The Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship Awards Four Student Startup Teams at THE CLIMB | Collegiate Pitch Night

Plants, puppies, smoothies & action sports won top prizes
Photos by McBoat Photography

A ground-breaking, industrial botanical extraction system for the essential oil market won first place at THE CLIMB | Collegiate Pitch Night, sponsored by the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado Denver Business School. David Baker, founder of Botanex, impressed the judges panel, winning $3,000 and in-kind prizes to support his business.

“After a year of hard work, doubt, re-positioning and re-design, it is very rewarding to have this validation of our dreams for this company.” Baker said. “It was a pipedream to think about competing in a ‘Shark-Tank’-like competition like THE CLIMB, much less winning. Everyone was so supportive and encouraging, and I loved the whole experience.”

Graduate team PuppTech answers questions from the judges.

Internet of things (IoT) technology company PuppTech took home the second-place prize of $1,500. The company is building and testing technology that makes it safe for dogs to be left in cars on hot days, so dog-owners can travel with their dogs without worry.

“I learned from this experience that there’s nothing I can’t do if I work hard enough or want it badly enough,” said William Loopesko, CEO & founder of PuppTech. “The experience was great…a beautiful venue, excellent turnout, and some good judges.”

The 120+ attendees were also able to vote for two “People’s Choice” winners on the graduate and undergraduate levels through the mobile application BrainSpire. Smoothie bar Heart Beets claimed the graduate People’s Choice prize of $1,000.

Moira van den Akker of Heart Beets with judge Jake Jabs, President & CEO of American Furniture Warehouse.

“It was awesome to meet the other teams and network with judges and attendees. No practice can prepare you for pitching your business in front of a big group like THE CLIMB!” said Heart Beets founder Moira van den Akker.

Sublmnl, an e-commerce and marketing technology platform for the action sports industry, cinched the undergraduate People’s Choice prize of $500.

“It felt great to get some reassurance that we are onto something at Sublmnl. We have had a lot of people doubt the viability of the plan, but we have also had people believe in it,” said Adam Pecht, founder of Sublmnl. “The prize gave us something tangible that allows us to show some success.”

Judges from left to right: Kelly Quann Biannucci, co-founder of Impresa Financial; Jake Jabs, President & CEO of American Furniture Warehouse; Matt Jonsen, Associate at Dorsey.

Ten teams in total – eight graduate and two undergraduate – pitched their business ideas live on stage to an audience and a panel of distinguished local judges, which included event namesake, Jake Jabs, president & CEO of American Furniture Warehouse; Kelly Quann Bianucci, CEO & co-founder of Impresa Financial; and Matt Jonsen, Associate at Dorsey. Jung Park, entrepreneur-in-residence at the Jabs Center, emceed the event, which took place at Galvanize’s Platte campus.

For students who aren’t sure where to begin with their startup, each Pitch Night winner gave sound advice:

  • David Baker, Botanex: “I left my steady job of 10 years, with a pension, 401k and healthy salary, to focus on our startup.  My only regret is not shifting sooner to entrepreneurialism.  If you’re motivated, and don’t mind hard work, being a part of a startup offers that direct feedback of success for efforts.  It has also completely changed my personal life, mental perspective, and relationships with those closest to me.  To me, the risk is more than worth it.”
  • William Loopesko, PuppTech: “Just start. A lot of people are worried that their idea isn’t good enough yet to start talking about it with people, or if that if they share it with anyone their idea will get stolen, but getting out and talking to people and sharing your idea with the world, even if it’s in a rough stage, is the best way to start getting feedback and building on it.”
  • Moira van den Akker, Heart Beets: “Start with research. Collect secondary research of your industry; if it is a new industry find similar products or services and make your best-educated guess about your market. Then identify your target audience and collect as much primary research as possible, whether that is surveys, focus groups or testing competitors’ products and services.”
  • Adam Pecht, Sublmnl: “It all starts with an idea, whether you are looking for it or not. It can be in a formal meeting, a bar, or even a ski lift!”
Jake Jabs Center Director Dr. “MP” Parthasarathy and students smile for the camera.

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