Three Kent State Finalists in Magnet’s Proto-Tech Pitch Competition
Three Kent State University student business owners recently competed against each other and three other startup teams from around Northeast Ohio. Of the six businesses that were finalists in ProtoTech: Pitch, the Incubator at MAGNET’s technology start-up pitch competition, half were founded by Kent State students.
Started in 2014, ProtoTech: Pitch focuses on high-growth-potential Northeast Ohio startups that have technology based on a product or process. The teams compete for cash prizes, as well as in-kind consulting and services from MAGNET and other local vendors via an in-depth application process and an in-person pitch.
Brian Bowles, senior entrepreneurship major and founder of Blackwolf Tactical, came away with the first-place prize. The company designs comprehensive live-training software for police departments.
“This prize came at the perfect time for the company,” Bowles says of the $10,000 first-place prize money. “We can now finish our patent applications and put the finishing touches on the software and equipment prototypes and begin testing the system with local departments.”
The in-kind services are helping with the development of the company and brand to reflect the focus on partnerships between police departments and their communities.
Shanice Cheatham, graduate student in public health and founder of Endemic Solutions, and Brian Stofiel, senior aeronautics major and founder of Stofiel Aerospace, also were finalists who pitched their companies to a crowd of local businesspeople, potential investors, mentors and supporters.
Although she did not win a prize, Cheatham benefited from participating.
“ProtoTech was a great experience for me as a budding entrepreneur,” Cheatham says. “The hardest part was the application process, but it challenged me to think about things I hadn’t thought of prior. The best part about ProtoTech is that it puts entrepreneurs in a room of people who are more than willing to help get you to the next level. If you are new to the start-up scene and you believe in your business, I would advise you to take a leap of faith and apply.”
The student entrepreneurs receive assistance and support from a variety of university resources, such as LaunchNET Kent State and Kent State’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation, which connect them with advice, services and competitions, as well as outside mentors. All three entrepreneurs have gained from relationships with Dave Crain, director of entrepreneurial services at MAGNET, and Bowles particularly pointed to assistance from the local Small Business Development Center.
“We are thrilled to be able to help our student entrepreneurs represent Kent State so well on this regional stage, and give them the chance to get in front of people who can help them continue building their companies,” says Julie Messing, executive director of LaunchNET Kent State.
Finalists’ videos can be seen at http://www.magnetprototech.com.