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Innovation squared: New and growing startups

A score of Northeastern innovators and entrepreneurs showcased their ventures and innovative products at two major campus events during Global Entrepreneurship Week.

The first kicked off Tuesday night in the Curry Student Center Ballroom where students and alumni exhibited their products and innovations at Demo Day, which marks the conclusion of Husky Startup Challenge, a semester-long business development competition run by the Northeastern Entrepreneurs Club. Then on Wednesday evening, Cabot Field House transformed into a bustling expo for young business owners to showcase their ventures at NEXPO, a biannual entrepreneurship exposition hosted by IDEA, Northeastern’s student-run venture accelerator.

Global Entrepreneurship Week is the world’s largest celebration of innovators and entrepreneurs. More than 130 countries participate in the annual series, which is sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation. At Northeastern, each day of Entrepreneurship Week had a theme based on milestones in the venture process: Monday’s theme was Educate, Tuesday’s was Incubate, and Wednesday’s was Launch.

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Nineteen startups participated in Demo Day. Over the course of the evening, students and alumni presented their business ideas to more than 430 guests while also competing for more than $5,000 in cash prizes awarded by a panel of judges.

“It’s really exciting,” said Casey Hogan, president of the Entrepreneurs Club. “This is their prom. They’ve really had their heads down working all semester and this is their day to show it off. They really deserve it.”

Second-year student Ian Carlson won first place for creating an electrical kit for longboards; Olin Nelson won second place for PicMe, a search engine for photographers; and third place went to CurbView, an open parking spot location sensor and application.

“We are still in the beginning stages,” said Curtis Burrowes, E’13, one of CurbView’s developers. “There are a lot of venture guys [at Demo Day] looking at the technologies. If we find the right person to work with, that will definitely help.”

Guests played no small part in the evening’s festivities, voting for their favorite venture. They selected Stowaway, a marketplace connecting people who need storage with those who have unused space in their apartment or home.

Some of the business ventures showcased at Demo Day were also featured the following evening at NEXPO, along with about 45 other ventures that have worked with IDEA. Founded by Northeastern students in 2008, the student-run venture accelerator helps students and alumni create, develop, and accelerate new businesses through coaching, mentoring, and gap funding.

Brian Whittemore, DMSB’11, and his cousin Trevor Nelson showcased Pure Solutions, an all-natural mosquito and tick spray created in 2008 with the help of IDEA co-founder Ashkan Afkhami.

“[The IDEA co-founders] wanted to try and build their program and we wanted to take advantage of some of the things they offered,” Whittemore said. “They provide a huge opportunity for networking. That’s one of the reasons we enjoy coming to these events.”

The co-founders of SolPower developed an outdoor solar-powered cell phone charging station, that can charge up to 15 cell phones at once. Each phone is held in a small, individual locker that has a resettable combination. Each locker has a charger that is equipped to charge about 95 percent of cell phones on the market.

“We are targeting heavily concentrated outdoor areas such as colleges, city parks, and beaches,” said company co-founder Ryan Wright, E’09. “It takes about an hour to fully charge a device, and the lockers allow you to come and go as you please.”