Michael Bauer, left, of the Herbert B. Jones Foundation presents the $25,000 grand prize to UW team PotaVida

From healthy French fries to to online travel planning services to urban grocery stores in converted shipping containers, this year’s University of Washington business plan competition had a little bit of everything. It started with 104 teams from eight colleges and universities in the region, with the UW’s Connie Bourassa-Shaw noting that more than 400 judges and mentors participated in the competition.

And while multiple winners were chose in various categories (full list below), the big standout of the night was PotaVida.

The upstart, created and led by the UW team of Tyler Davis; Damon Gjording; Charlie Matlack; and Jacqueline Linnes, is developing a $10 device that helps people in developing worlds or disaster-stricken areas determine if their drinking water is safe.  PotaVida’s Matlack, who is earning his PhD in electrical engineering, said that they plan to put the more than $25,000 in prize money to good use.

“It means we are turning this into a company,” Matlack said. “That was the intention before, but this is really … helpful validation that we are on the right track.”

PotaVida co-founder Charlie Matlack shows off his company's device

PotaVida is developing a solar water disinfection measurement tool, which indicates whether harmful pathogens have effectively been remove from bottled water left in the sunlight.

“The big picture is that one billion people don’t have access to clean water, and the non-profits that are trying to serve that need are not getting enough results for their money,” Matlack tells GeekWire. “You can leave a disposable PET plastic bottle out in the (full) sun for 6 hours and it will kill everything in that will make you sick. The trick is, getting people to do that, understand that it works and to do it correctly. We make a product that enables that by showing you that it is working and when your water is safe to drink.”

To start, the device will cost about $10. But PotaVida is looking to get that price down to about $4 per unit, selling it to non-profits operating in developing parts of the world. A test of the device is set for this summer in Bolivia as part of the Fundacion SODIS para America Latina program.

In fact, the original technology came out of an online design competition held by Fundacion SODIS para America Latina, with participation from Engineers Without Borders, which was originally looking at a chemical test-strip system to test drinking water. (Editor’s Note: The post has been clarified to properly indicate the role of Engineers Without Borders).

Given the 5-year life cycle of the device, Matlack explained that its system is “way cheaper and way easier” than chlorine tablets or other technologies.  The PotaVida system measures the amount of sunlight that has penetrated the bottle.

“You could use one of these for a proxy for a whole rooftop full of bottles,” says Matlack. “And the way it is done now is with the rule of thumb, which is six hours of full sun and 12 hours of partial sun

Here’s a look at the winners from last night’s ceremony, which included a keynote talk by Gist CEO T.A. McCann. (More on that inspirational talk here).

$25,000 Herbert B. Jones Foundation Grand Prize

PotaVida, UW

Provides a low-cost, reusable tool that takes the guesswork out of solar disinfection of water, for use in disaster relief and areas lacking potable water.

Tyler Davis, PhD Evans School of Public Policy; Damon Gjording, EMBA; Charlie Matlack, PhD Electrical Engineering; and Jacqueline Linnes

$10,000 WRF Capital Second Prize

Stockbox Grocers, Bainbridge Graduate Institute

A mini grocer tucked inside a reclaimed shipping container, to provide fresh produce and basic staples in urban food deserts.

Michael Brooks, MBA; Carrie Ferrence, MBA; Jacqueline Gjurgevich, MBA; and Eliza Michiels, MBA

$5,000 Blue Box Group Finalist Prize

Solanux, WSU, University of Idaho

Produces patented potato food ingredients with high amounts of resistant starch (RS) which help lower a person’s glycemic index response, improve insulin levels, and lower fat and cholesterol levels.

Gaylene Anderson, EMBA; Anna Hansen, Accounting; and Jacob Pierson, J.D.

$5,000 Fenwick & West Finalist Prize

LodeSpin Labs, UW

Manufactures tracers for Magnetic Particle Imaging, a new medical imaging technology capable of replacing CT and MRI for imaging patients with heart disease and cancer.

Shivang Dave, PhD Bioengineering; Matt Ferguson, PhD Materials Science; Amit Khandhar, PhD Materials Science; and Garrett Leischner, MBA

Here’s a look at the Best Idea Prize winners, each of which won $2,500.

UIEvolution Best Technology Idea

Aqueduct Neurosciences, UW

Developing innovative medical device technology to improve the treatment of hydrocephalus through improved control, feedback, and failure prevention.

Team: Daniel Butts, Evening MBA; Jennifer Davis, MBA; Erik Feest, PhD Bioengineering; Paula Kim, MBA; Samuel Browd; Thomas Clement; and Barry Lutz

Gist Best Consumer Product Idea

Tripbox, UW

Makes leisure trip planning simple, smart and enjoyable by providing an easy to use online service that automatically generates an itinerary that optimizes cost, timing, and routes and allows users to further customize their trip.

Team: Vasavi Epari, TMMBA; Davor Golac, TMMBA; Gautam Mehandru, TMMBA; and Gustavo Rubio, TMMBA

Perkins Coie Best Innovation Idea

PotaVida, UW

Provides a low-cost, reusable tool that takes the guesswork out of solar disinfection of water, for use in disaster relief and areas lacking potable water.

Team: Tyler Davis, PhD Evans School of Public Policy; Damon Gjording, EMBA; Charlie Matlack, PhD Electrical Engineering; and Jacqueline Linnes

DLA Piper Best Service/Retail Idea

Stockbox Grocers, Bainbridge Graduate Institute

A mini grocer tucked inside a reclaimed shipping container, to provide fresh produce and basic staples in urban food deserts.

Team: Michael Brooks, MBA; Carrie Ferrence, MBA; Jacqueline Gjurgevich, MBA; and Eliza Michiels, MBA

Synapse Product Development Best Clean-Tech Idea

Static Flow Analytics, UW

A technology to improve algae monitoring which will help algal biofuel companies be more informed and better able to make optimal decisions about their production processes.

Team: Charlie Berg, MBA; Valerie Lieu, PhD Chemical Engineering; Guoqiang Ren, PhD Chemical Engineering; Casey Stratton, MBA; Bill Hardin; and Kevin McFarland

Sensors in Motion Best Sustainable Advantage Idea

Urban Canopy, UW

Provides SaaS software that guides customers through design, execution, and maintenance of green building initiatives, including LEED certification.

Team: Bill Barnard, TMMBA; Shane Egeland, TMMA; Carolina Gonzalez, TMMBA; Gabe Miller, TMMBA; Dilip Mujumdar, TMMBA; Debbie Egeland; and Jennifer Franks.

Related on GeekWire: Gist CEO T.A. McCann: ‘To be an entrepreneur takes a tremendous amount of courage

 

Comments

  • http://www.bluebox.net Jesse Proudman

    John – Any news on where the photos will be posted (or if)?

    • johnhcook

      I know Matt Hagen was there taking some photos, and he told me that
      he’d try to get them posted ASAP. I’ll provide a link to those if they
      are made public.

  • Anonymous

    Congrats to PotaVida! Brilliant product and team.

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