The Dempsey Startup Competition celebrated its 25th anniversary with surprise announcements and $90,000 in seed funding awarded to twelve student-created startups (detailed below). Surrounded by aviation technology from the past and present, the University of Washington competition hosted by the Foster School’s Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship held its 2022 awards dinner at the Museum of Flight. In the end, it was a team from British Columbia that soared to the top by looking below the surface of our waters for a better future.
Judges awarded the $25,000 Herbert B. Jones Foundation Grand Prize to OnDeck Fisheries AI from the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University. The team of biophysics, computer science, biology, and physics students created an automated video and cloud analytics system to monitor fishing activity that addresses the issue of declining global fish stock. Recently published research showed that more than one-third of all catch at sea goes unreported. OnDeck Fisheries AI also won the $5,000 Glympse Internet of Things (IoT) Prize, which recognizes a venture that contributes to the IoT ecosystem and enables the collection and exchange of data to create new consumer experiences.
Judges awarded the $15,000 BECU Second Place Prize to CathConnect—a spinout from UW’s Engineering Innovation in Health (EIH) program. The team of mechanical engineering and biomechanics students developed a device that improves the safety of urinary catheters by allowing the tube to disconnect when pulled.
This addresses a long-standing issue of patient safety and reduces the burden on hospital staff. CathConnect also won the $2,500 Voyager Capital Best Business to Business Idea Prize, which recognizes a venture that offers an innovative B2B product.
The $10,000 WRF Capital Third Place Prize went to OneCourt from UW. The team of Foster MBA, industrial design, geography, and data science students created a unique sensory experience to make sports media more accessible for people who are visually impaired or blind. Their system translates real-time data in a way that provides ball and player locations simultaneously in a way that audio narration cannot.
Team inSTENT Connection won the $7,500 Friends of the Dempsey Startup Fourth Place Prize by creating “the first naturally absorbing stent” for patients undergoing gastrointestinal (GI) tract surgeries. The UW-EIH team of materials science & engineering, biochemistry, mechanical engineering, and chemical engineering students addressed leakage and patient outcomes in a way that traditional methods do not. They also won the $2,500 Perkins Coie Best Innovation/Technology Prize.
More than 350 entrepreneurs, investors, and industry leaders from around the Pacific Northwest judged this year’s event. Both inSTENT Connection (Grand Prize) and CathConnect (Second Place, Medical Device Prize), previously won seed funding at the 2022 Hollomon Health Innovation Challenge (HIC). OneCourt previously won the Grand Prize at the 2022 Science & Technology Showcase (STS).
New Alumni Award and Endowment Announced at Dempsey Startup
The 2022 Dempsey Startup awards dinner featured not one, but two brand new announcements as part of the 25th anniversary celebration of the competition and the 30th anniversary of the Buerk Center.
The Washington Research Foundation (WRF) and the Buerk Center revealed a $1 million endowment to establish a new student innovation fund. For more than three decades WRF has supported impactful student innovation and entrepreneurship at the University of Washington—alongside its mission to invest in life science and enabling technology research and scholarship at universities and non-profits across the state of Washington.
WRF’s Director of Grant Programs, Meher Antia, PhD, made the announcement at the awards dinner, noting the deep ties between the Buerk Center and WRF and the shared goal of developing future generations of entrepreneurs. You can read more about the endowment in the press release from WRF.
The Buerk Center also announced the first-ever UW Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year Award. It recognizes Husky graduates that have worked hard to create, innovate, and contribute in a meaningful way to the Seattle entrepreneurial ecosystem. A nominating committee of both UW alumni and entrepreneurs from the Seattle community selected Amber Ratcliffe (MBA ’03) to receive the inaugural award.
Amber co-founded the biotech company NanoString Technologies (’03 BPC Grand Prize) in 2003 based on a technology she found while working at the Institute of Systems Biology. She served as CEO of the company during its early stages and raised the company’s initial funds. NanoString, which is based in Seattle, went public in 2013. More recently, Amber founded Arbor Health, Inc. alongside an all-female team to tackle chronic illness and the mental health crisis through comprehensive clinical care, health coaching, and educational support. Since graduation, Amber has been a student mentor, coach, judge, speaker, and Buerk Center advisory board member.
Five additional alumni received nominations including:
- Brian Glaister (’10 PhD Mechanical Engineering), Founder of Cadence Biomedical, and now Dir. of Product and GM of Justice Solutions at Axon
- Greg Newbloom (’14 PhD Chemical Engineering), Founder and CEO of Membrion
- Sadie Raney (’14 MBA), Co-Founder of Strix Leviathan and Makara
- Matt Scholz (’02 Computer Science), Founder and CEO of Oisín Biotechnologies
- Alessya Visnjic (’18 MSE), CEO & Founder of WhyLabs
Upon receiving the award, Amber described the Seattle entrepreneurial ecosystem as full of “go-givers” who balance their passion for innovation and success with a focus on growing the community, young and old, for the betterment of the region.
Additional Prizes Awarded to Dempsey Startup Investment Round Teams
Eight additional Best Idea and Big Picture prizes were awarded to teams who competed in the Investment Round (Top 36) on May 5.
The $5,000 MOD Pizza Social Impact Prize went to Ultropia representing UW and Eastern Washington University. The team of Master of Science in Entrepreneurship, electrical, and computer engineering students developed an all-in-one washer and dryer so people with limited infrastructure can gain access to safe, efficient, and sustainable laundry service. 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.” Ultropia previously took home an award at the 2022 Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge (Climate Impact Prize), the HIC (Spark Award), and STS (Second Place).
The $2,500 eBay Best Marketplace Idea Prize was awarded to DevMatch from UW. The team of MS in Entrepreneurship, MS in Information Systems, Master of Human-Computer Interaction + Design, and business students created a coding assessment platform that crowdsources real-life challenges and automatically evaluates candidates for software engineer positions. This prize recognizes ventures that are creating a commerce or payments platform for communities of buyers, sellers, or businesses.
Spyder Grypz took home the $2,500 Thatcher & Shannon Davis Best Consumer Product Idea Prize, which goes to a team that offers a compelling new consumer product in a well-defined market. The team of entrepreneurship and finance students from UW created a rubber grip product that increases performance for hockey and lacrosse players and organizations, with an eye on becoming a global sporting goods venture.
Judges awarded the $2,500 K&L Gates Best Business to Consumer Idea Prize to Zephyr Sleep from Washington State University. The team of mechanical engineering students designed a programmable mattress that allows mobility impaired patients to adjust without assistance from caregivers. This prize recognizes a venture that offers an innovative B2C product or platform.
Disha Stay Network from UW took home the $2,500 DLA Piper Best Idea with Global Reach Prize, which recognizes a venture that has aspirations for acquiring customers around the world. The MS in Entrepreneurship team created an online booking platform to make it easier for patients and families to find convenient lodging solutions at charity houses during out-of-town care treatment visits.
Judges awarded Vita Beads from UW the $2,500 Smukowski Family Best Sustainable Business Prize, which goes to a venture that has incorporated best practices toward resource reduction while bolstering profitability and cost containment. The team of MS in Entrepreneurship and environmental engineering students created a cell-embedded technology that increases wastewater treatment efficiency by reducing the output of “sludge” and lowering operation costs.
Nature Resonance from UW won the $2,500 Saara Romu Community Impact Prize, which recognizes a venture that has a direct impact on the lives of women or other underserved communities. The MS in Entrepreneurship team seeks to address worker burnout by offering restorative nature retreats that provide equitable education and health outcomes for a better work and life balance.
Osto-Mate won the $2,500 Karr Tuttle Campbell 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 UW biology, electrical engineering, and physiology students created a wound care management system to improve the quality of life for patients who can no longer divert body waste from their intestines after surgery.
Celebrating 25 Years of Dempsey Startup Success
The Dempsey Startup Competition, formerly known as the UW Business Plan Competition, launched in 1998. Alumni Mariah Gentry (BA ’13), who won the Third Place Prize in the 2012 BPC with the fashion bra with pockets startup JoeyBra, paid tribute to a wide range of iconic individuals who helped create and grow the competition. A video detailing the oral history of the competition was also played at the event and can be viewed on the Buerk Center’s YouTube channel.
The Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship wishes to thank all 29 sponsors who helped make this year’s competition possible. Including this year, more than 6,100 students on over 1,900 teams have competed in the competition since it launched. In the past 24 years, 216 teams have earned prize money totaling just under $1.8 million dollars. Overall, the Buerk Center has awarded just shy of $4 million dollars to students since 1998 through multiple competitions and the Jones + Foster Accelerator.
The 2021-22 academic year also marked the 30th anniversary of the Buerk Center, which launched in 1991. To learn more about the Center’s history, please head to our website at startup.uw.edu and navigate to the Shared Legacy page.