At Microsoft NERD on Thursday, some of the best up-and-coming local startups stepped onto the stage at the 1776 Challenge Cup and pitched their visions on how to improve the world.
1776 is a global incubator and seed fund started in Washington, D.C., that supports startups with a focus in four “greater good” fields: health, education, transportation/civic tech, and energy. It also runs pitch contests in 16 cities across 11 countries, with the winners — one for each category — heading to D.C. in May for the 1776’s Challenge Festival global pitch contest final.
Many of the companies have already honed their skills by pitching at MassChallenge, while others were obviously pitching for their first time and their nerves were on full display. The ideas were standout, ranging from radical surgical technologies, to a monthly subscription book service for children, to affordable solar panels for home use.
“You really saw a lot of Boston’s DNA, especially with the health care companies,” Evan Burfield, co-founder of 1776, said of the pitches for the event. “And it was great to see the interesting, complex issues that people are tackling.”
After 25 one-minute pitches, the panel of judges that included Bobbie Charlton of MassInnovation Nights, Matthew Peterson of Teach for America, Chris Osgood from the City of Boston’s New Urban Mechanics team, the US Department of Energy’s Matthew Kane, and others, narrowed the startups down to eight, two from each category. The eight finalists gave a five-minute pitch, then answered questions from the judges before the four winners were selected.
“The night was a great testament to the Boston business community,” Burfield said. “It was awesome to see the diversity of competitors. You saw a lot of different people from a lot of different backgrounds, which was really exciting.”
The winners were:
Energy: Orco Power
This Colombia-founded company looks to minimize the environmental impact of oil through a chemical process that allows refinery and drilling sites to use the fuels collected on site for machinery. The company beat out WrightGrid.
Fluid-Screen has developed a quick and reliable way to detect bacteria in fluids, and can be used for municipal water supplies, medical applications, and food processing. Diabetes-monitoring system Admetsys was the runner-up.
MassChallenge company OpportunitySpace locates unused land owned by cities and government and helps them sell, rent, or find ways to reuse the space. It was selected ahead of valet service Zwayo.