From Fish to Raves, the Big Idea Funds CC Startups

King of the Sea received first place in the Big Idea. Photos by Emilia Whitmer
King of the Sea received first place in the Big Idea. Photos by Emilia Whitmer

King of the Sea, brainchild of  seniors Nick Kramer and Peter Wailes, received a $25,000 check at the Big Idea competition to market the invasive lionfish as a sustainable alternative to more common fish. Neonic tied with King of the Sea for first place. Presented by first-years Cormac Siegried and Nick Ravich, the startup won $20,000 to promote their app, which can turn a concert audience into a light show through their smart phones.

Spindle, a memory-enhancing sleep mask created by sophomores Ben Hicks and Alec Sheffield, came in third, receiving $5,000.

The Big Idea, created in 2013, is part of a larger movement to promote innovation at Colorado College, including the innovator in residence, innovation Thursdays, and the innovative minds series.

Five teams presented to the panel of judges and a crowded theater. They were the last standing of the 17 teams that originally applied to the contest. King of the Sea, Spindle, Pick Up, I-Vest Colorado, and Neonic each made a 10-minute pitch to the five judges, and answered follow-up questions as best they could.

King of the Sea, first to present, explained the widespread destruction of marine ecosystems from Massachusetts to Venezuela caused by lionfish, a native of the Indian Ocean. Combining the best of a sea bass and lobster, the lionfish is delicious as well as destructive.

Taking advantage of a large-scale trapping program (to be implemented in the fall of 2016), King of the Sea plans to encourage fishermen to actively trap lionfish, and to connect them with restaurants in Colorado Springs and around the nation. “If we could overfish these populations, it would be great,” the team explained, citing widespread damage to coral reefs.

IMG_6421Spindle gave the second presentation. With a promise to improve memory consolidation during slow-wave sleep, Spindle believes their sleep mask can improve recollection by around 70 percent. Hicks and Sheffield denied the idea that there would be a trade off between memory and other sleep-related benefits, explaining that it simply made one phase of the sleep cycle more efficient.

Pick Up, which did not place, plans to create an online platform to connect students with intramural sports teams. With 8.4 million college students in the U.S. participating in intramural sports, Pick Up believes it has a large enough market to be successful.

I-Vest Colorado, a crowdfunding website for Colorado startups, seeks to take advantage of Colorado’s new investment policies, which allow non-accredited investors (net worth less than 1 million) to partner with startups to get ideas off the ground. Under state law, Colorado startups can only receive non-accredited investments in state, freeing I-Vest from large competitors.

IMG_6412Neonic finished the presentations with a flash. Planning on “turning the audience into a light show,” Neonic is (unsurprisingly) targeting the electronic dance music industry. The app allows venues to display images across audiences’ smart phones based on their location.

Although only three startups received funding, all five are planning to continue pursuing their goals.

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