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Students win $20,000 in new ‘Pitch Deck’ competition

UNM student Alissa Chavez won the $5,000 second-place prize for her EasyFlo baby bottle for parents on the go at the Dec. 2 Comcast Pitch Deck Competition.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Five teams of University of New Mexico students shared $20,000 in cash prizes Monday night in a new “Pitch Deck” competition sponsored by Comcast and Nusenda Credit Union.

Students pitched about the progress they’ve made in building novel startup companies to three judges from venture capital firms at UNM’s Lobo Rainforest building at the Innovate ABQ research and development zone Downtown.

Perspective Components Inc. won the $10,000 first-place prize for proprietary gimbal hardware it built to improve the efficiency and quality of imaging systems on smartphones and cameras, which it will use to break into the security surveillance market. That company also won the $10,000 first-place prize in October’s “Balloon Pitch,” organized by the ABQid business accelerator.

Alissa Chavez, a UNM student who previously earned national attention for inventing a “Hot Seat” to alert adults about babies left in cars when she was just 14, won the $5,000 second-place award for her new “EasyFlo” baby bottle for parents on the go, which stores formula and water in a single bottle for quick, easy feeding.

A team of computer science students won $2,500 for a new platform they’re building to share chunks, or bites, of podcast presentations. Two others won $1,000 each for an online platform to scout and reserve film sites, and for an e-commerce business offering specialized educational materials for children under 4.

UNM’s Innovation Academy and the Science and Technology Corp., UNM’s tech-transfer office, will now make the event an annual competition that differs from their five-year-old, twice-annual Elevator Pitch.

The Pitch Deck requires extensive preparation for a deep, 10-minute dive into what a startup is offering, its business plan, financial projections, customer validation, and more, said Academy Director Rob DelCampo. The Elevator Pitch only offers lightning-fast presentations to promote a business idea.

“It’s a showcase for student startups to progress to the next level,” DelCampo said. “It’s an investment-style pitch to show whether a startup has something real to offer that could attract investors.”

It’s open to university students statewide, although 23 of the 25 participating teams came from UNM, including the five finalists, likely because the event is so new, DelCampo said.

UNM President Garnett S. Stokes called it a “next-level” competition to advance student entrepreneurship and training.

“These students are New Mexico’s new economic drivers,” Stokes told event participants. “Over the past three years, STC and Innovation Academy programs and events have helped students launch more than 60 startups.”

Comcast contributed the $20,000 in prize money, plus $5,000 for event-related costs. Nusenda also gave $5,000.

“As we look to the future, these student businesses will grow and become part of the economy bedrock,” Comcast Area Vice President Chris Dunkeson told the Journal. “We want to give young entrepreneurs a chance to show what they can do and help them move forward.”


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