PROVIDENCE – Michelle Petersen, a Brown University student who developed a low-cost software package that lets social workers efficiently manage documents and information flows, was named the top winner in the 2018 Rhode Island Business Plan Competition.
The six winners, announced Thursday at a public awards ceremony at the Rhode Island Nursing Education Center in Providence, will share in prizes valued at nearly $260,000.
As the Student Track winner, Petersen received $86,650 in winnings – $15,000 in cash and $41,650 in professional and consulting services, plus a $30,000 bonus cash award.
Petersen said social workers only spend about 18 percent of their time on direct client service, with the rest of their time focused on managing and documenting interactions with clients. She said her TextUp software package, which is already being sold, tracks all critical information, allowing users to dedicate more time to their clients.
As the top winner, Petersen will automatically be a finalist in the $50,000 Get Started Rhode Island pitch contest on Oct. 4 in Providence.
The Entrepreneur Track winner was Your Heaven Audio LLC, which received $15,000 in cash and $41,650 in professional and consulting services. Led by Steve Schwartz, the Providence-based company offers a hardware/software technology platform for amplifying and recording acoustic musical instruments accurately and easily.
Predictive Optics, led by Vishnu Dantu, who is studying applied mathematics and biology at Brown University, won the MedTech/Life Sciences Award, receiving $15,000 in cash and $52,400 in professional and consulting services. The company is developing a portable, inexpensive device that optically evaluates cerebrovascular health by quantifying retinal blood flow dynamic differences between eyes.
“The judges were impressed by the breadth and capabilities of this year’s winners and finalists, all of whom are developing robust solutions to critical business issues,” said Peggy Farrell, competition co-chair, in a statement.
Approximately 50 previous Rhode Island Business Plan Competition participants are currently operating, having created more than 500 jobs, and buying services and supplies from Rhode Island companies.
In addition to the winners, finalists were also identified.
Entrepreneur Track finalist:
- PowerDocks LLC, which has created floating platforms that use renewable-energy sources to generate, store and distribute power at those sites. Anthony Baro, of Newport, is the managing partner.
Student Track finalists:
- FungEye, a rover-based detection system using multispectral imaging to identify mold growth before the human eye can, replacing manual inspections that are often less accurate. The company is led by David Katzevich, a Brown University student who majored in entrepreneurship and technology management.
- GoTeff, a low-sugar, all-natural nutrition bar that features a gluten-free super-grain with low-clycemic index known as Teff for cardio, nutrition and health-minded consumers. The company is led by Saron Mechale, who is studying business and entrepreneurship at Brown University.
Each finalist received $5,000 in cash and services valued at $11,200.
A total of 61 applications were received this year. To be eligible to win prizes, applicants agreed to establish or continue business operations in Rhode Island.
Lead sponsors of the 2018 competition were: Bryant University; Cox Business; Everhope Foundation; Hinckley Allen; Integrated Media Group; Kahn, Litwin, Renza & Co. Ltd.; Locke Lord; Materials Science Associates; MedMates; Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund; and Sprout.