VIBE Business Plan Competition Finalists Range from Auto Wraps to Cyber Defense

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Six finalists will compete in the 2019 VIBE Business Plan Competition for a first prize of $10,000 in cash and in-kind services.

(In the photo above, the team from Corvus Security makes its pitch at the 2019 VIBE Business Plan Competition. At center is Maxine Filcher.)

At right, Brendan Studebaker, '19, Biomedical Sciences, describes his start-up Endofin Pharmaceuticals during the trade-show round of the 2019 VIBE Business Plan Competition.Entrepreneurs were on display recently in downtown Tacoma.

The occasion was the “trade show” round of the second VIBE Business Plan Competition. VIBE is the business incubator at UW Tacoma, directed by Thomas Kuljam.

“Folks, this is the big leagues,” said Kuljam at a prep session a couple of weeks before. “This is real. Even if you don’t move to the final round, the exposure you will get is priceless.”

The competition is structured in two rounds. At the first round on May 16, 13 teams set up their booths in the main hall of RAIN, the bio-tech incubator near the UW Tacoma campus. For four hours, hundreds of people armed with five $100 bills each of “VIBE Investor Notes” went from team to team, hearing pitches and bestowing the VIBE notes on their five favorite teams.

The six teams that got the most VIBE bucks advance to the final competition round, scheduled for May 22, also at RAIN. At the final round, each of the six competing teams will have 10 minutes to present to the judges their business idea, including their market analysis and their financials. Judges will then have a 10-minute Q&A session with the presenting team.The judges will select the competition winners. The team taking first place will get $5,000 in cash and $5,000 in-kind support from VIBE partners and sponsors, which include banks, law firms, business consultants and architects. The second place team will receive $1,500 cash, and the third place team will receive $500.

“The in-kind support is worth more than the cash awards,” said Kuljam. “The amount of in-kind services we are able to provide, both to competition winners and to VIBE start-ups throughout the year, is a testament to the generosity of the South Sound business community and the growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem we are seeing in this region.”

(See below for a list of all the teams that competed, and the six that will move on to the final round.)

That ecosystem already has a number of key players which, in addition to VIBE, include RAIN, Surge Tacoma, FabLab Tacoma, and Align.

The 2019 VIBE competition sponsors include HomeStreet Bank, Evergreen Business Capital, Sound Credit Union, VESC Solutions, Kathan Communications, Ferguson Architecture, SURGE Tacoma and RAIN Incubator.

Advancing to the Final Round

The six teams that will advance to the final competition round on May 22 are, in alphabetical order:

Aristo Wraps
Ashley Steingard, ’19, B.A. Business Administration/Finance, UW Tacoma
Puyallup-based Aristo Wraps provides custom vehicle wraps.

Corvus Security
Maxine Filcher, Senior, Information Technology, UW Tacoma
Shannon Sigmon, Information Technology, UW Tacoma
Katie Ginther, Information Technology, UW Tacoma
Annora Jones, Computer Science & Systems, UW Tacoma
Bryant Thompson, Information Technology, UW Tacoma
“Corvus Security has set out to offer small and medium-sized businesses impactful business risk management partnerships to capture the maximum value of cyber defense strategies, while building a missing link in the cyber education pipeline. Our team brings enterprise-level cyber-defense testing principles to companies without multi-million-dollar IT budgets, by giving hand-picked student professionals an opportunity to gain hands-on, real-world experience that will launch them into cybersecurity careers.”

Endofin Pharmaceuticals
Brendan Studebaker, ’19, Biomedical Sciences, UW Tacoma
"Endofin Pharmaceuticals is a protein-based drug discovery company looking to find alternative treatments for inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, IBD and IBS."

EZ Reader
Avery Neims, Junior, Business Administration/Marketing, UW Tacoma
James Stevens, Junior, Electrical Engineering, UW Tacoma
Nick Purcell, Senior, Electrical Engineering, UW Tacoma
“EZ Reader is a hands free device that gives individuals with arm, hand or neck disabilities (ALS, amputees, paralysis, cerebral palsy) the freedom to read digital e-books using only their eyes to control the device. The eye tracking software will allow a multitude of functions the same as common e-reader devices today. We believe the ability to read books helps promote mental health and acuity for individuals who would normally struggle to read or have to buy expensive hardware.”

Vishaal Diwan, ’17, B.A. Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, UW Tacoma
“HandiMaps is a dynamic indoor navigation platform, a technology aiming to gain independence for its users. We will focus on the accessibility features located within a venue, and create routes and paths which lead to wherever the user desires to be. We will use Bluetooth technology to guide users and map crowd densities. We will provide consultation to venues to identify accessibility challenges, route obstructions, unavailable services and incorrect map information.”

Chris Porter, Business Administration, University of Puget Sound
Griffin Pontius, University of Puget Sound
Jeremiah Hobbs, University of Puget Sound
Ben Scarbrough, University of Puget Sound
Nick Bigger, University of Puget Sound
“PopOver is a mobile platform that provides the opportunity to frictionlessly hire local college students to take care of tasks and chores for you. PopOver users can rest easy knowing that their chores are done by a hardworking and accountable college student, while also giving back to a college student in need of income.”

The Trade Show Teams

These seven teams, in alphabetical order, also participated in the trade show round:

Final Cut
Xander Waits, Sophomore, Business Administration, UW Tacoma
Zach Locken
Jordan Waits
“Final Cut provides vegetation removal/storm pond maintenance in order to allow for local water to be filtered efficiently.”

League of Gaming
Kevin Hernon, Junior, Computer Science & Systems, UW Tacoma

Kaleb Anagnostou, Junior, Business Administration/Finance, UW Tacoma
“We are building an online rental marketplace. Businesses and individuals will come to the site and post items they are not using. Vendors can make more money renting to multiple people than they could selling their items, and renters can save more money by renting the item only for the time they plan to use it.”

Tema Woods, Law, Economics & Policy, UW Bothell
Jabo Johnigan, ’17, Computer Science & Systems, UW Tacoma
“Roady is the future of the way we conduct roadside services. The roadside industry is a $10 billion-a-year industry that has been running on the same system since its founding. Roady was created to fill in the gap of expensive and very slow response times, traditionally provided by big companies that had a monopoly on the industry. Think ‘Uber meets AAA.’ Roady will provide a way for people to supplement their incomes while providing an affordable, faster service to get you back on the road.”

Corey Dembeck, ’14 Business Administration/Accounting, UW Tacoma
Sojournlist will develop an alternative publishing platform for the travel and tourism industry.

Trader Rater
Jordan Miller, CEO, ’13, B.A. Business Administration, Washington State University
Dallas Miller, CTO, ’18, B.S. Computer Science & Systems, UW Tacoma
Gigi Larsen, ’19, Business Administration, UW Tacoma
“Trader Rater was founded by two brothers who were tired of the Craigslist marketplace status quo. It seemed that for every transaction that went without a hitch, there were two that were a giant waste of time. The brothers envisioned a tool where you could screen potential buyers or sellers via phone number prior to taking the time and risk to meet. Trader Rater works for Craigslist, Online Forum Marketplaces, or any other hand-to-hand transactions.”

Valor Housing Group
Steven Dobrozsi, Senior, Business Administration/Accounting, UW Tacoma
Danielle Daugherty, Business Administration, UW Tacoma
Gavin Hilligoss, Business Administration, UW Tacoma
“Valor Housing Group aims to offer a solution to veterans who are overwhelmed with the challenge of finding housing when entering college. The company will offer fully-furnished housing and micro-apartments that veterans and service members can rent. All amenities can be supplied, from kitchen equipment to linens. Valor Housing Group intends to start with its first multi-home property near UW Tacoma in order to create a minimum viable product. As popularity grows, the company will acquire more housing, adding other universities to our network.”

Written by: 
John Burkhardt / May 20, 2019
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or