Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Refrigerator ottoman and other innovative ideas win 1,000 Pitches competition

Kristen Adamowski had the idea while lamenting the space in her dorm room.

"I thought it would be awesome if I could save space by combining my ottoman and my refrigerator into one," says Adamowski, a freshman in LSA.


More information

• 1000 Pitches website
• 1000 Pitches YouTube Channel

Judges in the 1,000 Pitches business idea contest agreed, and on Sunday morning Adamowski became one of 10 students to win $1,000 in the contest that attracted more than 3,000 ideas from students across the university. Students submitted their pitches through YouTube remotely or at pitch stations set up across campus.

"It was incredible," she says. "Winning has given me that much more motivation to take the refrigerator ottoman idea further."

The contest is meant to be a springboard. Engineering master's student Shanhoor Amin, with his portable solar panel, was one of last year's winners. His company, June Energy, has since built a working prototype and secured more than a $500,000 in venture capital.

"The 1,000 Pitches contest removes one of the most significant barriers that first-time entrepreneur's face: themselves," says Doug Neal, managing director of the College of Engineering's Center for Entrepreneurship. "Sharing your ideas and getting feedback is the first step entrepreneurs must go through as they begin their journey. It bodes well for to the future of U-M and the state of Michigan that 3,031 students just took that first step."

The winners were announced in a ceremony on Sunday at the Michigan Union. They are:

• Michigan Matters category: Keith Porter, a sophomore majoring in computer engineering, for "Metro Detroit Computer Exchange." Porter runs a business building custom computers. His idea is to deduct a portion of the cost for a new machine if the customer donates an old one. He'd then clean the old one and sell it for a nominal fee to a family in the city of Detroit that has no computer and therefore no Internet access. Click here to view the pitch.

• Social Entrepreneurship category: Annie Mitsak, a doctoral student in biomedical engineering, for "Enhanced Stethoscope for Remote Diagnosis." With colleagues, Mitsak is developing a stethoscope that would allow untrained health workers in rural Guatemala to record infants' heart sounds and send them over a cellular network to doctors in the city who could remotely diagnose congenital heart defects. Click here to view the pitch.

• Environment category: Ankur Shah, a sophomore business student, for "The Charging Block," a way to charge electric cars in apartment building parking lots. "I happen to live in an apartment on campus and if I wanted to drive a Chevy Volt, I would have nowhere to charge my car," Shah says in his pitch. His idea is to replace the cement blocks in parking lots with power outlets. Click here to view the pitch.

• Web 2.0 category: Ben Bronson, a junior studying business, for "" Ezout would be like ticket marketplace stubhub, but for parking spots. "People who own a parking spot that is in high demand, such as near a sports venue, or big city, could list their spot for any price, while other folks who are in need of a parking spot could search to find affordable, and convenient spots for the day," Bronson says. Click here to view the pitch.

• Local Business category: Sam Beck, an undergraduate engineering student, for "," a housing website with good pictures, reviews from previous tenants and information about nearby places to hang out. Click here to view the pitch.

• MProvements category (ideas to better the U-M campus): Stephanie Farr, a junior studying communications, for "End of Year Student Bazaar." This would be a yearly event where students could buy and sell large items. "After moving out of an apartment shared with three seniors last year, I saw firsthand the amount of waste that occurs because students have no way to get rid of larger items," Farr says. Click here to view the pitch.

• Best Mobile App category: Patrick Theisen, a sophomore engineering student, for "miParty." Theisen's party-tracking app "would list all of the frat parties on campus in one convenient location," he says. Users could rate the parties, and the app would make recommendations to other students. The app would offer alerts, as well as walking directions from anywhere on campus, bus schedules and taxi information. Click here to view the pitch.

• Technology category: Sanjiv Rao, a senior studying business, for "Split It," a website that helps young adults split costs with their roommates and handle reimbursements. "I got this idea over the summer when I was living with three people I didn't know that well, and we were splitting a bunch of costs." Click here to view the pitch.

• Health category: Zubair Ahsan, a senior double majoring in biomedical engineering and business, for "Revolutionizing Wound Healing." Ahsan's idea is to bring to market a medication that potentially could heal diabetic foot ulcers five times faster than current treatments, thus preventing many limb amputations. Ahsan stumbled on the technology while doing a project for a business class last year. He realized the potential, put a team together and co-founded the business SanoBio. Click here to view the pitch.

• Consumer Products category: Kristen Adamowski, a freshman who plans to major in business and law, for the "Refrigerator Ottoman." Click here to view the pitch.

This contest is organized by the student group MPowered Entrepreneurship. In its third year, it has managed to grow by 1,000 ideas every year, points out Prateek Garg, 1,000 Pitches project director.

"Being able to see the positive growth that this competition has gained really shows the difference that we're making at the University of Michigan," says Garg, a sophomore majoring in industrial and operations engineering and business. "The entrepreneurial movement on campus is clear. We are getting thousands of students to think like entrepreneurs."