official launch.
For the first time, Vol Court awarded a third place prize of $500 provided by Launch Tennessee. In another first, the judges elected to split that award between two competing students in hopes of encouraging them to collaborate on similar ideas. Zak Coleman, a senior majoring in supply chain management, and Drew Farlett, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering, both pitched mobile phone applications.
Farlett is developing a ride share app that will let students post carpool opportunities to the app, allow other students to join, and provide the driver with a means to electronically collect an already calculated share of gas money from each rider. Coleman is developing an app that allows users to easily post event details to a group of invitees. The judges felt that while both apps would have merit on their own, combining features of the two ideas could greatly expand the target market.
“This has been a really incredible semester for Vol Court,” said Tom Graves, director of operations for UT’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation which hosted the competition. “We averaged nearly eighty people in attendance at the Vol Court sessions and heard pitches for thirteen excellent business ideas last night. It’s great to see the enthusiasm building around entrepreneurship, and we hope to carry it into next semester when we’ll bring in an entirely new set of Vol Court speakers.”
The Vol Court Pitch Competition was the final event of the fall 2015 Vol Court Speaker Series. Prior to the competition, teams attended five entrepreneurial lectures covering topics like the Business Model Canvas, legal aspects of starting a business, and finding nontraditional funding for startups.
Vol Court is a free event hosted by the Anderson Center each fall and spring semester. It is open to UT students, faculty, and staff, as well as members of the local community. It’s made possible through sponsorship from Cirruspath, UT Research Foundation, Launch Tennessee, Pershing Yoakley and Associates and Morehous Legal Group.
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