October 18-20 | Tucson, AZ

The Research Institution GAP Fund and Accelerator Program Summit

Accelerate Start-up Challenge Provides Platform For Bostonian Students To Pitch Ideas For $$

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October 18-20, 2023 / Tucson, AZ
The annual summit for research institution gap fund and accelerator programs, including proof of concept programs, startup accelerators, and university venture funds

The Story

A semester’s worth of brainstorming, planning, strategizing, and designing came down to Pitchfest, where interdisciplinary teams participating in the Accelerate Startup Challenge pitched their projects to a group of alumni, mentors, and representatives of Boston’s innovation ecosystem. The event took place the evening of November 14 in Accelerate, Wentworth Innovation + Entrepreneurship Center.

Alpha Industries (Josh Willis, BSE; Greg Frasco; Ryan Cataldo, BSME; Rae Rice; and Caleb Jackson, BEME) was the most funded team of the evening, awarded $8,000 from the judges’ panel.

Also receiving gap funding to move their early stage ideas to the next level were Aqua Lung (Peter Buckus, BSE; Tyler Castle, BSE) at $2,000, Modular Branch System (Ron Chau, BMET; Rodney Chery, BIND; Robertha Perez, BMET; and Derek Wong, BSCE/BSAM) at $2,000, and Gnar Guard (Scott Venti, BIND; Ian Gagnon, BSE) at $1,000.

Other teams not receiving funding, but recognized by the panel, included ImpactAlert (Alex Schwarzkopf, Electromechanical Engineering; Dylan Powers, Electromechanical Engineering; and Mathew Joyal, Electromechanical Engineering, for product innovation and commercialization potential, as well as Resistance (Scott Bonney, Electromechanical Engineering; Brandon Dryer, Electromechanical Engineering; and Kimberly Silva, Industrial Design, for team cohesiveness and constellation.

Thursday’s Pitchfest was the fourth iteration of the event, which finds teams looking to secure funding in the hopes of making their ideas a reality. Fifty-three ideas were submitted at the beginning of the fall semester as part of the Startup Challenge before they were narrowed down. The 12 teams, which hail from various disciplines and and included first-year student teams, immersed themselves in boot camps, worked with mentors, and prepared their business plans over a ten-week period.

“The ideas put forth continue to showcase Wentworth’s strength within product and technology innovations,” said Monique Fuchs, associate vice president, Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “Many of the teams demonstrated prototypes, which is quite remarkable at such an early stage.”

Five judges were on hand for the event including Jeffrey Altschuler, founder and CEO of Altronics Manufacturing; Bagley Ethan, principal innovation catalyst at Constant Contact; Rick Grundy, VP and director at AVTECH Software; Karen Reuther, creative director and brand specialist at Cast Collective; and Larry Blumsack, founder of Zoka Institute and Zoka Training.

“Our teams are makers and it is incredible to see how many of them came with prototypes at such an early stage pitch round,” said Fuchs.

Prior to the Nov. 14 event, 15 teams had been funded through Pitchfest for a total of $78,000.

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