When planning for an end, you’ve got to know where to start. Just ask the winners of the $25,000 Herbert B. Jones Foundation Grand Prize at the 2021 Dempsey Startup Competition at the University of Washington. Afterlife Listings impressed judge after judge over five rounds of the multi-stage competition with their online marketplace to help people navigate funeral planning, burial plot transactions, verification, and financing. The team of UW biochemistry, communications, and informatics undergraduates also won the brand new $2,500 K&L Gates Best Business to Consumer Prize.
This year featured the largest prize pool ($90,000) in the 24-year history of the competition—hosted by the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship in the Foster School of Business. Judges awarded the $15,000 BECU Second Place Prize to Puget Buoy. The team of mechanical engineering and business students from Olympic College and UW are developing experimental fishing gear designed to prevent whale entanglements while also reducing the amount of lost fishing gear.
Puget Buoy also won the $2,500 Smukowski Family Best Sustainable Business Prize, which is awarded to ventures that incorporate sustainability best practices into their venture. The team previously won the $15,000 grand prize in the 2021 Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge as well as a top prize in this year’s Science and Technology Showcase (STS).
More than 350 entrepreneurs, investors, and industry leaders from around the Pacific Northwest logged on to judge this year’s event. Awards were announced in a special presentation on the Buerk Center’s YouTube page.
The $10,000 WRF Capital Third Place Prize was awarded to Ananta from Washington State University. The team of chemical engineering students hope to disrupt the cell-based therapy market with a bioreactor that can rapidly expand T-Cells for use in cancer immunotherapy. Judges also awarded Ananta the $2,500 Perkins Coie Best Innovation/Technology Idea Prize which goes to a venture with a disruptive or updated technology or idea that can substantially improve a product or process.
HealthXpress won the $7,500 Friends of the Dempsey Startup Fourth Place Prize. The UW Master of Science in Entrepreneurship team is developing a way to bring mobile health clinics to the most remote and poorest regions in the world, beginning with Ghana. Judges also awarded the team the $2,500 Saara Romu Foundation Community Impact Prize, which recognizes a venture that has a direct impact on the lives of women or other underserved communities.
Seven additional Best Idea and Big Picture prizes were awarded to teams who advanced to the Top-30 Investment Round in April. The $5,000 MOD Pizza Social Impact Prize went to Sound Sustainability from UW. The Master of Science in Entrepreneurship students aim to create the first FDA-cleared over-the-counter hearing aids and virtual hearing tests. The Social Impact Prize recognizes a venture that “not only demonstrates the capacity to deliver financial performance, but also shows how it makes a positive contribution to society.”
- Arc Security is a team of real estate, business, arts and sciences, and computer science and engineering students from UW-Seattle and UW-Bothell. They are developing a safety-oriented mobile system to help mitigate the potential physical and emotional harms faced by real estate agents.
- CARA is a team of business technology, business marketing, and engineering students from the University of British Columbia. They are developing a personal safety app that allows users to connect with family and friends discreetly and safely in dangerous situations.
The Internet of Things Prize recognizes a business venture that has incorporated new products or services that contribute to the IoT ecosystem and enables these objects to collect and exchange data to create new consumer experiences.
The $2,500 eBay Best Marketplace Idea Prize was awarded to SongChain. The team of business and international studies students from UW and Dartmouth are developing a marketplace using non-fungible token (NFT) technology for independent musicians. This prize recognizes ventures that are creating a commerce or payments platform for communities of buyers, sellers, or businesses.
GreenLoop took home the $2,500 DLA Piper Best Idea with Global Reach Prize, which recognizes a venture that aspires to acquire customers around the world. The team of marketing, business, physiology, and biochemistry students from UW is developing a biodegradable plastic that natural degrades into an organic fertilizer.
Clarity Core won the $2,500 Thatcher & Shannon Davis Best Consumer Product Idea, which goes to a team that offers a compelling new consumer product in a well-defined market. The team of business, computer science, and psychology students from UW-Seattle and UW-Bothell has developed an all-natural solid aromatherapy product.
Judges awarded Bandit Labs from the University of British Columbia the $2,500 Voyager Capital Best Business to Business Idea Prize. The team of materials science and engineering, computer science, and political science students are developing analytic tools for e-commerce businesses using artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP).
VoxCell BioInnovations won the $2,500 Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati Best Health & Wellness Impact Idea Prize, which recognizes a venture with significant potential to prevent, diagnose, or treat diseases or disorders that impact human health. The team of applied science, biomedical engineering, and mechanical engineering students from the University of Victoria are developing a high-resolution bio-printer capable of creating human tissue models.
The Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship wishes to thank all 29 sponsors who helped make this year’s competition possible. Over the past 24 years, more than 5,800 students have participated, and 207 teams have been awarded undiluted seed funding totaling more than $1.61 million. Overall, the Buerk Center has awarded more than $4 million dollars to students since 1998 through multiple competitions and the Jones + Foster Accelerator.