Business

3 Idaho companies advance to national finals of contest for startups

John Kortibarria, founder of the startup lilcreators,holds a bike made from a kit that can be decorated and assembled by children and parents. He was the first of 20 entrepreneurs to make presentations at the Challenge Cup at Trailhead on Wednesday.
John Kortibarria, founder of the startup lilcreators,holds a bike made from a kit that can be decorated and assembled by children and parents. He was the first of 20 entrepreneurs to make presentations at the Challenge Cup at Trailhead on Wednesday. doswald@idahostatesman.com

Two minutes isn’t much time to explain a complicated business model.

But that’s the challenge facing entrepreneurs competing in an international business contest, including the 20 startup founders who made their pitch at Challenge Cup Boise on Wednesday.

About 200 packed into Trailhead, the Downtown nonprofit that aids startups, to watch entrepreneurs make their judged business pitches. At stake: a chance to advance to the national and then global rounds of Challenge Cup — and millions in startup money.

The three winners were:

▪ GenZ Technology, a Boise-based designer of efficient crop sprayers.

▪ PSiFlow Technology, a Boise-based developer of a smartphone app and analytics system that speeds water testing in countries with clean drinking water problems.

▪ Advanced Ceramic Fibers, an Idaho Falls-based developer of materials that reinforce metals, making them stronger and lighter.

The winners advance to the Feb. 4 national Challenge Cup competition in San Francisco with a chance to advance to the global finals, to be held in Washington, D.C.

Grant Thompson, president of GenZ Technology, said he’d made 40 pitches in the last 18 months while raising nearly $3 million. He said the supportive crowd and genial atmosphere were a departure from more cutthroat pitch events.

“In California, some people you pitch to who won’t shake your hand. They don’t want to know your name,” Thompson said. “These were pretty friendly confines.”

Some companies came with stage experience, including xCraft, a Sandpoint drone developer, which snared a $1.5 million investment as a participant on “Shark Tank,” the TV business-pitch show on ABC.

Others, including Kurtis Leatham, were pitching for the first time. Leatham told the four judges about his Boise company, EZInLays, and its plan to sell woodworking kits to schools as part of their STEM programs.

Leatham, a Trailhead member, said he was pleased with his presentation despite working through some jitters and the fact that his slide show started before he was ready.

“It’s cool to see so many people out here pitching so many different ideas, all gaining traction, all living their dream,” Leatham said. “This is what being an American is all about.”

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