University of Dayton alumnus Zach McHale won first place and $25,000 for his stadium seat device in the University of Dayton’s 11th annual Flyer Pitch competition, one of the largest collegiate-level business plan contests in the country.
McHale’s patent-pending Neet Seat is a pouch that can be attached to stadium and arena seats to hold coats and other items. McHale, a 2006 graduate who studied chemical engineering, was announced as the winner during a banquet Tuesday night after six rounds of multi-national competition featuring more than 200 teams.
On March 25, teams had 20 minutes each to pitch business ideas to a table of judges, followed by 10 minutes of questions. The judges included business advisors, investors and others involved in Dayton’s start-up ecosystem.
“The quality of the teams has gotten better year after year,” said Vincent Lewis, director of the L. William Crotty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at the University. “This year’s six finalists are all fundable business opportunities, with three of the finalists already having sold some products and one already having raised some capital. It is exciting through the course of the competition to see the teams develop ideas and transform them into viable opportunities.”
More than 200 teams applied to take part in Flyer Pitch, which took place in Dayton, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and Suzhou, China.
Since the competition began, 27 businesses have been launched, 20 of which are still in business today.
Second place, and $15,000, went to a former professional baseball player, Jim Ward, and his daughter, UD alumna Tiffany Pikas ’05, for their design of Hit-Grip — a patented device to help control and improve the swing of baseball players and golfers.
Third place went to a group of current UD students who developed the Solar Thermal Adsorption Refrigeration (S.T.A.R) system, an environmentally friendly refrigeration method designed for usage in areas without reliable power grids. The group was awarded $10,000.
“This is definitely the first step for us into the business world in a journey that I am sure is going to get more exciting,” said S.T.A.R. team member Claudia Labrador Rached. “I truly believe that S.T.A.R. can make an impact in the developing world, where vaccine access and health care quality are compromised by the lack of reliable supply of electricity.”
The remaining three teams tied for fourth place, winning $5,000 each.