Momentix wins first prize in 7th annual Big Idea competition.
By ANUSHA KHANAL
On Feb. 7, Innovation at Colorado College hosted the 7th annual Big Idea final pitch competition at the Richard F. Celeste Theatre. Returning team Momentix, who won $10,000 in last year’s competition, went on to win the first prize this year. They received a seed funding of $15,000 for their startup.
Momentix team of Alana Aamodt ’18 and Anna Gilbertson ’19 won with their educational toy-kit, aimed for children aged 8–12 with the objective to “inspire creative confidence and an intuition for physics by using chain-reaction machines.”
The second prize went to the Advanced Water Sensing team comprised of José Monge Castro ’20, Nick Humphrey ’19, and Jeronimo Miranda ’18. Their startup was a device with the ability to detect toxic metals in water — affordably, accurately, and quickly.
The Big Idea is an annual pitch competition that takes place during Block 5, where CC student teams compete for up to $25,000 for seed funding. The eligibility rules read that student-led initiatives can be from any discipline with a focus on innovation, and that teams must be comprised of at least 50 percent CC students. This year, 11 teams made it to the semifinals, and four presented at the final round.
The competition kicked off in December with 15 teams registering for the competition. It was followed by the Big Idea Half Block, taught by Director of Innovation at CC Dez Stone Menendez ’02 and Director of Quad Innovation Project at CC Jake Eichengreen. Approximately half of the teams participated in the optional Half Block, which aimed to prepare the teams for the second phase of the Big Idea by assisting them in building and refining their packets and pitches.
Next, the student teams submitted their packet materials, including a core value statement, a 1–2 page executive summary of the startup, 1–15 slide presentation deck, and a business model spreadsheet. The 11 teams that were selected for the semifinals presented their ventures to local judges from the Colorado Springs startup scene, after which four teams made it to the finals. Each team was allowed a 10-minute time slot to present their pitch in front of the judges and a five-minute time slot for questions. The four teams that made it to the finals included Momentix, Advanced Water Sensing, Infinite Chemistry, and SaFire.
The five judges for the finals this year included Craig Jonas, founder and CEO of CoPeaceTM PBC; Susan Smith Kuczmarski ’73, co-founder of Kuczmarski Innovation; Michelle Gabrieloff-Parish ’00, Energy and Climate Justice program manager at the University of Colorado, Boulder; UB Ciminieri, chief strategic communications office at Jobber Group; and Jared Barnard ’06, patent attorney at Barnard Law, LLC.
Although the Big Idea event is a pitch competition, its objective is to create actual startups. It is intended to support ventures that are at an early stage and to support teams that have received “limited previous seed funding.” However, this is the second year when returning teams have gone on to win the final prize. The Chica Chocolate team which won last year’s competition with $25,000 for their seed funding had moved up from second position in the previous year.
The program encourages other members from the CC community, including staff, faculty, alumni, or people from the Colorado Springs community to participate. In order to create full transparency, and to address any concerns, potential conflicts-of-interest, and fairness in advance, teams that include members who are not active CC students are reviewed by the Innovation at CC Advisory Board. Staff members, judges of the Big Idea program, or other members who might have a conflict of interest are not allowed to participate.
These eligibility rules seem to come into question for instance, as Aamodt, one of the founders of Momentix, currently works as a paraprofessional of Innovation at CC. She was reportedly not involved in the programming of the Big Idea.
Being one of the few programs on campus that provides a platform for students to get support for entrepreneurial ventures, the Big Idea is one of the most awaited events at CC. It is also one of the few events at CC where the floor is not open to audience feedback.
The timeline for such a big event is quite short. The entire program from beginning to end lasts less than two months. The event takes place during Block 5, where participants are in the middle of an academic block that, in principle, demands a lot from students.
As a highly competitive platform, the Big Idea might seem inaccessible to some students. In order to bridge that gap, the award this year was halved from the $50,000 in previous years to instead allot $25,000 towards the Changemaker Workshop Series. With this, the goal is to increase access and allow more students to participate in similar programs.