The Big Launch Challenge

The Launch Place received 59 applications for the Big Launch Challenge and invited the top 10 companies to pitch.  To date, $119,000 in awards have been given to 9 companies since the first competition was held in 2013.

VitalFlo, focused on preventing asthma attacks, took home the top prize of $20,000 for first place. PT Wired, which provides a digital solution for the physical therapy industry, was awarded $10,000 for second place. The Audience Choice winner, The Wed Clique, received a $2,000 award.

“Based on the number of inquiries, The Big Launch Challenge has become a highly anticipated event in the region,” said Eva Doss, President and CEO of The Launch Place. “Not only does the competition provide entrepreneurs with prize money, but it also serves as a platform for them to learn about The Launch Place’s entrepreneurship services and investment opportunities in Danville, Virginia.”

VitalFlo is a digital health company that is redefining the standard of care for asthma management. The company utilizes mobile handheld spirometry test and a digital health management app to enable asthmatic patients to track their lung health and asthma medications at home. Luke Marshall, Founder of VitalFlo, is a scientist turned entrepreneur who is passionate about taking scientific innovations from the lab bench into the real world through startups. Despite good medicinal treatments and known triggers, asthma attacks are disruptive to patients' lives, are costly, and occur with little warning. This is because asthma management is plagued by bad data. High-quality lung function data is only accessible in-clinic, where it is collected too infrequently to have predictive value. Current take-home devices are inaccurate and provide low-value data. By enabling the collection of daily lab-quality lung function data at home, VitalFlo can predict patients' risk of an asthma attack and provide actionable recommendations to prevent their occurrence. 

big launch challenge winners

PT Wired enables physical therapists to provide better services to patients through software and mobile devices.  Vikram Sethuraman, Founder & CEO of PT Wired, is a 2016 graduate from UNC- Chapel Hill, where he majored in Business Administration and co-founded PT Wired during his junior year.  Completion of at-home exercise routines is extremely important for a successful recovery in physical therapy, yet only 30-35% of patients adhere to their prescribed routines. This is because current prescription methods suffer from inefficiencies, poor communication, and a lack of patient accountability. Patients are typically given a piece of paper that is easily lost or forgotten, or simply oral instructions. Non-adherence often leads to prolonged rehabilitation timelines, and, in some cases, additional surgical procedures. Furthermore, the lack of patient engagement during out-of-clinic rehabilitation results in increased documentation burden for physical therapists. Physical therapists are disconnected from patients in between clinic visits, and often spend 15-25% of an appointment talking to patients to learn how they have been progressing since the last clinic visit. Afterwards, physical therapists must painstakingly document these discussions in the electronic medical records. PT Wired is a physical therapy SaaS product that enables physical therapists to provide better service to patients while saving time in the process. Patients receive a mobile app with videos, notes, and reminders to guide them through their routine. Physical therapists are able to track patient progress/outcomes and save time with documentation.

The Wed Clique, a product of Techstars startup accelerator program, is an ecommerce platform that enables brides to shop and book their dream wedding venues, with one simple click.  Lisa Ganderson, CEO and Co-founder, is a Duke MBA graduate with background experience in finance and venture capital.  Couples spend, on average, 500 hours planning their weddings. The first step in this process is to browse Pinterest and other visual inspiration blogs. Couples cannot purchase the goods or services from these images, and instead are left individually sourcing over 15 professional vendors to recreate their favorite images. In addition, the content they are recreating, was produced by vendors that will never get credit or a booking for their work. These images aren’t driving revenue back to vendors, because they aren’t actually bookable. The Wed Clique is putting a buy button on customized styled shoots, creating localized, auto-curated vendor packages matched to a bride's unique vision for her event. With the One-Click Wedding platform, a bride can book the exact vendor team that has already worked together at her venue, and created the exact style of wedding she wants. Vendors, in turn, get booked more frequently, and earlier in the planning process creating increased revenue and business predictability.

10 Finalists

  • Dough 4 Degrees - Dough 4 Degrees is an online education center that teaches students how to obtain scholarships enabling them to graduate college debt free.
  • LivingLAB - LivingLAB is a platform for easily finding high quality roommates with mutual interests for rental property.
  • NeuroVice - NeuroVice is developing The Protector Against Tongue Injury (PATI), a symptom-management, oral device technology that prevents, oral trauma, tongue biting, and drooling during seizures.
  • PT Wired - PT Wired, the fully feature digital solution to the physical therapy industry that enables physical therapists to provide better services to patients through software and mobile devices.
  • Purillume - Purillume is a LED lighting Startup Company that is committed to helping people create and enjoy superior, personalized lighting environments. Purillume focuses on providing bright, high quality natural light to indoor spaces.  
  • SharkDreams - SharkDreams is a digital healthcare company that is redefining the way patient health is monitored by combining software, hardware technology, cloud-based data analytics, and artificial intelligence capabilities.
  • SmartBridge - Smartbridge is an online platform that gives cancer patients 24/7 remote access to quality-verified oncologists, on a freelance basis.
  • The Waggle Company - A tech-enabled, on-demand dog walking and pet care company.
  • The Wed Clique - The Wed Clique is an ecommerce platform that enables brides to shop and book their dream wedding venues, with one simple click.
  • VitalFlo - VitalFlo is a digital health company that is redefining the standard of care for asthma management. The company utilizes mobile handheld spirometry test and a digital health management app to enable asthmatic patients to track their lung health and asthma medications at home.

Judges for big launch challenge

Judges

  • Stephen Clossick, Fund Manager, Triangle Angel Partners
  • Bob Creeden, Managing Director, University of Virginia Seed Fund & New Ventures; Board Member, The Launch Place Seed Fund
  • Jan Davis, Board Member, Angel Investor, Executive in Residence; Board Member, Chair, The Launch Place Seed Fund
  • Paul Nolde, Director, NRV
  • James Ramey, Principal and Fund Manager, Virginia Tech/Carilion Innovation Fund
  • Andy Schwab, President, First Flight Venture Center; Founder & Director at RTP Capital 

View Judges Profiles

The challenge is an annual event and offers startups valuable business networking and capital opportunities, as well as critical resources. The goal of The Big Launch Challenge is to foster entrepreneurship by offering education, team creation, mentorship, early-stage prototyping, and potential follow-on seed financing.  Startups from the nanotechnology, green technology, alternative energy, advanced manufacturing, advanced materials, medical devices, and information technology industries were invited to apply for The Big Launch Challenge’s fourth year.