Sweet 16 Chosen for 2019 Dempsey Startup Competition

College students from across the region brought their best startup ideas to the University of Washington for the Investment Round of the 2019 Dempsey Startup CompetitionCollege students from across the region brought their best startup ideas to the University of Washington for the Investment Round of the 2019 Dempsey Startup Competition. For the first time ever, the event hosted by the Foster School’s Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship was open to colleges and universities across the entire Cascadia region—and these students did not disappoint. The 16 teams and two alternates chosen to move forward impressed more than 200 judges with innovations ranging from medical devices, software, analytics, beverages, and rocket propulsion to machine learning, air quality, accessibility-focused fashion, and games for friends and family (more details below).

College students from across the region brought their best startup ideas to the University of Washington for the Investment Round of the 2019 Dempsey Startup CompetitionThe Sweet 16 includes students from schools in Oregon (Univ. of Oregon), Eastern Washington (Gonzaga), British Columbia (Univ. of Victoria), and Western Washington (UW-Seattle, Seattle U.). Four teams will advance from the Sweet 16 round the morning of May 23 to the Final Round that afternoon. Prizes are handed out at a special ceremony that night. The Buerk Center is proud to announce the keynote speaker for the awards dinner will be Ally Svenson, co-founder and “Protector of the Purpose” of MOD Pizza.

All 36 teams who competed in the Investment Round are eligible for $5,000 Big Picture prizes and $2,500 Best Idea prizes whether they moved forward or not. More importantly, each team got the chance to pitch and receive feedback on their ideas with the top names in entrepreneurship, venture capital, angel investing, and more from the Seattle startup ecosystem. The goal is to set them up for future success as startup entrepreneurs.

The Buerk Center would also like to thank the 35 sponsors who supported the Dempsey Startup (formerly the UW Business Plan Competition) this year.The Buerk Center would also like to thank the 35 sponsors who supported the Dempsey Startup (formerly the UW Business Plan Competition) this year. Topping that list is University of Washington alum Neal Dempsey, who made a gift this past year in support of the Buerk Center to empower student entrepreneurs for years to come. Dempsey spoke at the Investment Round and shared his mantra of taking risks, embracing failure, and ultimately finding success by doing things “that scare you.” Dempsey is a longtime benefactor of UW and managing general partner of Bay Partners (one of the earliest Silicon Valley venture capital firms).

This marked the 22nd year of the startup competition. Over the past 22 years, the event has had nearly 5,200 student participants on 1,648 teams. Of that group, 183 teams have been awarded undiluted seed funding totaling more than $1.45 million. Overall, the Buerk Center has awarded more than $3.4 million dollars to students since 1998 through multiple competitions and the Jones + Foster Accelerator.

Congratulations to the 2019 Sweet 16 teams in the Dempsey Startup Competition:

2nd Degree Snacks
2nd Degree Snacks wants to revolutionize healthy snacking with a line of snacking fruits and vegetables that are developed for flavor and nutrition first while leading the industry in transparency.

  • Seattle University (MBA)

Access Candy
Access Candy works with individuals from the wheelchair community to create high quality products that are both fashionable and functional to fit the unique lifestyle of wheelchair users.

  • University of Washington (MS in Entrepreneurship)

Adventure Game Works
Adventure Game Works is an entertainment startup that plans to create, produce, and sell game kits for customized, real-world, live-action puzzle games played by groups of family members, friends, or co-workers.

  • Gonzaga University (Business, Computer Science) 

AeroSpec combines innovate hardware and software to provide real-time monitoring of air quality. An Aerospec device is worn by individual workers and streams the quality of the air they are breathing to a software platform.

  • University of Washington (Electrical and Computer Engineering)

Atomo Coffee
Atomo Molecular Coffee is the first coffee made without coffee beans. Instead, Atomo uses naturally derived, sustainable ingredients to rebuild coffee from the atom up for the smoothest, most consistent cup of coffee possible.

  • University of Washington (MS in Entrepreneurship)

Bottomline is a compensation analytics service that helps professionals understand the true value of their job offers.

  • University of Washington (MBA, Computer Science, MS in Computer Science)

Cura AI
Cura is a disruptive machine learning technology that uses image recognition deep learning to analyze healthcare imaging and maximize radiology efficiency.

  • University of Washington (Business Administration, Mathematics and Computer Science Engineering, Human Centered Design and Engineering)

DopCuff integrates doppler and automatic cuff technology into a single device that aims to better allow nurses to obtain accurate blood pressure readings in Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) patients both in the ICU and eventually in an outpatient setting.

  • University of Washington (MS in Entrepreneurship, Mechanical Engineering)

ElectroSolar Oxygen
We strive to create a portable oxygen generator that can be deployed in rural medical facilities to produce medical-grade oxygen using just sunlight, water and air.

  • University of Washington (Chemical Engineering)

HRG Infrastructure Monitoring Inc.
HRG uses its proprietary damage assessment algorithm along with a patent pending drone-based technique to detect and quantify damage in civil structures in a cost-effective way.

  • University of Victoria (Civil Engineering, Communications)

The Nanodropper is an affordable, universal eyedropper adaptor that decreases the volume of oversized eyedrops to reduce cost, waste, and side effects, ultimately increasing access to expensive prescription eye medications.

  • University of Washington, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine (Pharmacology, Bioengineering, Medicine)

NanoPrint creates a strong composite material using recycled waste through a carbon-neutral and zero-waste process.

  • University of Washington (Business Administration, Bioresource Science and Engineering)

Neu streamlines hotel-style cleaning service for Airbnbs including work done by licensed, insured and background-checked cleaners.

  • University of Washington (MS in Entrepreneurship)

Pitch Slap
Pitch Slap – The Game of Terrible Business Ideas is a hilarious party game that puts your entrepreneurial skills to the test. With 200+ original products and services, you’ll soon be well versed in the art of selling the unsellable.

  • University of Washington (Business Administration, Economics, International Studies, Political Science)

VenuesAPI created software that integrates all aspects of renting out a space into a single dashboard, including everything from multi-channel listings to scheduling to customer communications, and increasing potential revenue through space rental.

  • University of Washington (MS in Entrepreneurship)

WM Launch Services

WM Launch Services is developing a new type of projectile launcher which will fire payloads into space, eliminating the pollution associated with space launch, and simultaneously saving billions of dollars in launch costs.

  • University of Washington (MBA, Aeronautics and Astronautics)


InOrtho is developing the Motus, a device for physical therapists that reduces unnecessary time spent collecting range of motion (ROM) metrics, minimizes associated revenue losses, and expedites the approval process for additional therapy sessions from insurance providers.

  • University of Washington (Applied Bioengineering)

Wheyward Spirit
At Wheyward Spirit, we make superior tasting “farm-to-flask” spirits from excess whey, with a scalable craft approach.

  • University of Oregon (MBA)



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