Startup Tucson Awards $65,000 to Local Entrepreneurs

On April 15, local non-profit Startup Tucson held Southern Arizona’s largest entrepreneurial conference and annual pitch competition, IdeaFunding, designed to celebrate the resiliency of small businesses and new business starts. 

Digital this year, the event was attended by 1,370 participants from over 320 cities across the globe. In all, 80 companies participated, competing for over $65,000 in cash in prizes, with most receiving free additional training and support from Startup Tucson and the University of Arizona Center for Innovation.

In addition to the large diversity of online attendees, of note, the event was attended by almost 100 investors, providing incredible exposure for Southern Arizona’s growing innovation ecosystem. The event’s title sponsor was the Arizona Commerce Authority and was co presented Pima Community College and the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship, along with over 30 other community partners and was broadcast live from Arizona FORGE at Roy Place. 

The 2021 winners included:

Mainstage Pitch Prize Winner ($10,000 in cash and a year of free incubation at University of Arizona Center for Innovation, valued at $10,000)/ Consumer Product winner ($5,000):

Micro Safari: The Micro Safari is like an ant farm, but instead of ants, there is an entire universe of microorganism species for you to explore. At the core of the Micro Safari is a self-contained micro-ecosystem habitat that contains 10,000+ live organisms and 30+ different species. Think of it like a giant microscope slide, sealed with all the right conditions to support a thriving ecosystem that can last for 6 months without needing you to feed or water it.

Biotech and Life Sciences ($5,000):

Metfora: Metfora is pioneering a revolutionary method for diagnosing disease. It is based on the analysis of metabolites in blood. Metfora scientists have shown that the levels of these metabolites is reflective of the health status of the individual. Machine learning algorithms are able to discern the presence of a wide range of diseases from the pattern of metabolites present even at an early stage of disease progression.

Software as a Service ($5,000):

Patter: Patter is a software application that allows teams to better organize and manage their meetings resulting in a reduction in the number of meetings and better meeting results. Our platform integrates with current team tools and workflow to allow meeting organizers to prepare their meeting, allocate only the amount of time needed and send via Google Calendar. Organizers can take notes and track follow ups directly in the meeting and attendees can follow along with a unique link.

Science & Tech: ($5,000):

Paramium Technology: Currently, precision of the panels that form the parabolic reflector require special manufacturing methods that increase costs and limit the design geometry of the antenna. Researchers at the University of Arizona developed a method of fabricating high precision compound curve reflective panels, enabling ground station and radio telescope designers to create affordable complex reflector shapes. The inventors founded Paramium Technologies, a UArizona spin-off to commercialize this technology.

United Way Social Impact Award: ($5,000 for a company making exceptional social impact)

Diabetes Now: A direct-to-consumer healthcare company for people with diabetes offering low-cost healthcare, concierge medicine and wholesale pricing on pharmaceuticals.

Adelante Arizona: ($5,000 for strong companies founded a women or BIPOC founders)

Ku’Panda: Ku’Panda: True. Vegan. Glow. sells handcrafted herbal tea skincare products to millennials and gen z’s. Inspired by Tucson’s dry air, Ku’Panda specializes in hydrating solutions that utilize the benefits of freshly brewed tea from wildcrafted herbs locally sourced in Tucson. Ku’Panda offers ultimate ingredient transparency, includes research proven active ingredients and handcrafted skincare delivered to your door.

Obánj: Obánj is a luxury jewelry company where the world’s most stylish and conscientious women borrow designer jewelry (Dior, YSL, Gucci, etc.) for $29/month. Obánj represents the future of fashion because the circular economy is the best alternative to fast fashion. The production of fashion

Optic Valley Optical Award: ($5,000 for an optical company with strong potential)

USAT: Nearly 40% of the world’s population–and 30 Million Americans–do not have reliable, fast, and affordable internet connections. Our satellite system is cheaper, smaller, faster, and more reliable than current attempts to make the internet more accessible. Endorsed and funded by the National Science Foundation, we imagine a future where everyone who connects to a communication satellite will do so through a USAT antenna.

McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship Young Entrepreneur Prize: ($5,000 for founders 25 and under)

Revolute Robotics: Revolute Robotics has created the first energy-efficient, spherical hybrid robot capable of both rolling and flying. Our beachhead market is agriculture, wherein Revolute enables commercial farms to collect data on every plant. This greatly increases production output, reduces operating costs, and preserves valuable resources.

People’s Choice Award: ($1000 for a company selected by the community through online voting on the day of the event)

TheraCea Pharma: TheraCea is developing a proprietary technology to prepare products for early detection and evaluation of therapy in cancer & neurological disorders.

In addition to the above startups, the event also celebrated main street small businesses and creative entrepreneurs, awarding “Community Resiliency Prizes” to five local businesses nominated by the community. These awards were given to La Luna Coyote, Blax Friday, True Concord Voices & Orchestra, This N’ That Creative and Boss Women Unite in recognition of the innovation and creativity they have each shown in their businesses during COVID. Finally, three Creative Battles awarded prizes to outstanding digital performances for music, Lara Ruggles, comedy, Unscrewed Theatre, and mixology, Cocktail Lab AZ. 

Next year’s IdeaFunding is planned for Spring of 2022.

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