Our first two pitch competitions were great successes, and we are excited to have two innovative winning teams and many finalists that shared their new start-ups and business ideas with the UA and city of Akron communities. Every participant helps the EX[L] Center realize its' mission.


BE THE CHANGE 10K Social Entrepreneurship Challenge

Be the change 10k logoErie Open Spec wins $10,000 grand prize!

We proudly thank The Akron Leadership Foundation for sponsoring #BeTheChange10k Social Entrepreneurship Challenge.

The winning team, Erie Open Spec, is comprised of Dr. Jiansheng Feng, Banafsheh Khakipoor (Biomimicry PhD candidate,) and Kelly Siman (Biomimicry PhD candidate) who developed a low-cost DIY Spectrometer to measure Phosphate and Nitrate in water samples via a smartphone image.

We will build a social platform, to create a culture of caring and protecting the environment - starting with our already available technology. It benefits the community by raising awareness of the environmental issues people face locally and globally, and cultivating a collective consciousness in which every member of the society takes on the responsibility to proactively protect and preserve the natural environment.

Read Changing the World One Pitch at a Time by Alissa Danckaert-Skovira.

group of networkers at EXL pitch event
team with big check and other guests of the event


The five silver winner finalists received $800 towards their startups.

Better Nutrition at Your Doorstep

  • Sydney Goulden
  • Elisha Banks
  • Dajah Hughley
  • Abby Perkins
  • Christin Seher, MS, RDN, LD


  • Corey Cargill
  • Dmitry Klingensmith

Tail-Wags (for smiles)

  • Anna Tombazzi
  • Hannah Adams


  • Katy Nichols
  • Andrew Durr

  • Bethany Friedrichsen
  • Tim Elliot

FALL 2017

UA Startup Challenge

HungerPearks team with big checkHungerperks is EXL's first pitch competition grand prize winner!

Sponsored by Burton D. Morgan Foundation, the first UA Startup Challenge finals were a great success and networking event for entrepreneurship.

The winning team, Hungerperks, is comprised of Sam Borick (Computer Science), Kyle Flynn (alum- Marketing Management), Julia Mallinak (alum - Marketing & Sales Management and Integrated Marketing Communications) and Nick Neral (Marketing Management).

HungerPerks is an app that lets users find new restaurants by taking short surveys to earn free food. We work with restaurants to craft food incentives (or SuperPerks) to help them grow and attract new customers, and to understand their customers better with custom surveys.

group of networkers at EXL pitch event
members of the HungerPerks team
HungerPearks team with big check and other guests of the event


November 30, 2017 at 5 - 9 p.m.

The Bit Factory 526 South Main St. Suite 511 Akron, OH 44311

Meet & Greet

How it worked

Each finalist gave a five minute pitch, followed by a Q&A with the judges, and presented a PowerPoint to expain:

  1. the problem they are trying to solve and the solution
  2. their go-to market strategy
  3. their target market
  4. how they are different from competitors
  5. overview of team and why they can execute


The winner was chosen based on 55% vote from judges and 45% vote from the audience and received $10,000. The five finalist "gold winners" received $800 towards their startup, the semi-finalist "silver winners" received $100 toward their startup and the "bronze winners" received $50.

DeepHire Team DeepHire TeamNick Crawford | Computer Science
Steven Gates | Computer Science
Russell Ratcliffe | Computer Engineering

DeepHire is a software tool that solves the two biggest pain points a business has in the recruiting process: we source and screen candidates for a business. On the mobile app, job seekers get to swipe between a list of companies and get an 'inside look' at particular company's culture. Our algorithms detect when a job seeker is engaged with a particular company. If the job seeker passes each personalized interview question, they are recommended to the company as a potential good hire.

CV-600 wheelsJeffery Lowery| Mechanical Engineering

Lowery Racing manufactures motorsports and automobile products for the flat track motorcycle racing industry, as well as reselling products purchased at wholesale.

Tombazzi and Kordahi Moovboard prototypeAnna Tombazzi | Chemical Engineering, minor - Business, Mathematics, Chemistry
Ryan Kordahi | Chemical Engineering, minor - Business

To combat the negative effects of sitting for long periods of time, two chemical engineering students, who are also minoring in business, have set out to create an ergonomically-sound portable device that fits under a desk and mimics the movement of walking.

electrical and computer engineering students North Star Bots Nikolai Ruhe | Engineering
Reed Jacobsen | Engineering Creighton Cloud
Nathan Dornback | Engineering
Walker Grossman | Engineering

This team of senior electrical and computer engineering students are on a mission to break the world record for the longest drone flight by a multi-copter. With their patent-pending technology, they believe they can achieve indefinite flight times. Applications include surveillance, delivery, cinema and more.

Dustin Ficker Precision Aerial's drone Dustin Ficker | Mechanical Engineering Technology

This company uses drones paired with high resolution camera sensors to get accurate and high res photos for inspection of tall or intricate infrastructure. Traditional methods are dangerous, time consuming and can yield mediocre results. Their method allows for cost reductions, efficiencies two to three times as high as traditional inspection methods and increased quality.