UW-Madison student group’s competition helps entrepreneurs fund ideas

Transcend UW, a student organization formed at the UW-Madison engineering department, is helping entrepreneurs-to-be get funding for their big ideas.

Since 2015, this group has been creating opportunities for students that are interested in pursuing their own startup ventures. It hosts one of the largest student innovation competitions in the country, where tens of thousands of dollars are given away to winners. Its first competition was in 2016.

Students can take part by competing or by joining the executive team, which has students from several different majors working together to plan and execute the event.

Transcend hosts several different events for competitors throughout the year, where members can connect with like-minded students. These include project reviews with established Madison startups; pitch coaching events; intellectual property workshops, so students can see if their idea is already patented or not; business brief workshops and more.

This all builds up to the final competition itself, which involves around 35 teams. All applicants must submit an overview of their business and pitch presentation, to be screened by a panel of judges.

This year’s final competition was held in early April, split over two days. The first day involved 10-minute pitches followed by brief Q&A. After that, students could demonstrate any prototypes they’ve created as part of a poster session.

On the second day, some teams were invited back to chat with the judges, to answer any specific questions they have before they finalize their decision. First place got $15,000, second got $10,000 and third got $8,000.

This year’s winners were: LineLeap, a fast-pass service for nightclubs which lets users skip the long lines, now active in 11 cities; SafeRotation, a device for diabetes patients to make self-injecting easier; and Pathogenomica, a method for finding bacterial outbreaks in food and water supplies using genetic analysis.

Other teams also got smaller awards for best early stage pitch, best poster or booth, best early-stage prototype and more.

Previous winners include 3D printers for metal manufacturing, a beverage line based on a Middle Eastern tea drink, and a mobile app for users to sell and trade various belongings.

Sponsors for the competition include Madworks, gBETA, gener8tor, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, Boldt, QBE and others.

Organizers say planning is underway for the 2019 competition.

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