From a local aquaculturist raising oysters in floating cages to a father and daughter who have competing machine learning applications, the 12 companies selected as the Innovation Awards finalists represent the diverse talent and innovation present in Northwest Florida and those seeking a start here.
The Innovation Awards competition is a triple-win for our region, said Jim McClellan, marketing and communications director for AppRiver who also serves as the chair of Innovation Coast.
“It helps new companies get the boost they need to grow and create jobs, attracts outside venture and angel capital to the area, and promotes Northwest Florida’s ‘brand’ as a place where innovation thrives amid rich history and natural beauty.”
Of the 61 companies that registered for the Innovation Awards, the three companies from each category that received the highest scores will now move on to the next round of the business plan competition.
There is a lot at stake: more than $250,000 in cash and prizes. As the most lucrative business plan competition in Florida, the Innovation Awards is designed to reward startups that demonstrate clear paths to profitability and local jobs creation.
In the post-revenue category, finalists are Robotics Unlimited, Inc., NumNum and Pensacola Bay Oyster Company. Companies in the pre-revenue category are NeuBev, Cognitive Big Data Systems and Fast Informatics. Veterans finalists are Mine Survival, Inc., Invictus Technology Institute and Naggy. Student finalists are Halo Technology, CrowdProof and Home Theater.
Tiffany Sullivan, executive director of Innovation Coast, said she was impressed with the overall breadth and quality of business plan submissions.
“With an influx of capital, the finalists are set on a path to launch a successful business,” Sullivan said. “But what truly sets the Innovation Awards apart is the mentoring aspect of the competition. As these companies go through the process, community business leaders involved in the competition are nurturing them along and helping them prepare for the next step.”
A panel of 18 judges composed of entrepreneurs and experienced business and technology professionals reviewed the business plans and used a 35-point scale to grade companies on commercial potential, funding potential, competitiveness, execution, commitment and resources, technology progress and scale-up potential, and overall impression of company.
The finalists will now work closely with a business coach from the Florida SBDC Network to prepare speaking points and refine their message. On April 13 at the Hilton Pensacola Beach hotel, each company will have 20 minutes to pitch their business ideas to the judges and five minutes for Q&A, a format akin to the popular reality show “Shark Tank.” At the end of the day, eight companies will walk away with gifts and cash prizes, and the title of Innovation Awards winners.
To root for their favorite team or to watch the action as it unfolds, the public can buy individual tickets for $100 to attend the two-day event on April 12 and 13, or companies can purchase a table for up to 10 people for $1,000.
To purchase tickets for the Innovation Awards, visit awards.innovationcoast.com/tickets. If you want to be a sponsor of the flagship event, please contact Tiffany Sullivan at (850) 380-8838.