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Students pitch business ideas in 90 seconds

Winning first place in the contest were Michael Radosta, a graduate student in learning and instruction, and Kristina Monakhova, an electrical engineering student. Standing in for Monakhova and Radosta at the check presentation were team members Alexandra Van Hall and Markel Vega. Photo: Nancy J. Parisi


Published April 11, 2013


Ready, set, pitch!

Ten student teams walked away with cash prizes yesterday at UB’s campuswide pitch contest, which gave students 90 seconds to pitch a business idea to a panel of judges.

The first-place winners, who received $1,000 apiece, were UB students Kristina Monakhova, who was pitching a full-body scanner that would help doctors determine which patients should receive care in triage situations, and Michael Radosta, who was pitching a digital tool that would use a 3-D immersive game environment to help train nurses.

The atmosphere at UB’s Elevator Pitch Competition was collegial but tense, with some competitors practicing their rapid-fire talks outside the competition room before going on stage.

“Ready, set, pitch!” members of the audience yelled before each contestant began. Judges included entrepreneurs from the regional community.

Undergraduate and graduate students were eligible, and more than 50 teams participated. Some already had started businesses. Winning proposals ranged from a method for obtaining hydrogen energy on demand to Weggyman at the Door, a company that delivers groceries to students living in university housing and elderly residents of the local community.

Organizers encouraged all students to discuss their ideas with entrepreneur and investor Jordan Levy when he comes to campus to speak to students on April 17.

The pitch contest was sponsored by the UB Entrepreneurship Academy; UB Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach (STOR); and the Bruce Holm Memorial Catalyst Fund.

“It’s almost a cliché to say you’re all winners, but you really are,” said UB Vice Provost Robert Genco, applauding participants for having the courage to pitch their ideas in front of an audience. Genco, who oversees STOR, added, “For those of you who want to go on to really start a business, we are here to help.”

The pitch competition sets the stage for a new UB student entrepreneurship fellowship program. Students interested in the fellowship—including those who presented viable ideas in the pitch contest—will have the chance to develop business plans with guidance from experienced mentors.

Those with the best plans will become fellows, receiving seed funding and in-kind business and accounting services to actually start a company. The first fellows are expected to be selected in the 2013-14 academic year.

Monakhova’s proposed product is called I-TRI—Intuitive Triage Rapid Imager—and the team that helped her prepare for the competition included UB students Sharon Lin, Alden Moy and Alexandra Van Hall.

Radosta partnered with fellow student Markel Vega on his proposal for V.M.A.S., the Virtual Medicine Assessment Simulator.

Other winners:

Second place ($500):

  • Anish Paul Antony for SMES Energy
  • Elisabeth Clancy for FutureFitness (teammates: Alex Schroth, Tom Sabbag, Molly Schreiber and Vladimir Jovkovski)
  • Eric Kischel for E-Bridge (teammate: Daniel Kleeschulte)

Third place ($300):

  • Jeffrey Beacham for online sale of arts (teammates: Girish Nair, Rao Pemmasani and Paul Zelepsky)
  • Alex Killian for CampusWide
  • George Kalkowsky for Paintball Handles
  • Stephanie Marchante for Weggyman at the Door (teammates: Jonathan Marquez and Alberto Santiago)
  • Phillip Tucciarone for On Demand Hydrogen Energy