Minnesota Cup Names Finalists in 2011 Competition

Finalists will compete for their respective division title-and then for a $25,000 grand prize and the Minnesota Cup.

Sixteen finalists were named Friday in this year's Minnesota Cup competition-a statewide contest that seeks out the state's newest and most innovative business ideas.

The finalist business ventures, many of which comprise several individuals, join four others that were previously announced in the social entrepreneur category. (Hourcar was named winner of that category in June and will receive a $20,000 division prize.)

The five divisions from which finalists were just announced are high tech, biosciences, clean technology and renewable energy, general, and student. Next up for the finalists is delivering an eight-minute oral presentation to a panel of judges.

The winner from each of the five divisions will be announced August 31, and each winner will receive $25,000 in seed capital (with the exception of the student division winning team, which will receive $10,000). The overall, grand-prize winner will be announced September 8 and will receive an additional $25,000, along with the Minnesota Cup.

This year, for the first time, a runner-up from each division will receive a $5,000 prize.

More than 1,000 participants competed in this year's competition. While some of the finalists have yet to launch their business ideas, others are already up and running. Here's a look at the just-named finalists, along with brief descriptions of their ideas and/or products:

HIGH TECH

  • CRAM: Developed a next-generation digital content delivery platform. 
  • Naiku: Developed a software-as-a-service platform that provides teachers real-time insight into the strengths and needs of their students, creates customized learning profiles, and recommends learning activities.
  • PointTunes: Developed a solution that allows reward- and loyalty-program participants to seamlessly transact points or miles for digital media.
  • QONQR: Provides a cross-platform, multiplayer, location-based game of strategy, where players battle for control of cities and neighborhoods.

BIOSCIENCES

  • AUM Cardiovascular: Developed a point-of-care, non-invasive, fast, hand-held, affordable device that assesses coronary artery disease.
  • QuickCheck Health: Provides rapid tests for common acute conditions and preventative care as a low-cost alternative to visiting a doctor's office or clinic.
  • Symbiome: Developed microbe formulations that will be used to treat gastrointestinal disorders by reconstructing healthy intestinal flora.

CLEAN TECHNOLOGY AND RENEWABLE ENERGY

  • Electric Yacht: Manufactures and sells electric and hybrid motors for sailboats, which are cleaner, greener, and quieter than traditional motors.
  • Energy Max Panel: Developed a product that transforms ordinary construction materials into a seamless insulation system and building envelope without any thermal bridging or air filtration.
  • LightingHouseUSA: Manufactures high-end LED lighting engines for commercial and industrial lighting.

GENERAL

  • Anser Innovation: Is commercializing a platform that enhances remote connection and interaction anywhere, anytime; its first product is a patented device designed for the retail pet market.
  • ForMyChildren: Developed a platform with a virtual vault for gathering, organizing, and securely transferring personal treasures and memories for loved ones.
  • PickPointz: Developed a mobile, Facebook, and Web-enabled application used by sports and entertainment fans to predict event outcomes and accumulate points that can be redeemed for prizes.

STUDENT

  • The CleanGrip: Developed a product that ensures a 100-percent sanitary grocery cart handle.
  • Tesgen: Developed a lightweight power generator that can run on any fuel source.
  • ProtectRx: Developed a device that can be used as a safety measure to keep narcotic medications out of the hands of young adults.

The Minnesota Cup competition is now in its seventh year and has become a major part of the state's entrepreneurial culture. It's put on with the help of an ever-growing list of sponsors, including well-known companies Wells Fargo, Carlson, Digital River, and Xcel Energy. Prize money was boosted to $185,000 this year, and in addition to money, the contest provides entrepreneurs with access to networks, resources, and financing opportunities to help them grow.

“Over the past few years, partners of the Minnesota Cup have gained experience that's helping provide competition participants increasingly beneficial advice, events, and workshops,” Minnesota Cup cofounder Scott Litman said in a statement. “And as more organizations establish a support presence here-The Collaborative, MOJO MN, Project Skyway, Minne-we're seeing a better environment for early stage entrepreneurs.”

Since its inception in 2005, more than 6,000 participants from across the state have entered the Minnesota Cup competition-and finalists from 2009 and 2010 have together raised $32 million in capital. Litman said that this year's group of finalists has “some of the best ideas and most thorough plans we've seen in the history of the competition.”