A lively audience of more than 500 students, alumni, and corporate representatives cheered on 12 finalist teams as they pitched their business ideas for a shot at $60,000 in prizes during the recent Virginia Tech Entrepreneur Challenge at the Lyric Theatre in Blacksburg, Virginia.

The $25,000 grand prize and $5,000 fan favorite award went to Andrew Bolkhovitinov and Jacob Tyree for ChairJak, a portable chair jack for wheelchairs.

Two $10,000 prizes went to:

  • Ali Roghani, Mohsen Roghani, and Jordan Erisman for ThermaSENSE, which seeks to prevent heat stroke deaths among football players with a wearable sensor that measures core temperature in real-time; and
  • Danielle Jeffers and Natalie Harrison, for Dough 4 Degrees, a website that seeks to help students earn scholarships and graduate from college debt-free.

Two $5,000 prizes went to:

  • Ben Ailinger, Glenn Feit, and Maria Solares, for Aecium Medical Solutions, which seeks to commercialize a new, patented technology that allows patients suspected of having a type of liver disease to be non-invasively tested; and
  • Sagar Govani and Samarth Gupta, for Facemode, an analytics platform that uses advanced dot-projection technology on phones to quantify facial reactions to content, such as advertisements.

The challenge, hosted by the Apex Center for Entrepreneurs in the Pamplin College of Business, in partnership with 1901 Group and other sponsors, was open to all Virginia Tech students.

“Competitions like the Entrepreneur Challenge are a critical tool in teaching the business founders and employees of tomorrow,” said Derick Maggard, executive director of the center.

“These competitions allow Virginia Tech students to practice entrepreneurship and obtain a valuable understanding of how their ideas and hard work can change the world for the better. We are extremely grateful to 1901 Group, all our sponsors and supporting alumni for their vision, as well as their generous support of this event.”

A total of 109 teams with students from all undergraduate colleges entered the challenge, now in its third year.

“Bringing together students from different colleges and disciplines is critical in preparing the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs,” Maggard said.  

“These real-world, experiential learning opportunities are what our students crave and our employers want,” he said.

The event featured panel discussions with alumni and entrepreneurs, many of whom traveled from such locations as Boston, New York, San Francisco, and Austin, Texas, to attend.

For more information about the Entrepreneur Challenge, or to discuss sponsorship opportunities, please contact the Apex Center for Entrepreneurs at apexcenter@vt.edu or (540) 231-1328.

Follow the Apex Center (@ApexCenterVT) on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to keep up to date on events and programs.  Learn more about the center and how to get involved.