Track2Quit

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Around this time every year the NC State Entrepreneurship Initiative, an interdisciplinary club that fosters student innovation and entrepreneurship, begins ramping up for its annual LuLu eGames competition. The eGames is for young, aspiring entrepreneurs to put their innovative ideas or startups to the test. 
 
As a former ambassador and participant, I can attest to the value and experience the eGames offers to students. Two of last year's winners, Undercover Colors and Track2Quit, have accelerated their growth after winning the competition. 

Undercover Colors raised more than $250,000 in angel investment and earned international media attention (some good and some bad) prior to even launching the nail polish that detects date rape drugs in a beverage. Track2Quit (founders pictured above), now called Nicotrax, won the statewide Charlotte Venture Challenge in the undergraduate division for its device that helps smokers control their habit.
 
The eGames typically has three categories: the New Venture Challenge, which requires ventures to solve a pain or problem that has been identified and confirmed by market research; Design and Prototype Challenge, which requires a working prototype or product concept design; and the Arts Feasibility Study Challenge, targeted to students with an artistic approach to solving a viable pain or problem. 

But there’s an added twist to the 2015 games. At the end of 2014, Verizon approached the EI about sponsoring a service and mobile application competition. Thus the Verizon Student Innovator Challenge was born. The challenge requires students develop a rough prototype that addresses a business/community need, challenge or opportunity. 
 
Over 50 young entrepreneurs have set off onto a journey of discovery guided by the strict requirements of the eGames. While the intrigue has both increased and intensified, so too has the competition. 
 
Since semifinalists have already been identified in three out of the four categories, I decided to do some digging to find the most interesting startups and ideas that this year’s eGames has to offer. 

WarpSpec Diagnostics

WarpSpec Diagnostics Logo

Nobody enjoys getting sick from food left out too long or not cooked long enough. So this startup hopes to ensure that food poisoning becomes something of an aberration. The mission of founders Jordan Moering, Rafael Estevez, and Brienne Johnson is to revolutionize food safety by introducing a proprietary infrared system that detects foodborne pathogens like Salmonella in a few seconds. Large meat processors like Tyson, JBS and Smithfield are target customers—they could use the device to ensure meat is safe before it’s shipped and on the shelves of grocery stores.
 
Moering and Johnson are in their third year of the Ph.D program in Material Science, while Estevez is in his first year of the MBA program. The technology was born and patented in NSWC Crane, a Navy research lab based in Indiana. With the launch of their first product, they hope to create a viable real-time pathogen test. 
 

Awear Headband

Awear Headband Team
Credit: Awear Headband

Have you ever had your headphones in while leaving the gym and crossed a street only to find an oncoming car coming directly at you? Seniors Aaron Daeke, Andy Goodwin, Thomas Beatty and Sarah Henke lived that scenario all too often. The team is comprised of three mechanical engineers and one chemical engineer—all with the hopes of creating an exercise accessory that utilizes bone conduction technology to allow users to hear their surroundings while also enjoying music. 
 
The inspiration behind the device came after a mutual friend was hit by a car while crossing a busy intersection. Though he survived and had minimal injuries, his headphones prevented him from hearing the oncoming car. The team is currently in the design and prototype phase and plan to have a fully functional prototype by the beginning of April. Their goal is to create a high-quality exercising accessory that provides an amazing sound experience as well as a safer option than noise canceling headphones. 

The Compost Project 

In recent years, there's been a concerted effort by startups to have a positive impact in their community, environment and society. This startup wants to make a social difference too. The project aims to keep biodegradable waste out of landfills by employing former offenders to collect and process the material and turn it into nutrient-rich soil and fertilizer to be sold to nurseries and farms. 
 
Founders Elizabeth Shively and Brian Dawson, both seniors studying chemical and mechanical engineering respectively, met in the Engineering Entrepreneur Program. Also known as ECE 483, the year-long class requires students to form teams around an innovative idea of their choice. The Project has only been around for five months, but the founders expect it will make an impact by putting people back to work and eliminating waste. 
 

Purple Sticker 

A problem most women can relate to is forgetting to take their birth control pills. This clever startup is developing a discrete sensor sticker that attaches to the back of birth control blister packs and communicates with a smartphone application to alert women to take their pills if they haven’t remembered to do so. No further details have been shared about the project or the team members, but we're intrigued. 

Bee Downtown


Bees are important to so many different life forms around us, but where can they live in urban areas? This Durham non-profit answers the question by providing educational and sustainability programs to promote urban beekeeping and community involvement within metropolitan areas. Founded by Leigh-Kathryn Bonner (also an ExitEvent marketing intern), an international studies major with minors in Spanish and non-profit studies, the idea was first conceived on a study abroad trip to Barcelona. While there, she read an article about urban beekeeping in the U.S., and its prevalence in the North. That got her thinking about bringing the practice south.
 
The non-profit has been around for about a year and has its own beehives at the American Tobacco campus in Durham. It was recently selected as a finalist for the Institute for Emerging Issues SECU Prize for Innovation.
 
A complete list of all semi-finalist startups in the competition can be found on the Entrepreneurship Initiative website. The final round of competition, as well as the public award ceremony will be held on Tuesday, April 28th.