UW-Extension: UW-River Falls student entrepreneurs advance from Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament to International Business Model Competition

Contact: Vickie Eiden, [email protected], 608-263-0398

UW-Extension Lean Startup contest winner SōPOD competes May 1-2 in Utah

MADISON, Wis. – UW-River Falls student entrepreneurs placed first in UW-Extension’s 2015 Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament and are representing the state at the International Business Model Competition hosted by Brigham Young University May 1-2, 2015, in Provo, Utah.

The team is made up of Eric Wenz and Andrew Lind (not pictured), both seniors majoring in business administration, and An Trieu, a junior in chemistry. Their company, SōPOD, developed a biodegradable pod technology to allow travelers to carry body wash, shampoo and conditioners in carry-on luggage while avoiding TSA 3-1-1 restrictions. SōPOD, whose slogan is “Ditch the plastic and feel fantastic,” realized that hotels seeking to reduce waste may be the most promising market for their liquid soap pods.

SōPOD was among 11 teams of University of Wisconsin student entrepreneurs who competed April 11 in Madison. Presentations by Wisconsin teams from UW-Eau Claire, UW-Milwaukee, UW-Oshkosh, UW-Platteville, UW-River Falls and UW-Whitewater can be viewed at: http://bit.ly/BigIdeaFinals2015

“In this second year of the tournament, the only thing better than the overall improvement of ideas compared to last year was the consistency of quality across all of the participating teams,” said Mark Lange, executive director of Business and Entrepreneurship at UW-Extension. “It’s very clear that the Lean Launch Pad methodology has taken hold across many of our campuses to produce outstanding results for these student teams.”

As the top Wisconsin finisher, SōPOD is among teams from around the world competing in the international finals for roughly $100,000 in awards. In addition, SōPOD qualifies for participation in the Ideadvance Seed Fund program administered by UW-Extension and funded by UW System and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Depending on the business milestones they reach, they stand to earn up to $25,000 to advance their idea.

The Wisconsin tournament second-place finisher, Health Connection, LLC, hails from UW-Oshkosh. Team members are Jordan Mather and Sean Baumgartner, both juniors, and Maxwell Zirbel, a senior. They pitched a mobile application that allows physical therapists to easily assign at-home rehabilitation exercise videos to their patients with a few taps on their tablet, and that allows patients to follow these exercises from home using their computers, tablets or smartphones. The third-place finisher, MyCombine, is a UW-Milwaukee-based team including sophomore Amanda Handlos and alumni Brandon Tschacher, Justin Bohler and Jeremy Tiedt. MyCombine is an athletic performance company providing advanced testing and analytics for athletes at any stage of development.
Funding for this program is provided by UW System and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, with additional support from American Family Insurance. The Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament is presented in partnership with the International Business Model Competition and is managed by UW-Extension’s Center for Technology Commercialization.