Campus News

Digital guitar technology shreds to victory in UB entrepreneurship competition

Panasci winners Ryan Jaquin and Shane Nolan holding a giant check and a guitar.

Ryan Jaquin and Shane Nolan, winners of the 2018 Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition for their company, Bitcrusher. Photo: Nancy J. Parisi


Published April 11, 2018 This content is archived.



The idea for Bitcrusher came out of a senior design project in the engineering school.

A team of electrical engineering and MBA students took first place on April 10 in UB’s Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition (Panasci TEC) for a technology that integrates digital sound effects directly into guitars.

Ryan Jaquin and Shane Nolan, both dual electrical engineering and MBA students, and Alex Schwartz, a UB electrical engineering graduate, will receive $25,000 in startup capital and in-kind services valued at $27,000 for their company, Bitcrusher.

Bitcrusher is a device for a guitar that allows a user to control digital sound effects right on the instrument, eliminating the need for a large rig of effects pedals a player would traditionally use to achieve different sounds. The Bitcrusher device can be built into new guitars direct from manufacturers or retrofitted into a player’s existing guitar. In addition, the entrepreneurs plan to develop a digital store where users can buy and sell sound effects from each other.

“The feedback process has been so valuable throughout the competition,” says Nolan. “Everyone along the way has helped us to clarify our message so whether you’re a business person or a musician, you’ll ‘get’ Bitcrusher.”

Jack McGowan, project manager at Insyte Consulting, was a Panasci adviser to the winning team members, who will now have the opportunity to pitch to investors at the Bright Buffalo Niagara Expo in May.

In-kind awards for the winning team include legal services from Bond, Schoeneck & King PLLC; accounting services from Lumsden McCormick LLP; human resource startup services from the People Plan by HR Foundations Inc.; business development services from the UB Office of Business and Entrepreneur Partnerships; and office space from North Forest Office Space.

The second-place team, Tim Adowski, a UB PhD student in aerospace engineering, and Thomas Wilkie, a Daemen College graduate, will collect $10,000 for their venture, Storillo, a management platform to streamline group work for teachers.

Pared down from 33 first-round pitches, five teams of finalists delivered 10-minute presentations at UB’s Center for the Arts and were evaluated on how well they described the feasibility and marketability of their venture, proved the need for their product or service, and presented potential sources of capital.

Other new venture ideas included a platform that assists with the placement decision process for elderly loved ones who need care; a portable, golf-inspired chipping game that uses a specially engineered, adjustable golf wedge; and a software solution that improves the visualization and integration of electronic health records to save time and prevent misinterpretation and medical error.

Serving as judges for the final event were George Chamoun, CEO, ACV Auctions; Bill Collins, managing director, Starboard Venture Partners LLC; Rachel Jackson, president and founder, Rachel’s Remedies LLC; Christian Johnson, founder and CEO, Driver Watchdog; and Matthew Wagner, senior vice president – corporate development, Delaware North.

Now in its 18th year, Panasci TEC was created by the School of Management and the Office of Business and Entrepreneur Partnerships, and is funded with a $1 million endowment from the late Henry A. Panasci Jr. to facilitate and promote the commercialization of UB-generated technologies.

Panasci TEC provided coaching and mentoring to participants to prepare them for their pitches. In addition, both winning teams and several other participants took advantage of the burgeoning entrepreneurship ecosystem at UB through such innovative opportunities as the Blackstone LaunchPad at UB, a campus-based entrepreneurship program that supports and mentors students, staff and alumni, and the eLab, a hands-on, three-credit course that helps develop skills needed to launch a new venture. Nolan is a past winner of the Bulls Launch Elevator Pitch competition, where students have 90 seconds to talk about their idea without props, presentations or notecards for a chance to win up to $1,500.

Hosted by the School of Management’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership and Blackstone LaunchPad at UB, the event brings together UB students from science, technology, business and other disciplines to maximize their potential and create viable businesses in Western New York.