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Burgess New Venture Challenge announces 2024 competition winners

By Erin Timmerman, Aaryn Richard
Thursday, April 11, 2024

The Burgess New Venture Challenge, an early-stage pitch competition bringing together Michigan State University student entrepreneurs and business leaders, announces the winners of its sixth annual contest. On April 4, at the Kellogg Center in East Lansing, 15 Spartan student teams pitched their startup ideas to a panel of expert judges. All were competing for their share of $50,000 in total scholarship prizes.

“The Burgess New Venture Challenge is an opportunity for our entrepreneurial students to showcase their ventures to the campus and the local community,” said Lori Fischer, director of operations at the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “These students have put in extra time and effort conducting research, writing business plans and validating their idea, above and beyond their regular academic schedules. I am honored to work with the Burgess Institute students and witness their accomplishments throughout their entrepreneurial journey.”

This year, over 50 teams applied to be part of the BNVC, with 15 semifinalists rising to the top.

To qualify to compete, BNVC team members must be enrolled students at MSU (undergraduate or graduate) and be in good academic standing. Applicants must be active participants in the Burgess Institute’s Discovery or Launch Programs. Once selected, semifinalists must commit to attending group practice sessions, meet with assigned venture coach mentors and demonstrate movement toward their tailored milestones. Winning ideas must use awarded cash toward accelerating their startup ideas.

And the winners are …

These MSU student startups presented their most robust cases to 2024’s BNVC judges and, as a result, took home the top prizes:

1st Place ($15,000): Motmot, Elliot Smith, Eli Broad College of Business

Motmot is a company specializing in the use of autonomous underwater robotics (AURs) for the inspection and management of underground water pipe networks, aiming to improve operational efficiency and reduce water loss for municipalities and water authorities. This year’s first-place prize was sponsored by Michigan State University Federal Credit Union.

This marks the second year of Motmot’s founder landing in the winner’s circle. In 2023, Smith was presented with the Social Impact Award for Motmot’s mission to ensure sustainable access to clean water for all.

2nd Place ($10,000): Odin Classroom, Aman Dhruva Thamminana, College of Engineering

Odin Classroom is an online coding platform aimed at reducing friction in computer science courses by providing a better user experience and reducing downtime. The second-place prize was sponsored by Foster Swift.

3rd Place ($7,500): Triple4’s, Matt Rogien, Eli Broad College of Business

Triple4’s is a high-tech pepper spray device that, when deployed, instantly sends out the user’s current location to their emergency contacts as well as emergency services. This year’s third-place prize was sponsored by the Lansing Economic Area Partnership.

4th Place ($5,000): Student Tutors, Christian Shaman, Eli Broad College of Business

Student Tutors are simply students helping students learn.

5th Place ($3,000): PharmaBlue Labs, Chloe Katz, College of Communication Arts & Sciences

PharmaBlue Labs is a pioneering startup dedicated to advancing novel solutions for overlooked dermatological disorders by leveraging cutting-edge technology and innovative ingredients.

“These students have put in extra time and effort conducting research, writing business plans and validating their idea, above and beyond their regular academic schedules.”

BNVC attendees held sway in choosing two People’s Choice Awards. These awardees earned $1,000 each: Detroit Salsa Company and Odin Classroom. The two People’s Choice awards were sponsored by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

The Broad College’s Center for Ethical and Socially Responsible Leadership sponsored a $1,000 Social Impact Award. Representing the center was its managing director, Beth Hammond, who presented the 2024 Social Impact Award to Detroit Salsa Company.

“Detroit Salsa Company is not only growing their business but also taking care of the people around them,” Hammond said. “They have given over $45,000 back to individuals and organizations in need. The salsa was not only delicious, but they are also doing amazing things for their community.”

As is BNVC tradition, no team goes home empty-handed. Each of the remaining semifinalist teams took home $750 in seed funding.

“I love the Burgess New Venture Challenge because it gives an opportunity to 15 semifinalist student entrepreneurs to pitch their best and brightest ideas,” said Paul Jaques, managing director for venture creation at the Burgess Institute. “I also love this event because I get to see creators who didn’t win or place in the finalist spots in previous years come back again and be able to win after working and crafting their startup another year.”

Congratulations to this year’s winners and to all the semifinalist teams!

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