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UWRF innovation team continues on to international competition

April 15, 2016

University of Wisconsin-River Falls Director for the Center of Innovation and Business Development Danielle Campeau announced today that UW-River Falls Team Protein Pod was the winner of the university’s Second Annual Innovation Challenge. The win means the team is now accepted into the International Business Model Competition at the Microsoft Ventures Campus in Redmond, Wash., April 29-30 where they will compete with teams from around the world for more than $75,000 in prize money.

UWRF’s Innovation Challenge was created to support business startups on campus and reward innovative ideas. The Innovation Challenge is modeled around recent research in Lean Startup that guides entrepreneurs to “get out of the building” and test their business assumptions utilizing tools such as the Business Model Canvas. This process is different from the typical Business Plan Competition. Entrepreneurs are rewarded for creating a hypothesis, testing their assumptions with potential customers and pivoting their business idea based on the high-quality feedback they are receiving.

Many startup businesses fail and the Lean Startup methodology helps entrepreneurs reduce the risk of failure through testing their business assumptions. Entrepreneurs are encouraged to find failure points early in the process. In fact, the more weaknesses that are identified and pivots to their ideas based on that feedback, the better.

This year, two teams competed in the Innovation Challenge hosted at UWRF on March 3. Eighteen judges participated in the event including business leaders and economic development professionals from across the state. Edward Matsushima and Zach Merrick, both freshman business administration majors, won the competition with their business idea, Protein Pod. Their product offers a convenient transportation method for nutritional protein to maximize the benefits by reducing the amount of time between a workout and administration of the supplement.

Senior Michael Mader, a marketing major, took second place with his social enterprise, Hippy Feet. According to the Salvation Army, the number one requested item in homeless shelters is socks. Hippy Feet provides a solution to this pervasive problem by offering a buy-one give-one product. Purchasing the organic, durable wool sock allows the customer to give back as a pair is automatically donated to a local homeless shelter.

More than $6,000 in prize money was awarded to these teams.

Both teams will compete at the WI Big Idea Tournament on Saturday, April 9, in Madison. Student teams from other UW institutions will be vying for the main prize, a $25,000 Ideadvance Grant.

The Innovation Challenge is offered through the Center for Innovation and Business Development within the UWRF College of Business and Economics (CBE) and is made possible through financial contributions by AGS Data Systems, WiSys Technology Foundation and UW-Extension. Associate Professor of Management Marina Onken serves as faculty adviser of the program.

The university recently awarded CBE funding to move forward with an “Accelerating Innovation” program to create a culture of innovation on campus by consolidating a Maker-Space and offering specific course-work in innovation, design and diffusion of new ideas.

Individuals interested in learning more about innovation at UWRF should email danielle.campeau@uwrf.edu.