After a whirlwind weekend of competition, a winner was crowned for the What’s the Big Idea 48-Hour Launch.
On Jan. 25, seven finalists took to the stage at Scruffy City Hall to present their final pitches to a panel of judges. While all of the pitches were impressive, it was Cathy Vangieri’s Children's Media Studio Sing and Spell that took home the grand prize — up to $10,000 in startup reimbursement costs, one year of free rent at the Fairview Technology Center, and a spot in the upcoming CO.STARTER program through the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center.
Sing and Spell is an interactive learning program that uses colorful animation and original music to teach children the foundations of phonics.
“The intense learning and mentoring of the 48-Hour Launch helped us bring two years of our hard work into the sharp focus necessary to get our great business idea off the runway and into the air,” Vangieri said.
During the finale, each finalist had six minutes to pitch their ideas and two minutes for questions from a panel of judges. Leading up to the event, the finalists worked around the clock to refine and develop their “big ideas” with the help of mentors and coaches at the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center.
“We could not have asked for anything more from our seven teams over the 48-Hour Launch. With the tremendous help of our mentors, every team was able to significantly transform their idea from just a concept into a viable business plan,” said Emily Skaar, entrepreneur coordinator for the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center. “Sing and Spell in particular was able to develop an app over the weekend, which is currently live in the Google Play app store. Having these resources in a concentrated period of time allowed for huge growth in Sing and Spell, and resulted in their win.”
Vangieri said the Sing and Spell team plans to use the prize money to further develop the app.
The six other “big ideas” competing against Sing and Spell were Michael Bowie’s Barboards, specializing in beverage-coaster advertising; Michael Goldsborough’s RESQUE, a social media manager for real estate professionals; Kevin White’s Game Day Weekenders, offering college away-game travel packages; Lisa Page’s Pixel Zombies, creating gear for serious gamers; Zachary Slabaugh’s Traditional Cigar, a custom cigar company; and Ben Farmer’s Maker Networks, a 3-D printing network.
“Everyone who competed in the 48-Hour Launch is a winner,” said Todd Napier, president and CEO of The Development Corporation of Knox County. “With the help of mentors and coaches, these entrepreneurs were able to grow tremendously in just 48 hours, and that is a win in itself.”
This is the first year that the Knoxville Chamber, along with The Development Corporation of Knox County, the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, and Tech20/20, has presented the What’s the Big Idea 48-Hour Launch competition. Prior to this format, the What’s the Big Idea competition stretched over two months. Napier said the 48-Hour Launch brought an exciting new element to the competition.
“The compressed timeline of the competition really tested the participants’ ability to think on their feet and perform under pressure,” Napier said.
What’s the Big Idea 48-Hour Launch was sponsored by Rodefer Moss & Company, PLLC, and Pitts & Lake, P.C., and supported by StaffSource.