Sponsors and competitors gathered on Thursday to hear the Big Bang! business competition finalists, who were vying for more than $60,000 in awards.
Big Bang! started 17 years ago when graduate students at UC Davis requested a competition to assist in making ideas into business models. This year saw 70 groups participating in the eight-month-long program, which helps match groups to missing team members.
If a group is already complete, like Reach 1600 was, they participate in workshops to hone their idea or product until it is ready for the market.
Reach 1600 already had a plan to develop software and an app to create a psychologically based curriculum for SAT preparation.
"When we first started off, we had a good idea, but we weren't sure of what exactly we could make out of it," said Amy Lam, Reach 1600's executive director.
Lam explained the team was able to reach out to customers and network with other companies that would be interested in collaborating.
The competition, which is open to the public, provides up to 12 workshops over the course of the program. Subject-matter experts from UC Davis and the greater Sacramento area present MBA-level courses, such as creating an elevator pitch, moving from an idea to a business and defining a business model. The last course is a four-hour bootcamp that acts as a refresher or a workshop makeup.
"We also have these cool mixers where sometimes people have an idea but they don't have somebody in marketing or business, then also sometimes people want to get involved and they're marketing or business people, but they don't have an idea, so we have a mixer where we sort of pair up those types of people," said Karen Harding-Davis, program coordinator for the competition.
After teams participated in the workshops, judges asked questions as teams made dry runs of their pitches throughout the eight months.
"Each step along the way was an opportunity to try to figure out, how do we really respond to the questions that all these different judges are raising?" said program participant Graham Brownstein, who is part of the Global Water Farms group.
Business mentors assisted teams with current business advice and teams continued to hone their plans.
"It's really easy to get really wonky, really fast in talking about this [your product]," said Brownstein. "Ultimately, most of the judges, are not interested in that, because they're not actually investors. They're trying to just very quickly get their heads around, what's our plan, what's our vision, how do we view our initial market niche, how does that translate into building the company?"
The workshops are free, to both competitors and the public.
"It's a really valuable free resource. It's starting back up in October," Harding-Davis said.
Sponsors provide awards up to $10,000. Besides the finalists, award categories include the Biomedical Innovation Award for $4000, Global Poverty Alleviation for $3,000, and Innovation in Food and Agriculture for $3,000. Groups in the past have used their prize money to further their business model. More than 20 sponsors provided funding and endowments.
Several organizations that took part in the competition are seeking investors.
Sierra Energy was a past Big Bang! People’s Choice Winner.
Winners of the competition include:
1st Place ($10, 000)
Raydiant Oximetry has developed a low-cost, noninvasive fetal pulse oximeter that keeps mothers and babies safe during labor and delivery. The device is intended to reduce medically unnecessary C-sections that can create health complications to millions of babies and mothers each year and increase health-care costs.
2nd Place ($5,000)
Chromatiscope aims to boost students’ scientific literacy by combining four specialized laboratory devices — each of which costs thousands of dollars — into a single, easy-to-use device that costs just $40 to $70. The result: More students can have the experiences necessary to excel in STEM.
People’s Choice ($2,500)
This award was voted by the audience.
AthleticOutlook: A Web-based platform that connects high school and college athletes with NCAA-experienced coaches for evaluations, feedback and resources.
Gowan/AGR Challenge Award ($10,000)
Two teams tied for this award and split the cash prize.
FloraPulse is building a data service for growers that provides water stress data for their crops in real time. This could replace current technology (pressure chambers) that dates back to the 1960s and is slow, expensive and often inaccurate.
ReNew Foods is developing great-tasting, healthy snacks from high-quality rescued fruit and vegetable pressings.
Biomedical Innovation Award ($4,000)
Oomni Inc. is developing a drug called Oomnicoxib. When combined with current chemotherapies, the drug will improve cancer treatment.
Global Poverty Alleviation ($3,000)
Reach 1600 Foundation has developed a free, adaptive SAT prep program for students from underserved communities. The software, which could eventually be an integrated education tool, currently serves 16 schools in Oakland. The average SAT score for students that have used the predictive, psychological-based learning program has gone up 400 points.
Innovation in Food & Agriculture Award ($3,000)
WISRAN identifies operation logistics inefficiencies in real time for growers to capture profits.
1st Place Food + Ag Innovation Pitch and Poster Contest ($1,000)
Global Water Farms is working on developing solar powered desalination plants.