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InnoVention’s first-ever virtual finals

Featuring pro-level pitches, tough judges, and an occasional pet cat

2 students displaying porta-potty prototype

Mechanical engineering student Anthony Wang and his teammate, Nathan Weinstein of NYU Stern School of Business, took home the first-place prize at InnoVention (pictured here at last falls' Prototype Fund Showcase).

It’s no surprise that the InnoVention Society, a club with invention and innovation embedded right in its name, was undaunted by the prospect of holding its Demo Day finals on a virtual basis. InnoVention, NYU Tandon’s flagship entrepreneurial competition, had kicked off back in January, well before prohibitions against meeting in groups were put in place. Midway through their work, however, the initial cohort of 16 teams (including, for the first time, competitors from NYU Abu Dhabi, thanks to a partnership with global startup accelerator startAD) moved to brainstorming, attending seminars, and iterating their prototypes remotely.

Under the leadership of InnoVention’s new president, Neal Rooney, the competitors persevered, and on April 29, Demo Day was held, just as planned. By then, teams had honed their pitching skills, and with hundreds of spectators watching, they gave impeccable presentations — even the two teams from Abu Dhabi, who gave no indication that it was 2 a.m. there.

Dean Jelena Kovačević welcomed viewers (at a more reasonable 6 p.m. EST), affirming Tandon’s commitment to supporting student entrepreneurs and inventors, and as always at InnoVention, Tandon students were well-represented among the teams.

screenshot of Dean as keynote speaker

Screenshot of InnoVention's Demo Day keynote speaker, Dean Jelena Kovačević

The finalists included

  • Matrix, which is developing wearable to measure audience reaction during movie screenings and whose chief technology officer is computer science major David Nakhapetian. (Malika Baymuradova, who is studying business and technology innovation, serves as the chief innovation officer.)
  • SitEat, a platform offering advance online ordering and pickup services for fans at sporting events, developed by mechanical engineering master’s student Martins Udotai.
  • Rethinking the Porta-Potty, an idea co-developed by mechanical engineering student Anthony Wang (along with Nathan Weinstein of Stern) that could result in more sustainable, cost-efficient public restrooms.

The judges broke off into a separate Zoom session to deliberate, but viewers did not seem to mind the interlude in the proceedings: audience polls were conducted; various roommates made inadvertent appearances as is typical on Zoom; and  InnoVention’s past president, Tim Nugmanov, used the opportunity to introduce his cat and show off its feather-batting skills. 

By the time the judges returned, camaraderie and excitement were high despite the physical distance separating viewers, and everyone was cheered by the results, which found New Money in a tie for third place and Rethinking the Porta Potty taking home the first-place prize of $15,000.

And while it took rethinking InnoVention, everyone agreed that the event had been well worth the effort.

Other winners included Dukan, an Abu Dhabi team that split third place for its platform to connect used car parts buyers and sellers, and Jagged, the other Abu Dhabi team, which garnered second place for its platform to connect high school students with mentors.

Tandon semi-finalists who didn’t have the opportunity to pitch but who showcased their ideas during the event included

  • AutoManus, which is building a product that provides data collection and analysis for project managers.
  • Exchange, which helps aspiring data scientists attain their dream jobs.
  • Crates, which is building a web-based application that provides a platform for patients to conduct remote diagnoses, as well as connect with appropriate medical professionals with ease.
  • Evolve, which offers educational training services leveraging analytics and insights to support gamers who want to compete at eSports level.
  • ChatBite, an application that allows college students to overcome their loneliness and need for physical communication by meeting new peers with similar interests for a meal or an engaging conversation that can potentially flourish into a friendship.

The Judges

  • Steve Kuyan, Future Labs Managing Director (and Tandon Director of Entrepreneurship)  
  • Alice Kuo, Startup Boost New York
  • Zak Kukoff, Investor at Emergence Capital
  • Sonia Marciano, Professor at NYU Stern
  • Jenny Fielding, TechStars Managing Director