Pitch Your Business Idea. Win Cash.

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 1.20.40 PMDo you have a great business idea?

Apply now for a spot in the Northern Kentucky Business Pitch Competition, scheduled for May 27 at UpTech in Covington, Kentucky! Five teams selected by NKY Startups after May 17 will will be eligible to pitch their business before a panel of judges and receive valuable mentoring along the way.

The first and second place prizes will be $1,000 an $500, respectively. The winner will be invited to attend the Angel Summit in Frankfort later this year.

Companies that placed 1st or 2nd in prior competitions are not eligible to participate.  Other rules apply, so be sure to read the fine print.

For more information and to apply, go to this page.

Innovation Rules: Making “It” Work

The Kentucky Innovation Network talked recently with serial entrepreneur and the CEO of SocialCoaster, Jonathan Burdon, who shared his “startup rules.” What he has to say about innovation and trying to make “it” work can be applied by entrepreneurs everywhere.
If you like this brief video, you might also enjoy this email interview with the CEO of Virgin Produced, Jason Felts.
What are your innovation rules?

University of Louisville, UPIKE Teams Win Idea State U Business Competition


Commonwealth of Kentucky
Cabinet for Economic Development

Joe Hall

Rick Johnson


University of Louisville, UPIKE Teams Win Idea State U
Business Competition
Teams from the University of Kentucky, Northern Kentucky University, Western Kentucky University, Lindsey Wilson College, Berea College and Owensboro Community and Technical College also take home prizes

FRANKFORT, Ky. (April 27, 2015) – A student team from the University of Louisville could be the future of cyber security and marketing. And, if so, team members can say they got their start at Idea State U.

Two dozen college teams participated in the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development’s Idea State U Business Plan Competition. The two-day student event, which was held at the Lexington Center over the weekend, identifies and supports the next generation of Kentucky innovators and entrepreneurs. The teams presented their ideas before a panel of judges for the opportunity to win prizes.

Engagely, a team from the University of Louisville, won the top prize of $30,000. The company has developed software that replaces the standard tests used in computing to determine whether or not a user is human. Instead of the user having to type squiggly, fuzzy characters that are often difficult to read, the software asks users to answer a question. The program is designed to defend websites from hackers.

The company also uses the answers, along with other publicly available information (IP address and geolocation), to generate consumer research data. This data helps web publishers better understand their audience and prove user demographics to advertisers, winning better ad revenue while decreasing costs associated with spam.

“This could change the way security and marketing are done on websites,” said Engagely CEO Gil Roberts, a UofL graduate student. “We intend to grow this company right here in Kentucky. This funding will allow us to go back and start hiring people. The Idea State U judges also provided excellent feedback on how we can improve our model.”

Rhizofeed, an herbal extraction company from the University of Pikeville, took home the top prize in the business model portion of the competition. The company aims to target poultry producers looking for alternatives to probiotics or antibiotics.

Using bloodroot harvested in eastern Kentucky, Rhizofeed extracts whole rhizomes for use in poultry feed. Less expensive and more stable than probiotics, rhizome extract has anti-inflammatory properties and has been linked to improving the immune system.

“Our team is mostly science majors, so we’re really learning how to build a business from the ground up,” said Erica Newsome, a UPIKE student and one of Rhizofeed’s founders. “It has been such a valuable learning experience to participate in Idea State U, get feedback from the judges and discuss ways to move our business forward.”

Other top winners from the business plan competition include the following:

  • Homegrown Brewing—University of Louisville: Homegrown Brewing is a microbrewery that will collaborate with the local craft beer community to create its beer. The goal is to develop beer that is “crafted by the people, for the people.”
  • Red Natural—University of Kentucky: Red Natural is positioned to become a leading supplier of natural, non-GMO, red food coloring replacing Red 40, a synthetic chemical used in the food industry.
  • Taboo Dance & Fitness—Western Kentucky University: TD&F introduces new ideas of fitness to the current women’s dance fitness market. The company goes beyond traditional health and fitness to create a sanctuary for building confidence and motivation among women.

Other top winners from the business model competition include the following:

  • EasySync—Northern Kentucky University: EasySync is a smartphone app that increases the organizational skills of students. By simply taking a picture of a syllabus, a student can import all-important exam and assignment dates to his or her calendar.
  • Eco Clean—Berea College: Eco Clean provides a coin-operated laundry service for customers, along with a fluff-and-fold service and access to the Internet, comfortable seating and entertainment.
  • Tree Huggie—Owensboro Community and Technical College: Tree Huggie allows people to customize their indoor and outdoor trees with “outfit” designs. Ideas for design patters can be inspired from sports teams, holidays, special occasions and more.
  • Thread Watch—Lindsey Wilson College: Thread Watch has developed an app that allows users to keep up with the latest fashion trends. It also offers price matching so shoppers can get the most of their money.

Idea State U featured 24 student teams from the following schools: University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, Northern Kentucky University, Georgetown College, University of Pikeville, Berea College, Morehead State University, Eastern Kentucky University, Murray State University, Western Kentucky University, Owensboro Community and Technical College and Lindsey Wilson College.

The winning student teams shared $100,000 in cash prizes. Cash prizes were weighted to provide larger awards to those teams whose entries are more fully developed and therefore, more likely to succeed. Most of the money can be only claimed as reimbursements for specified business expenses after the team forms a legal company in Kentucky.

For more information about Idea State U, visit www.IdeaStateU.com.

College Entrepreneurs to Square Off at Idea State U


Commonwealth of Kentucky
Cabinet for Economic Development


Joe Hall

Rick Johnson


College Entrepreneurs to Square Off at Idea State U
Competition will feature some of Kentucky’s next business ventures; 12 colleges and universities to be represented

FRANKFORT, Ky. (April 21, 2015) – The world’s next major corporation just might be born in Lexington this weekend.

Kentucky’s brightest college entrepreneurs will compete in the Cabinet for Economic Development’s Idea State U, April 24-25 at the Lexington Center. The nationally recognized business plan competition will include student teams from 12 Kentucky colleges and universities presenting business plans and concepts. The winning teams will win a share of $100,000 to get their business up and running.

“We have some of the brightest young minds in the country, and we need to encourage them to build their dreams right here in the Commonwealth,” said Gov. Steve Beshear. “Many of these students participating in Idea State U will go on to form real companies that will create real jobs and grow our economy.”

Idea State U will feature 25 student teams from the following schools: University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, Northern Kentucky University, Georgetown College, University of Pikeville, Berea College, Morehead State University, Eastern Kentucky University, Murray State University, Western Kentucky University, Owensboro Community and Technical College and Lindsey Wilson College.

This is the first year Idea State U has been open to all post-secondary institutions in the Commonwealth. This weekend’s participants placed among the top presenters in one of three regional Idea State U events held last month.

“The teams participating in Idea State U demonstrate a unique ability to not only develop fascinating ideas, but also the aptitude to take these ideas a step further to create potential businesses,” said Mandy Lambert, commissioner of business development for the Cabinet. “More and more students are learning that they can become the next great innovators. We’re pleased to offer them the opportunity to help make their visions become reality.”

During the finals, members of each team will deliver elevator pitches and formal presentations before a panel of judges. The judges will not only determine the winners, but also provide valuable feedback and advice to all participants.

The top six teams will receive prizes. Cash prizes are weighted to provide larger awards to teams whose entries are more fully developed and therefore more likely to succeed. Most of the money can be claimed only as reimbursements for specified business expenses after the team forms a legal company in Kentucky.

The student teams also will continue to work with the Kentucky Innovation Network to pursue their business goals. Consisting of 13 offices throughout the state, the Network helps entrepreneurs and small business owners at any stage – whether it is just starting with an idea or already having an established business – and works with them to plan, build and launch their business.

The Office of Entrepreneurship within the Cabinet for Economic Development oversees Idea State U, as well as an array of other services, programs and initiatives to encourage small business growth. The goal of the office is to streamline the state’s focus and efforts to create and promote a strong culture of entrepreneurship.
The event is open to the media and public. For a schedule and additional information, visit www.IdeaStateU.com.

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Idea State logo_FINAL no green

Entrepreneurs Are Natural Explorers


How is an entrepreneur different from a manager?

Research has shown that entrepreneurs’ brains are wired differently than non-entrepreneurs in that they tend to be quicker to respond to problems and less inhibited. Founders embrace a problem or opportunity — fast — and then become more thoughtful about the implications after the fact….

Explorative tasks involve looking for new ways of achieving a goal rather than focusing on current practices. This type of decision making — which relies on innovation and experimentation — is often exhibited in entrepreneurs. By using both sides of their pre-frontal cortex, entrepreneurs tend to use all of their executive functions whereas managers tend to be more focused on critical thinking.

Source: 4 Tips to Wire Your Brain for Entrepreneurial Wisdom

Jason Felts, CEO of Virgin Produced: “I Don’t Believe in the Status Quo”

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 10.16.02 AMThe CEO of Virgin Produced, Jason Felts, talks about creativity and managing innovation in this brief email interview, originally posted to the IdeaFestival blog. Jason spoke at IdeaFestival 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Scott Barry Kaufman is the founder of the popular web site Creativity Post and cognitive scientist interested in the psychology of creativity. He’s written that the chief characteristic of creative people is “an openness to experience.” Would you agree or disagree with that statement?

I would tend to agree with that statement. I believe “an openness to experience” is important given that one must fully flirt with or explore experiencing interaction with many different types of people- from all cultures- expand oneself outside their comfort bubble by constantly visiting and experiencing new places. Equally important, I feel one should experience art in all forms on a continued basis. These things have personally allowed me to interpret and express my own creatively, drawing from these experiences and hopefully bringing value back to my team which can result in exciting products and work environment at Virgin.

You said at the IdeaFestival last October that Virgin Produced “didn’t lead with revenue. We lead with quality.” How does Virgin Produced make decisions about potentially worthwhile projects that may not be obvious revenue generators?

This is true. Richard Branson once said if you create a great product or service, the revenue will follow. I have adopted that sensibility at Virgin Produced and being a content company, we are focused on the quality of the product we develop, package or produce first. A consumer wants to be able to trust the provider it receives its products and services from. First you focus on quality. Then you build the trust. Then you hopefully sustain the loyalty, which thus brings about the revenue. If you focus only on making money, you risk losing the trust in your product and the loyalty is nonexistent. We have been a part of several projects we believe in that did not make money- the film Machine Gun Preacher is a prime example.

Can you talk about how you’ve created an environment at Virgin Produced that “makes it possible for people not to be afraid to take risks?”

Many companies big and small are fear driven with unapproachable management teams, unbalanced incentive plans and a sense of uneasiness for one’s job security. These are all common denominators, which lead to people being afraid to take risks. Risks, which could and often times drive the business forward to grow and excel. From inception, I have worked really hard to create an environment that is team oriented- irrespective of the “department” you were hired in- everyone is encouraged to play in everyone else’s “sandbox” and everyone is rewarded for one “department’s” success. I also have constant and continued dialogue with every member of my team and encourage doing things, well, differently. I don’t believe in the status quo. In fact, I am 100% against it. There’s always a way to do something different or better.

Given the atomization of media, are there any methods or principles that Virgin Produced uses to break through the media clutter? Could you share those?

We work hand in hand with our sister companies in the aviation, mobile and hotel industries to name a few to drive consumer awareness for our films and content through direct alternative and social driven marketing- this also in turn provides for increased and unique experiences that those consumers receive that no other airline, cell phone carrier or hotel can deliver in house.

At the IdeaFestival in October, Tyler Cowen and Clive Thompson appeared to argue that in our pixelated age that humanities degree is more important than ever. How do you feel about that?

I don’t fully agree with that statement. I feel the principals of humanities are primarily speculative and critical. Sure the humanities disciplines maybe offer methods of addressing ambiguity and paradox but I’m personally a believer in more of an empirical point of view of experiencing and viewing more so than theory.

Be a Rebel

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 8.51.11 AM

The conflation of “rebel” and “reveal” is the perfect description for REBELation. As the web site says,

Be the revolutionary your business needs.

Alltech is known for its animal nutrition, crop science and food and beverage operations, but it has increasingly become known for its message of innovation. Merging science, agriculture, entrepreneurship, business and marketing, REBELation attendees are sure to make valuable connections in their personal and professional lives, and leave inspired.

Make plans now to attend May 17 – 20, and join the thousands of other rebels from dozens of countries who will be there! Keynote speakers include General Colin Powell and University of Kentucky’s men’s basketball coach John Calipari.

Register here.

Follow the activities here:

REBELation Website – http://rebel.alltech.com/
Alltech’s Website – http://alltech.com/
Alltech Blog – http://ag.alltech.com/en/blog
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/AlltechNaturally
Twitter – https://twitter.com/Alltech
LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/company/alltech
Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/AlltechInc/
Instagram – https://instagram.com/alltechinc

Morehead’s Space Science Program Attracts Wireless Leader Rajant

MSULunarCubeAnnoucement500pxHow important is innovation to Kentucky? Rajant, which is a leader in “multi-frenquency wireless solutions,” has decided to locate an office at Morehead, Kentucky, because of the talent being generated by the  university’s space science program.

If you didn’t know that Kentucky has become a leader in very small, sophisticated spacecraft that conform to the “Cubesat” standard, you’re not alone. Morehead State University, though, has steadily developed a reputation for developing and launching these tiny satellites. And that reputation was only enhanced when it was selected recently by NASA to build a spacecraft that will prospect for water ice from lunar orbit!

That announcement, pictured above, was made at the successful IdeaFestival-Aerospace conference held in March in the city.

Rajant plans to locate in a 9,600-square-foot building on Main Street, and will work with MSU to develop robust orbital wireless networks. 

Kentucky Innovation Network Wins National Award for Innovation

Commonwealth of Kentucky
Cabinet for Economic Development


Joe Hall


Kentucky Innovation Network Wins National Award for Innovation
Presented with Achievement in Innovation Award for small business support

FRANKFORT, Ky. (April 9, 2015) – Kentucky has received another national award for supporting small businesses.

Business Facilities magazine, a leading national business publication, presented the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development and its Kentucky Innovation Network with the magazine’s annual Achievement in Innovation Hubs Award. The award is given to the top organizations and programs that exhibit consistent excellence in the development of innovation hubs and supporting entrepreneurs.

“This is a tremendous honor,” said Gov. Steve Beshear. “Kentucky continues to receive national recognition for our growing economy and entrepreneurial support programs. Small businesses are a vital part of job creation, and we are proud to help these innovators achieve their goals.”

A statewide network of 13 offices, the Kentucky Innovation Network helps entrepreneurs at any stage — whether it is just starting with an idea or having an established business — and works with them to plan, build and launch their business.

One of the first state programs to create a network of business leaders and mentors to support new and existing businesses, the Innovation Network, along with the Cabinet’s Office of Entrepreneurship, assisted more than 2,000 small businesses last year.

“Small businesses are a key part of Kentucky’s ongoing, positive economic story,” said Mandy Lambert, commissioner of business development for the Cabinet. “They are a source of new jobs and new ideas. Knowing this, we are dedicated to partnering with small businesses across the Commonwealth and offering resources to help them succeed.”

This is the latest award Kentucky has received for its support of small businesses. Last year, the State Entrepreneurship Index ranked Kentucky fourth in the country for its ability to create businesses. The Commonwealth climbed 45 places from its ranking of 49th in 2013. The Kauffman Foundation and Thumbtack.com gave Kentucky an “A” rating for small business friendliness. Kentucky was the most improved state in the rankings.

The Cabinet also has recently been cited in other national publications for economic growth and for its workforce training programs through the Kentucky Skills Network. The state has received additional recognition for its Kentucky Angel Investors Network, which brings together investors and entrepreneurs to broker deals, and the Kentucky Export Initiative, which focuses on helping businesses export their products around the world.

More details on the Achievement in Innovation Hubs Award can be found here.

To learn more about how the Kentucky Innovation Network is helping small businesses, visit www.kyinnovation.com. Learn more about the Office of Entrepreneurship at www.thinkkentucky.com/entrepreneurship.

What If the Next Medical Breakthrough Doesn’t Happen on Earth?

If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have said ‘a faster horse’ – Henry Ford
A letter bearing good news recently reached the offices of the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation with the subject line of “CASIS RFP 2014-2, ‘Enabling Technology.’”  
Dear Mr. Clements: The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, Inc. (‘CASIS’) is pleased to inform you that your proposal, entitled “MultiLab: Research Server on the ISS…” has been selected for award. 
The award is for enabling technology on the International Space Station, technology that will make micro-gravity research easier for life sciences researchers. 
You might be surprised to know that a Kentucky-built experimental platform is already on the International Space Station. Designed to help experimenters do work inside the ISS, this platform provides a common power bus and can accommodate up to sixteen projects at any one time, each the size of a Kleenex box. 
Kentucky Space and its for-profit spin-off, Space Tango, though, have been working on an even better platform that will exploit the ongoing trend toward miniaturization so that biological and life sciences researchers can explore open questions in their fields. Experimenters already know that genes and cells behave differently in the absence of gravity. Kris Kimel, President of the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation, said earlier this week at IdeaFestival-Aerospace in Morehead, Kentucky, that the environment for applied life science, or “exomedicine,” could be compared to walking into a tropical forest. It’s an apt metaphor. As some of the most diverse biospheres and resource-rich places on Earth, pharmaceutical companies have found that these forests teem with potential therapies for disease. There are undoubtedly discoveries yet to be made.
Kentucky, Kimel added, could be the leader the exomedicine because it is simultaneously creating and serving this new market, not playing catch up against well established competitors in an existing industry. Armed with some forward thinking, ready access to low Earth orbit thanks to an existing agreement with NASA and a growing pool of physical and intellectual infrastructure, Kentucky is well positioned to lead in this marketplace.
How did this happen? There is no catalog of best practices for doing life science in orbit, no widely recognized rules and guidelines. That’s the bad news. The good news? There is no catalog of best practices for doing life science in orbit, no widely recognized rules and guidelines. Faced with the realization that experimenters can now control for one of the four fundamental physical forces in the universe, gravity, Space Tango applied a liberal dose of imagination and engineering know-how long before CASIS pleasantly surprised it last week. It asked itself a series of questions: what research has been done? How can this research be done faster? How can it be done more cheaply? Who might be interested? 
Months ago Space Tango asked, “what if the next medical breakthrough doesn’t happen on Earth? It partnered with Tufts University to fly a regenerative medicine experiment earlier this year.
The rest of subject line of “CASIS RFP 2014-2, ‘Enabling Technology,’” merely confirmed that Space Tango and its parent company, the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation, had been asking the right questions all along. It read as follows: “To Support Science in Space For Life On Earth” 
The lesson for innovators is that the best way to lead a market is to create the market. 
By the way, Morehead State University announced March 31 that it had been asked to build a spacecraft to prospect for water ice on the moon. The size of two loaves of bread bagged side-by-side, this kind of modular spacecraft has become a specialty of the university, which has ample testing facilities to develop and build some of the world’s most sophisticated (and small) space-faring robots. As planned, the craft will orbit only 62 miles above the lunar surface, allowing the team to make systematic measurements of water. By characterizing the available water ice, future surface explorers will not only have access to the universal solvent, but, by splitting the hydrogen from the oxygen in the water ice, will be able to generate rocket fuel for further exploration. Launch of Lunar IceCube is expected in 2017 on NASA’s Space Launch System, or SLS, the most powerful rocket since the Saturn V.
FlownEquipment500px ExoMed-3_500px (1)
“Flown equipment” documentation for an early Kentucky Space micro-gravity experiment
Transfer of ExoMed-3
payload to cold bags prior to Earth return in February. Image courtesy of NASA
For more info go to www.spacetango.com