Kinecthesia, a belt-mounted navigation device for assisting the visually impaired (see a demo), took first place and $5,000 after besting 11 other finalists in the University of Pennsylvania’s PennVention competition, where $20,000 in prizes were awarded on April 18.
Forty-three student teams, a record, entered the first phase of the competition back in February, and faced a rigorous process to narrow the field to twelve. Kinecthesia was started by junior computer engineering students Jeffrey Kiske and Eric Berdinis, who have been working on their product for nearly a year now.
Kiske says “After seeing the competition this year, I can't really say I was expecting to win. All of the teams were so well put together and presented very well".
The second place winner was Invisergy, which makes a solar powered window that is completely transparent and can be implemented into existing infrastructure. Invisergy has participated in other pitch competitions and is in the running for the MIT Clean Tech Competition.
The third place winner was The Campus Rep. The Campus Rep is a tool for startups to easily access students to represent them on college campuses across the nation. They are already on the ground at several schools and are planning a large scale expansion.
The panel of nine judges, who selected the winners and the sponsored prizes, included Michael Aronson of MentorTechVentures, serial entrepreneur Jay Tapper, and Jason Glickman and Bert Navarrete of the newly established TigerLabs incubator. The competition has been heating up over the years and several companies have seen success after the competition. Last year’s winner, uBeam, has been featured in the All Things D conference and one of its founders, Meredith Perry was one of Forbes' 30 under 30 for 2011.
New this year was the automatic placement of two selected teams (Firefly and TouchMe) from the PennApps Hackathon in January to the final round. TouchMe was the winner of the hackathon and Firefly is a screen sharing software that can help companies improve the efficiency of their customer support.
Penn has seen a flurry of entrepreneurial activity as of late. Coursekit (recently renamed Lore), the academic social network started last year by three Penn students, has since received $6 million of funding and now has a team of 12 in New York. One of the co-founders of Family Leaf is a Penn student who has taken the year off to work on his company in Y-Combinator. Warby Parker, started by MBA students a few years ago, has disrupted the eyewear industry through its online collection of glasses.
Previous to the competition Kinecthesia won round three and $50,000 at the newly established Intel Innovator Award competition, which had over 100 applicants nationwide. In October they won Google Zeitgeist, which is an invite only TED style event, and Eric was interviewed by Chelsea Clinton . They have also received support from the Perkins School of the Blind. To top off their victory, they won $3,000 in-kind design services from Design Circle at the PennVention competition.
PennVention is part of the Weiss Tech House at Penn, which puts on other entrepreneurial events throughout the year and houses an in-house fund for startups.
About the author: James Feuereisen is a freshman at the University of
Pennsylvania and was an organizer for the PennVention competition. He can be
reached at email@example.com
1st place-Kinecthesia: $5,000.
2nd place-Invisergy: $2,500.
3rd place-The Campus Rep: $1,000.
Nursing Innovation Prize-BodyWars: $500.
Social Innovation Prize-The Global Latrine : $250.
Dr. Chris Mader Award for Information Technology-Firefly: $1,000.
Design Circle Inc Award-Kinecthesia : $3,000 in-kind.
RJ Metrics Business Software Award-SizeSeeker : $6,000 in-kind
Graphene Frontiers-Production technology to make advanced graphene
manufacturing cost effective. Richard Liu.
StudyHeist-A forum where students can exchange class materials
with fellow students. Samuel Stern.
SizeSeeker-Uses Kinnect technology to make clothing measurements
in one’s home in order to facilitate online fashion purchases. Mona
Safabakhsh, Ian Campbell.
Ledao-Online marketplace to buy professional services
intended for Chinese students. Yuanjiao Shen, Haoda Li, Yang Wei, Yanwei Lu, Qi Zhang.
Body Wars!-Board game to teach youth about healthy habits.
Antonette Shaw, Mackenzie Mapes, Kristen van der Veen.
Urban Herb Garden-Home hydroponic system that uses less water and energy
than current models. Gabrielle Pettinelli.
SmallSmall & The Global Latrine Project-A communal toilet design
that can improve sanitation in impoverished regions across the world.
Kinecthesia-A belt to help the visually impaired navigate that uses
vibrations and senses to alter a wearer of objects in their pathway. Jeffrey
Kiske, Eric Berdinis.
Inivsergy-Treatment to make solar powered windows that are
transparent and can be implemented existing infrastructure. Ryan Marschang,
John Foye, Rishabh Jain, Steven Shimizu.
The Campus Rep-Site that connects startups and brands with potential
campus reps on college’s across the country. Elizabeth Wessel, Andrew
Harrington, Jason Mow, JJ Fliegelman, Kendall Haupt.
FireFly-Screen sharing software to help customer support agents
save time that is all in-browser and HIPAA compliant. Patrick Leahy, Dan
Shipper, Justin Meltzer.
TouchMe-Uses sound vibrations to make any surface into a
dynamic device. David Wang, Thomas Ly, Bezhou Feng, Eric O’Brien.