Alumni, student entrepreneurs win investment cash at Demo Day

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Over 75 Venture Devils teams pitched their ideas at the J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute's Demo Day event on Dec. 3. More than $192,000 was awarded to support entrepreneurial ventures in sports, health, technology and more.

Alumni, student entrepreneurs win investment cash at Demo Day

Charlotte Bowens cried tears of joy after she won $10,000 for her startup Concious Gear, which makes outdoor apparel for larger-sized people. Bowens is a graduate student and a staff member at ASU and won the investment at Demo Day, held Friday at SkySong and sponsored by the J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute at ASU. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News 

By Mary Beth Faller

Dec. 7, 2021

Venture Devils competition returns to in-person pitching at SkySong

Entrepreneurship is all about solving problems, and Arizona State University student Jordan Fourcher won $15,000 on Friday for his solution to a common problem in Arizona — overheated mobile phones.

Fourcher, who is majoring in technological entrepreneurship and management, won the funding in the Edson Student Entrepreneurship Initiative at the Demo Day pitch event.

His company, Fourcher Technologies — which previously won $15,000 at the spring Demo Day — specializes in thermal-management solutions for mobile electronics.

“How many of you ever had your phones overheat? I thought, ‘How do we fix that?’” he asked the crowd during the awards celebration at SkySong on Friday night.

“Right now I’m working on a wireless charger that actively cools your phone, and I’m also working on a phone case that gets colder without electricity.”

Fourcher Technologies was one of more than 75 Venture Devils startups that pitched at Demo Day on Friday. Venture Devils is a program to support ASU students, staff, faculty, alumni and community entrepreneurs within the J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute at ASU. More than $192,000 was awarded in eight funding tracks. Venture Devils teams also get access to mentorship and space.

Demo Day is held every semester on the last day of classes, and Friday’s pitch event was the first to be in person since fall 2019 — although the awards event also was livestreamed. Fourcher was among many Venture Devils founders who were pitching in person to judges and an audience for the first time instead of submitting a pitch video.

“When I first walked into the building, I told the judges I wasn’t nervous, I was ecstatic,” he said. “I felt like I was at Disneyland!”

Overall, $90,000 was awarded to sports-related ventures.

Charlotte Bowens wept tears of joy when her name was announced for winning $10,000 in the Global Sport Institute Venture Challenge. Bowens founded Conscious Gear, a line of outdoor-activity clothing for larger-sized people.

“My business is really my passion,” said Bowens, a graduate student in the Innovation and Venture Development degree program and a staff member at ASU.

“It’s really about ensuring that bigger-bodied folk can be in the outdoor space and have the outerwear and gear that they need to be endurance athletes or just get out onto the hiking trails.”

The top winner in the Global Sport Institute funding track was Timeout, an app created by Maya McClendon, a star on the Sun Devils volleyball team before she graduated in 2017. She won $15,000 for the app, which creates a personalized mental health program for athletes and connects them to resources.

Also winning funding was Get Gifted, a venture co-founded by MBA student Michael Matus, who plays football for the Sun Devils. The app connects student-athletes to local businesses for brand deals, now allowed under the new Name, Image and Likeness policy by the NCAA. Get Gifted won $5,000.

There were two new funding tracks this semester: Venture Devils Pay It Forward and the Arizona Coyotes Venture Challenge.

A woman interviews two men on a stage while a seated audience watches.
J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute venture development director Tracy Lea interviews Michael Li, a third-year biomedical engineering student, and his collaborator Ben Voller-Brown, a third-year mechanical engineering student, at Demo Day. They were awarded $4,250 for their venture, Arceate Health Innovation, which makes mosquito net repair kits. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Venture Devils Pay It Forward awarded $20,000, with $10,000 coming from Mat Sherman, a 2016 ASU alum. His donation was matched by the Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute.

“I never thought I would be in this position of not accepting a check but giving a check,” said Sherman, who won funding at Demo Day three years ago for his startup Publoft.

“I think there’s an important obligation for founders who get money at Venture Devils that build important companies to stay in Arizona and to give money to programs that build the ecosystem.”

Four ventures won money from Pay It Forward:

  • Bradley Willett, a 2018 graduate of the W. P. Carey School of Business, won $10,000 for ScripGuard, a locking device intended to prevent prescription medication abuse.
  • Three alumni — Parker Barr, Tesher Cohen and Kyle DeSousa — won $5,000 for their app Koko Ni, which caregivers can use to monitor elderly loved ones.
  • Abigail Obijie, a native of Nigeria who is pursuing an MBA at ASU, won $2,500 for her venture, Pot Heads Tea, a loose-leaf tea company.
  • Michael Wang, who graduated from ASU last spring with a degree in finance and computer information systems, won $2,500 for his venture PeerSquared, a peer-tutoring platform.

Twelve ventures pitched to team executives in the Arizona Coyotes Venture Challenge on Thursday, and the winners were announced at the awards ceremony Friday night. Xavier Gutierrez, president and CEO of the Coyotes, appeared via Zoom from his suite at Gila River Arena in Glendale right before game time.

“I’m really excited about this effort to partner with ASU and the Global Sport Institute, and this was very exciting for us,” Gutierrez said. “A key part of our business plan is around innovation and being top-of-mind and best-in-class partners for entrepreneurs.”

The winning ventures were Suji, a Scotland-based venture that makes a compression-training system, which won $30,000; Train Fitness AI, a Canadian venture that created a rep-counting app for Apple Watches, which won $20,000; and Adapt the Game, an app to improve the game-day experience for fans with disabilities, developed by Victor Ocando, a Tempe resident who uses a wheelchair and participates in Devils Adapt. Adapt the Game won $10,000.

Other funding winners were:

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