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Student Innovators Earn Investments Through McGinnis Venture Competition

Since its establishment in 2004, the McGinnis Venture Competition has challenged teams of student entrepreneurs to compete for $60,000 in investments, earmarked toward advancing their startup companies. Throughout the competition, the student participants interact with alumni entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, attempting to help raise capital and provide opportunities to strengthen their company’s strategic planning and positioning.

“The McGinnis Venture Competition is great preparation for our student entrepreneurs as they begin their startup journey,” said Dave Mawhinney, co-founder and director of the Carnegie Mellon Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE).  “The students are trained in the CIE’s CONNECTS Workshops and receive mentoring and feedback from our 80+ alumni judges throughout the three rounds of the competition.  They are battle-tested as finalists in the McGinnis Venture Competition.”

On March 26, 2015, the final eleven teams participated in live presentations that were judged by esteemed venture capitalists and investors. Of the eight teams of master’s and Ph.D. students to compete in the final round for the graduate track, three ranked highest with the judges in terms of innovation and continuity of their business plan.

Rorus, Inc. earned first place marks and $25,000 for its novel water purifiers, which were created based on nanoparticle technology. Rorus’ first working prototype targets the $70 billion market of emergency response after natural disaster.

The second place winner of $15,000, DataSquid, uses data visualization science to unlock the power of big data on mobile and desktop computers. With the help of cutting-edge technology, DataSquid delivers faster decisions and deeper insights anywhere and anytime.

Nebulus Audio came in third place, earning a $10,000 investment. Nebulus is a real-time project management platform for making music. Nebulus simplifies the collaboration process by allowing users to find partners to help finish their projects, or add talent to other’s songs.

Two undergraduate teams were also recognized. Along with earning investments for their companies, the winning undergraduate teams have gained automatic entrance into the Carnegie Mellon University Venture Challenge.

Soterias Medical, the first place undergraduate team, received a grant of $4,000. Soterias Medical is working to develop a new electronic injection system for introducing stem cells to the skin of patients enrolled in therapeutic studies and clinical trials. This system will decrease the chances of new stem cells being dead or contaminated and increase the success rate of stem cell therapy.

The second place team, and winner of a $2,500 grant was VIT, a consumer electronics company focused on bringing medical and biotechnology advancements to the masses. VIT aims to provide consumer-driven designs and simple solutions to medical difficulties, such as the company’s first product, a smart knee brace.

The McGinnis Venture Competition is made possible by a generous endowment from Gerald E. McGinnis, chairman, CEO and founder of Respironics, Inc. Key sponsors for the 2015 competition were Founder.org, an organization the works with colleges, universities and research institutes around the world to advance student entrepreneurship, and Innovation Works, an organization that plays a vital role in southwestern Pennsylvania’s technology economy by investing capital, business expertise and other resources in the high-potential companies.

The McGinnis Venture Competition is open to all Carnegie Mellon undergraduate and graduate students and is intended to spotlight and advance the commercialization of student-created, -managed and -owned ventures. Non-Carnegie Mellon students may participate as members of a team, as described in the competition’s eligibility details, however, Carnegie Mellon students must deliver the majority of the team’s presentation and must serve as CEO, CTO or COO of each venture.