Greater Newport Chamber Hosts Shark Tank Style Pitch Competition

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NEWPORT – From autopilot water vehicles to social distancing igloos made popular by outdoor restaurants last year, startups in Newport and Bristol counties went head-to-head on Friday to try to win a $ 1,000 investment in their businesses from the Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce.

“Startups are plentiful, burnouts and dropouts are plentiful as well, and you obviously want to survive that initial exciting moment when you find a market and work your way through that market. Your vision is coming true and things are happening very quickly, ”INSPIRE Environmental guest speaker and CEO Drew Carey told hopeful entrepreneurs in the audience.

“As you grow your business, when you start to be successful, know that success can be a real burden, and you really have to prepare for it. “

Innovate Newport and the Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce hosted the Quick Start Contest as part of Rhode Island Startup Week. Each business owner who participated gave a three-minute presentation to a panel of judges, much like the popular reality TV show “Shark Tank”.

The event brought together a mix of software developers, engineers and entrepreneurs, all of whom have already established their businesses in the region, but need additional financial support to grow.

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The first prize winner, Ian Estaphan-Owen, operated his business, Jaia Robotics, from his home before entering the competition. Although his company is unique, in that it is one of the only producers of low-cost small autonomous marine data collection vehicles, he said he needed the money to increase awareness of the brand of his product and to get his business out of his bedroom and into an office at Innovate Newport.

“I am blown away,” Estaphan-Owen said accepting his award. “It amazes me how great some of people’s ideas are. I really, really feel humble. I’m not going to burst into tears, but I might start singing when I have a beer in a minute.

The pitch of his compatriot Kevin Rosa also involved the collection of environmental data. Rosa used her experience working with this year’s America’s Cup to develop CurrentLab, which predicts the state of the ocean like a weather forecast.

Of the 11 other startups that participated, two were phone apps specifically marketed for students who need housing near their school. Second place winners Adam Reisberg and Laura Krick, graduates of Salve Regina, showcased their app, Rent Beetle, which helps students find and apply for apartments from their phones.

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After the pricing announcement, Reisberg and Krick sat down with Gary Evans – whose NXTGen Moving app would allow those moving from place to place to book on-demand moving services – to discuss potential future collaboration.

Salve Regina graduates Adam Reisberg and Laura Krick showcased their Rent Beetle app, which helps students find and apply for apartments from their phones.

“I feel truly honored,” Reisberg said. “The competition was really fierce, so I’m really glad we got some recognition. “

Instead of a single phone app, Andrew Crowder’s SmartCore would provide gyms and fitness spaces with their own interconnected website, web app, and phone app. The program functions both as a platform for management to perform administrative tasks and provides gym members with a personalized profile and access to class schedules.

CEO Jo Lee described his app, Pop-Up Rhody, as Airbnb but for short-term commercial rentals, so businesses can rent their unused space to other businesses. Another contest participant, Ocean State Shields, uses the platform to rent out the social distancing igloos it started producing during the pandemic for outdoor dining, to people who want to use them. CEO Allyson Cote wanted to use the first prize of $ 1,000 to help the company expand into other antimicrobial products.

Entrepreneurs who participated in Friday's Quick Launch competition at Innovate Newport.

Like Ocean State Shields, the businesses of competitors Sara Emhof and Sarah Nadimpalli were also born from the pandemic. Emhof has a physical community and co-work space in Newport called The Huddle, which she developed after pandemic-forced homework degraded her mental health.

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She started the business after hosting a few community Zoom meetings and realized there was a need for social interaction between those who work from home. She hoped to use the money to extend the reach.

Nadimpalli also reportedly used the money to invest in the marketing of Same Team Childcare, a course program to help nannies on board with parents who hire them to help manage the increased need for child care during the pandemic. .

All of the startups that competed were urged to keep their locations suited to the needs of the greater Newport County area, which would not have been difficult for local business owners Carter Richardson and Benjamin Sorkin, both of whom have launched their concepts at the international boat show. in September.

Benjamin Sorkin gives his presentation for Flux Marine on Friday at Innovate Newport.

Richardson’s shipyard, East Passage Boatwrights, has been restoring boats in Bristol since 2006, but has just started to expand to create their own line of vintage-inspired pleasure boats. While Richardson’s vision for money was nostalgic, Sorkin’s was futuristic, as he explained how his Flux Marine electric boat motors could reduce the environmental impact of gasoline engines.

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Additionally, Keydell Fuller’s vision for his 3D printing company, Aquidneck Fabrication, included design modeling for yacht builders among its list of prototype and modeling services.

Although only one participant can win the $ 1,000, all received a free day to use the Innovate Newport co-working space, a free cup of coffee from Simple Merchant and will be featured in a blog post on the sites. Innovate Newport and House Web.


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