Behind every great idea stands a person, or a group of people, who had a spark of inspiration, believed in themselves enough to try, and took a gamble that their idea might just work. For example, if Joy Mangano had just shrugged and kept going on with her daily life when she had her big idea, she may never have invented the self-wringing Miracle Mop. Now, she’s a successful entrepreneur with over 100 patents and several products on the market, makes frequent appearances on the Home Shopping Network, and even inspired a movie that netted its star Jennifer Lawrence a Golden Globe.
In 2015, Ohio-based Youngstown Business Incubator (YBI), together with America Makes, decided to reward some of these great ideas, launching two-stage $100k technology startup competition AMPED, focusing on new technology, services, and products related to additive manufacturing. AMPED was sponsored by the Burton D. Morgan Foundation and awarded funding to three different 3D printing startups.
YBI and America Makes announced the second annual AMPED competition last July. The competition is meant to be thought of more as an opportunity for credible entrepreneurs, looking to grow their startup, to receive funding, instead of a contest where the winners just get cash prizes. The prize money will “only be awarded to the team or teams that display strong business and technical acumen and have a viable business idea.”
Teams were only eligible if they were part of an early-stage startup or existing business that was looking to commercialize new technology, and either live in northeast Ohio, or be willing to relocate. To enter, teams had to submit their final business concepts, listing key items like business name and location, the industry, and all team members. Teams were asked to give answers to a number of important questions in the 1-2 page business concept description, including:
- Product or service
- Current stage of the business
- Proposed use of funds
- Is the team affiliated with any other incubators/accelerators/university programs?
- Do you have experience with startups?
Any tech-based businesses that met these criteria were welcome to compete, but another factor that could give competing startups extra points was if they were ‘in alignment’ with the America Makes Technology Roadmap, which helps the organization outline and accomplish project goals; not everyone agrees, however, that this roadmap is in the best interest of new startups. Regardless, the teams who made it to the finalist round, which was announced at the end of October, had the chance to meet with the panel of judges; each team had just twenty minutes to pitch their ideas and introduce their marketing strategies and management teams.
The judges scored the oral presentations, and then discussed their scores afterward, along with their thoughts on the quality of the ideas, market size, and several other factors, to choose the winners together. According to the Judging Criteria and Evaluation Process page, “the winning team(s) should be the team in which the judges would most likely invest their money.”
There were a total of fifteen applicants this time around; eight made it to the second round and were asked to pitch their ideas to the judges. Yesterday, the four winners of the second annual AMPED competition were announced, and two of the winning companies are actually from Youngstown itself.
YBI CEO Jim Cossler said to WKBN News in Youngstown, “It’s the passion of these people. It’s the innovation of these people. It’s the dedication of these people who send me emails at 3:30 in the morning that is going to rebuild northeast Ohio.”
- Strangpresse, Youngstown: $25,000
- MedaSync, Youngstown, $20,000
- Case.MD, Kent, $20,000
- Hot End Works, Oberlin, $40,000
Strangpresse, which was actually founded at the YBI Portfolio in 2014, manufactures thermoplastic extruders for the additive manufacturing industry. In 2016, Strangpresse entered into a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), an organization we often follow, to evaluate the Strangpresse extruder that’s intended for large-scale additive manufacturing. According to Vindy.com, MedaSync, the other Youngstown startup, creates software that will help nursing homes communicate with doctors not on site, in order to decrease medical spending and improve patient quality of life. With the addition of these two companies, over $200,000 in funding has been awarded to startups in Ohio’s Mahoning Valley.
Case.MD was founded by three Kent State University students who wanted to make emergency medicine more convenient in our daily lives. CEO Samuel Graska wanted to have easier access to the asthma medication he requires, and along with his startup partners, they now have created 3D prototypes of two medication case products, including a case for EpiPens. HotEnd Works, which specializes in 3D printing advanced materials like alumina ceramics, was awarded the most funding. Its founders explained that 3D printing with these materials, which are frequently used in aerospace and defense, is rare. Their funding will allow for protection of their developing IP and optimization of their 3D printer.
Each of the winners will also receive business support from YBI and access to a worldwide business and technology professionals network. They will get equity investments as they achieve outlined phases. Discuss in the AMPED forum at 3DPB.com.[Sources: Youngstown Business Incubator / WKBN News / Vindy.com]
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