Wolverine Venture Battle competition was close

The 2024 Wolverine Venture Battle (WVB) judges favored Fortifly over Tooli, but just barely, to take the top spot last week at the venture pitch competition held by the Center for Entrepreneurship + Innovation (E+I).

The winning team’s idea – and pitch – to gamify healthy habits and build a supportive community for those being treated for eating disorders, garnered the largest “investment” (aka non-equity prize) from the panel of judges and earned the students a $6,350 prize. The Fortifly team includes Audrey Karwowski ’26, Eleni Kasianides ’26, Emma Fiscus ’25, Natalie Gilkinson ’27, Owen Gasser ’26, and Joel Riehl ’26.

Runner-up Tooli, a peer-to-peer tooling, equipment, and service rental app developed and represented at the WVB by Elliot Eyre ’24, claimed a giant check for $6,050.

“The fact that first and second place were within $300 of one another indicates just how close the competition was this year,” said E+I Executive Director and Entrepreneur in Residence Professor Yvonne J. English ‘97. “This was, by far, one of the strongest cohorts of finalists in the history of the Wolverine Venture Battle. It was a very exciting and inspirational day!”

The winnings were determined by a panel of judges and WVB fans in attendance and online who allocated the WVB’s $29,000 prize pool among teams that they think have a winning idea for a new business, product, or service.

“I was so impressed with the level of competition this year,” said E+I Campus Director Logan Hammerschmitt ’16. “Every team rose to the occasion and presented extremely well, making it difficult for our judges to decide who to allocate their prize money to. The energy in the room was tangible and you could feel the excitement as the teams received their prizes.”

Other teams receiving cash prizes were:

  • IDwear – $4,650 (plus $500 Fan Favorite) – Caroline Dawson ’25 and Quincy Chapman ’25. IDwear offers wearable RFID solutions to improve safety and bring convenience to college campuses across the US.
  • Carpenter – $2,450 (plus $1,000 Fan Favorite) – Ethan David ’24, Luke Mantzell ’24, and Michael Crowley ’25. Their idea fosters mentorship through woodworking projects to restore father-figure relationships in the lives of boys and young men.
  • Sleek Real-Estate Photography – $3,300 – Gus Minotto ’24. Sleek Real Estate Photography delivers friendly service, breathtaking media, and 12-hour turnaround times.
  • Striker Socks – $2,500 – Aly Mapes ’24, Katie Blendermann ’24, and Nate Hamel ’24. An athletic sock that relieves calf pressure and reduces ligament injuries through grips on the bottom and breathable fabric in the back.
  • Meet Cute – $700 (plus $1,500 Fan Favorite) – Katelyn Rose Emmons ’24, Elliott Stratton ’24, and Joey Guida ’24. A dating platform that connects compatible singles with local businesses to go on discounted first dates, with the goal of fostering real connections and reimagining online dating to benefit both the user and the venue.
  • SaaSquatch – $650 – Luke Owen ’24, David Lugo ’24, and Caleb Warrick ’24. A SaaS marketing consulting platform for the middle market powered by AI.

The final round of the WVB took place in Sticht Lecture Hall on Friday, May 3. Sixty-three students from 14 different majors and every class year entered twenty-two teams in the first round of the competition. Eight teams made the finals.

This year’s judicial panel included experienced entrepreneurs, founders, CEOs, and a variety of professionals and alumni. They were: RJ Fryan ’08, CEO of Kind Special Alloys US and Lake Park Tool and Machine; Kim Garrett ’12, owner and consultant at Better Made Brands; Justin Driscoll, director of Business Development at IQ Inc.; Darrin Grove ’91, founder and CEO of Truefit; Jordyn Kemats ’03, executive vice president and director of Sales Strategy & Marketing at S&T Bank; Mark Nicklas ’81, president and CEO of Nicklas Supply, Inc.; Ben Nicklas ’08, sales manager at Nicklas Supply, Inc.; Wendy Mascio ’88, serial entrepreneur and GCC Trustee; Patrick Miles, senior project lead, Innovation Services at Chick-fil-A, Inc.; Josh Newton ’09, director of Technology for the Newton Institute; Elisabeth O’Brien ’16, director of Reservations Product for IHG Hotels & Resorts; Mark Pentz ’81, owner and president of Calvin Group Inc.; and Michael Pentz ’06, vice president of Calvin Group Inc.

For a recording of the final pitches and awards, visit gccentrepreneurship.com.

For many finalists, the competition marks the culmination of their journey through an entrepreneurial ecosystem created and managed by E+I. For others, it’s just the beginning of their journey through E+I’s robust entrepreneurial support system. Either way, the prize money and in-kind services may help these teams fuel their commercial and social ventures.

Wolverine Venture Battle competition was close

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