Alan Rudolph, CSU Vice President for Research, far left; Christine Chin, interim director of the CSU Institute for Entrepreneurship; Jim Parke, president and CEO of Blue Ocean Enterprises, Inc., far right; and Kurt Hoeven, CEO of Blue Ocean Holdings, awarded Native co-founders Lianne Haug, Sam Felsenthal and Devon Tivona first prize in the CSU Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge Collegiate Competition May 27. Photo by William Cotton, CSU Photography.
Native, a startup founded by students from the University of Colorado in Boulder, won the second annual CSU Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge Collegiate business pitch competition May 27. This earned the company a grand prize of $20,000 in cash, an automatic entry in the CSU Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge Enterprise Competition May 29-30, and a chance to compete for $250,000.
Native (nativeapp.com) offers personal travel assistants for as little as $25 a month who plan, book, and handle travel details from a phone app. Native’s travel assistants coordinate flights, lodging, dining, and rentals cars by texting travel arrangements to customers’ phones.
Native’s Collegiate prize package also includes business mentoring from Blue Ocean Enterprises, software tools, and professional services to support its growth.
Co-founders Devon Tivona, Sam Felsenthal and Lianne Haug started the company in February 2014, competed in CU’s New Venture Challenge, and went on to be mentored by Techstars, a startup accelerator program that assists entrepreneurs to bring new technologies to market. Native is now a member of Galvanize in Boulder.
“This has been an overwhelming experience. It’s a huge validation to us that others believe in us,” said Tivona, 23, who graduated from the University of Colorado last year with a degree in computer science. “The $20,000 will buy us another month of runway. The other prizes — the mentoring, the PR support, the legal and marketing support — will allow us to do the startup thing.”
Tivona graduated from Rocky Mountain High School in Fort Collins, and is the son of CSU instructor Elissa Tivona.
Native outpitched 12 collegiate teams from three Colorado universities, receiving the highest marks from judges Libby Cook, Philanthropiece Foundation; Daniel Epstein, Unreasonable Group; John Greff, Sequel Venture Partners; Sanjay Mehta, Trend Micro; and Alex Welch, Lasso Media.
Bike helmets runners-up
The second place prize of $5,000 was awarded to Change Composites, founded by Nate Saam, a graduate student at Colorado State University. Change Composites developed a composite material that incorporates shock absorption technology and designed a protective cycling helmet using this technology to protect the brain in the case of an accident.
“What an honor to be part of this group. The competition was very high, and the head-to-head competition was tough,” said Saam. “We are grateful for the Northern Colorado entrepreneurial community.”
Prizes were awarded by Kurt Hoeven, CEO of Blue Ocean Holdings; Alan Rudolph, Vice President for Research for CSU; Jim Parke, CEO and president of Blue Ocean Enterprises Inc.; and Christine Chin, co-director of the Challenge and interim director of the Institute for Entrepreneurship in the CSU College of Business, after an intense day of competition at the Lory Student Center.
“We congratulate Native and Change Composites and are very proud of all of the Collegiate competitors, who spent months refining their pitches and preparing to compete,” said Chin. “We are grateful to our panels of honored judges and sponsorship partners for working with us to create an event that celebrates collegiate entrepreneurs across Colorado.”
Native goes on to compete with 14 established startups in the Enterprise Competition of the CSU Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge on May 29-30 also at the LSC. Change Composites will pitch again with other Collegiate competitors on May 29 aboard the historic Mountain Avenue Fort Collins trolley car for a chance to win additional cash during the Trolley Pitch competition.
“We were impressed with the quality of the ideas pitched during the Collegiate Competition and the unmistakable passion expressed by the Collegiate team founders,” said Hoeven, co-director of the Challenge. “We look forward to mentoring Native as they grow their company.”
A collaboration of Blue Ocean Enterprises and Colorado State University, with major support from HP, Growth Curve Institute, ViaWest, and OtterBox, the Challenge was created to ignite entrepreneurial spirit, attract and recognize the best new business ideas, and celebrate the Fort Collins and Colorado entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The CSU Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge is presented in conjunction with Fort Collins Startup Week. For a complete schedule of FCSW events, go to ftcstartupweek.co
For more information and to register to attend the CSU Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge’s free events this weekend, which also include the Youth Entrepreneur Showcase from 9 a.m.-noon, visit www.blueoceanchallenge.com