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Monday, March 20, 2023

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Nearly two dozen student teams presented their business ideas at the fifth annual Zahn Challenge. Nearly two dozen student teams presented their business ideas at the fifth annual Zahn Challenge.

Innovation on Display at Annual Zahn Challenge

Student entrepreneurs pitched their business ideas to win cash prizes at the annual competition.
By Gina Jacobs

When Allison Langley walked into the conference room at San Diego State University’s Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center, she knew her business pitch cold but the junior computer engineering major never had so much on the line.

Her company, Chrysalis, was one of more than a dozen participating in the Zahn Challenge, the annual business pitch competition hosted by SDSU’s Zahn Innovation Platform (ZIP) Launchpad. Like Langley’s Chrysalis, each of the companies in the Zahn Challenge has been developed and nurtured at the ZIP Launchpad.

Chrysalis is a skin monitoring system and mobile application designed to empower individuals to track changes over the surface of their bodies and aid physicians in the early detection of skin cancer.

“My mom was diagnosed with melanoma three years ago and she is continually worried about her skin and watches every mole,” Langley said. “Because of her experience, our entire family became more aware and realized how easily tiny changes could go undetected. I could not find an option to help us watch for these cancerous changes and that’s how I came up with the concept for Chrysalis.”

After laying out her business plan for the panel of entrepreneurial-minded judges, Langley took home the top prize, a portion of the $5,000 in cash made possible by donor support including that of Peter Zahn, president of the Moxie Foundation.

“With this new investment we will be able to continue development, secure patents and help further establish our business,” said Langley, who plans to continue working with the ZIP Launchpad this semester with the goal of turning her prototype into a more consumer ready product.

Companies in the Zahn Challenge entered one of two categories and were evaluated based on a number of criteria: the significance of the problem, whether their solution was compelling enough, ability to address a large market opportunity, and their ability to differentiate themselves.

Some companies participated in the ZIP Launchpad’s 10-week cohort-based intensive entrepreneurship program called the Experience Track. The winners were:

First Place: GreatDef
Team: Marc Perez (information systems) and Michael O’Leary, M.D.
GreatDef is a patent-pending, integrated hardware/software solution that captures high quality surgical images in a simple and more secure way. The all-military veteran team includes graduate student Marc Perez and Michael O'Leary, a local ear nose and throat specialist.

Second Place: Recyclinator

Team: Jordan Custodia, Matt Penning, Sean Bennett and Cassandra O’Shea (mechanical engineering)
Recyclinator is a team of mechanical engineering students developing solutions to help craft breweries reduce their carbon footprint while saving money.

Third Place: WellWare
Team: Josh Munoz (accounting)
WellWare food containers are made from 100 percent non-toxic plastic using naturally sustainable plant materials. Their proprietary bioplastic is certified free of any toxic leaching, which have been linked to various health problems.

After participating in the Experience Track, or E-Track, companies that met certain requirements and benchmarks were selected for the Launch Track. Launch Track companies receive intensive support and guidance at no cost. The Launch Track winners were:

First place: Chrysalis
Team: Allison Langley (computer engineering), David San Juan (finance), Josue Campos (mechanical engineering) and Ashutosh Gupta (computer science)
Chrysalis skin monitoring system gives individuals the ability to proactively track changes over the surface of their bodies and aid physicians in the early detection of skin cancer with a mobile application. Chrysalis aims to help facilitate physicians’ diagnoses and reduce the number of unneeded biopsies and skin surgeries.

Second place: Tunnel Vision
Team: Cody Russell (MBA)
Tunnel Vision gives everyone the opportunity to experience skydiving while in the safety of a wind tunnel by using virtual reality. According to founder Cody Russell, current “indoor skydiving” experiences are just wind tunnel flying, making Tunnel Vision a more realistic experience than what is currently available to thrill seekers of all ages and risk adversities.

Third place: Bold Brew Coffee
Team: Jack Doheny and Jacob Solomon (mechanical engineering)
Bold Brew Coffee is a high-energy natural alternative to energy drinks marketed exclusively to action sports athletes and enthusiasts. Founders Jack Doheny and Jake Solomon are working with Aztec Shops to sell their fresh-brewed product in East Commons every Friday.

Spring applications for participation in the ZIP Launchpad are due on Feb. 5, 2017. Apply online at the ZIP Launchpad website or visit the center during “Idea Office Hours” from 1-2 p.m. on Wednesdays in the Education and Business Administration Building (EBA 419).