Colorado College’s fifth annual Big Idea competition, with $50,000 in seed money at stake, yielded three very different – and very creative – winners.
In first place was FlyPhone, which received $30,000. The team features six seniors: John Silvester, Dan Keogh, Ben Tweedy, Kiki Kauffman, Teddy Corwin, and Matt Levitan. Pitching the idea to the panel of judges were Tweedy and Kauffman, who explained FlyPhone’s concept of using a drone to turn a cellphone into a personal cameraman. The essence of their pitch states that “By leveraging the power of your smartphone, our purpose-built software and drone body capture HD video from a more natural distance than a ‘selfie stick’, while affording a more intimate shot than any other drone on the market.” The winners already are garnering media attention.
In second place was Chica Chocolate, which received $10,000. Team members Cassidy Lam ’19 and Elise Morgan, who attends the University of Colorado, have been friends since they met in seventh-grade gym class (as did Ben and Jerry, they noted). Their high-quality chocolate truffles are infused with a Chinese herbal formula designed to ease monthly hormone cycles. Chica Chocolates are delivered to customers on a subscription basis.
Also receiving $10,000 was third-place Ogugu, made up of team members Harvey Kadyanji ’18, John Roy Ballossini Dommett ’18, and Niyanta Khatri '17.
Ogugu is a business analytics platform empowering owners of micro enterprises with inventory management, bookkeeping, and operations reporting and forecasting. Initially aimed at Tanzanian micro enterprises, it offers an affordable mobile solution aimed at improving the performance, efficiency, and growth of Tanzanian commerce.
Two other teams made it to the final competition, culled from an initial field of 17 teams. They were Spindle, a neurotechnology company that uses a sleep headband to optimize mental performance and expand the capabilities of the human mind. Team members were Ben Hicks ’18, Alec Sheffield ’18, and Henry Alderson-Smith ’18. Also making it to the finals was TREEhouse, which provides a treehouse vacation with a social and environmental emphasis. Team members include Kat Jacaruso ’17, Erin Burk ’17, and Cora Lubchenco ’17.
The judging panel featured entrepreneurs Meriwether Hardie ’09, Richard Koo ’82, Kishen Mangat ’96, Susan Smith Kuczmarski ’73, and five-time judge Bob Selig ’61.
“It was a spectacular job on the part of all five teams,” Kuczmarski says, noting the uniqueness and creativity of each. As a judge, Kuczmarski considered each proposal based on a set of criteria: the need for it, its uniqueness, the scalability of the project, financial viability, and what competitive advantage would it have in a market setting. “All had different strengths, and it was hard to pick the winner.” The first- and second-place winners will advance to the Angel Capital Summit, held March 21 at the University of Denver, where they will compete in the University Startup Challenge.
The Big Idea competition is part of Innovation at CC, designed to promote innovation and entrepreneurship. The competition was held in the Celeste Theatre in the Cornerstone Arts Center, with CC students, faculty, and staff; Colorado Springs community members; and Air Force Academy cadets attending.