PROVIDENCE – A charter school teacher claimed the top prize at the Rhode Island Business Plan Competition’s eighth annual Elevator Pitch Contest Thursday night, for his idea to create a one-handed video game controller.
The event, held at Betaspring headquarters on Chestnut Street, drew an audience of 125 people, including 32 aspiring and experienced entrepreneurs who presented their business ideas to a panel of judges in just 90 seconds.
“Telling your business story in a few compelling words is an important skill for entrepreneurs who need to attract investors, partners, and employees,” said competition co-chair Peggy Farrell, partner in the law of firm of Hinckley, Allen & Snyder LLP. “The judges did a great job providing pointers that will help the presenters, as well as audience members, who came to listen and learn.”
Charles Johnson, who teaches history and law at Times Squared Academy, pitched Nhuad Single-Hand Video Game Controllers, designed to allow a “vast untapped market of potential buyers” who have the use of only one hand to play video games.
Johnson and nine other presenters took home a total of $1,000 in cash prizes. The other entrepreneurs to receive prizes were:
- Joshua Ezickson, a Brown University student, who pitched Spruce, a full-service coat check system for bars and restaurants.
- Jesse Hartheimer, a Brown University student, who pitched Pronto, a smartphone application that allows users to browse a restaurant’s menu and order food and drinks on impulse.
- Jonathan Hilgart, a Brown University student, who pitched Modif(eyes), which enables eye glass wearers to personalize their glasses.
- Rob Hunter, a Babson College student, who pitched HigherMe, which allows prospective job applicants to submit a video to stores where they want to work.
- Shelly Nicholas, of Providence, who pitched Pretty Knotty, an alternative to traditional hair elastics.
- Luke Purcell, of Providence, who pitched Careericulum, a platform to help individuals and organizations design effective training programs.
- Maeve Jopson, of Providence, who pitched Increment, a line of playthings for inclusive learning that encourage independence and exploration among children of all abilities.
- Peter Simpson, a Brown University student, who pitched Ventfull, a software front end for event databases already in place at schools to provide students with access to information in the way they think.
- Cliff Weitzman, a Brown University student, who pitched BoardBrake, a removable foot-activated brake for longboards/skateboards.
Each pitch participant had 90 seconds – short enough to fit in an elevator ride – to present a business idea to a panel of expert judges from the Rhode Island business community, who then provided constructive feedback about the “clarity and persuasiveness” of the presentation.
This year’s judges included Scott DePasquale, executive chairman of Utilidata; Jakob Garrow, co-founder and CEO of EdTrips.com; John Gray, vice president of Biomedical Structures; Ann-Marie Harrington, president of Embolden; Dr. Rajiv Kumar, founder and CEO of ShapeUp; Cynthia Reed, president and CEO of LTR Holdings LLC; Soren Ryherd, founder of Working Planet; and Thorne Sparkman, managing director of the Slater Technology Fund.
Lead sponsors of this year’s competition are Cumulus Media Providence; Davol Inc.; Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP; Embolden; Hinckley, Allen & Snyder LLP; Kahn, Litwin, Renza & Co. Ltd.; The Providence Journal Charitable Foundation; and the University of Rhode Island