Student start-up focalCast earns Trailblazer Prize at Rice Business Plan Competition
MILWAUKEE – FocalCast, a mobile app that allows users to wirelessly present PowerPoints from their tablet or smartphone directly to a display device, won the $50,000 Trailblazer Capital Start-up Entrepreneur Investment Prize and the $3,000 Gimmal Group Outstanding IT Prize at the Rice Business Plan Competition, currently the world’s richest and largest business plan competition.
FocalCast is a venture of Narsys LLC, a company founded by senior mechanical engineering major Devin Turner (who serves as CEO) and fellow engineering student and chief technology officer Charlie Beckwith. Nicholas Winninger, Narsys’ business analyst and Marquette MBA student, joined Turner and Beckwith at the competition.
“It was a great honor to represent Marquette and compete globally at an elite level against teams from Harvard and MIT at the Rice Business Plan Competition,” Turner said. “It is incredible just to be selected as a finalist, and competing successfully with two awards totaling $53,000 is a great achievement for our team.”
Winninger agreed, adding that there was an even greater learning experience beyond the competition itself.
“As the competition took shape, we realized the real competition was going on around us,” he said. “While it was important to prepare well for the pitch rounds, we knew there was a huge opportunity in connecting with the variety of investors mingling about, getting in touch with investors who specialize in your industry and then keeping the conversation going.”
According to Turner, the win at the Rice competition gives focalCast the momentum to take the company to the next level – allowing the team to develop the app to run on Apple’s iOS in addition to testing the app with local companies such as Brady Corporation and American Family Insurance. They will release the app for Android next month for free on the Google Play Store.
Before the Rice competition, focalCast also successfully competed in Marquette’s ImpactNext Business Model Competition, winning the $1,000 graduate student category, as well as the $2,000 Grand Prize. The start-up currently occupies offices on the Marquette campus at the Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship and filed a provisional patent application through Boyle Fredrickson LLP for proprietary technology in October 2013.
According to the company’s website, “the application takes advantage of a new wireless technology, WiFi Direct, which since 2014 has been included in many products such as Epson projectors and Samsung SmartTVs. By wirelessly connecting directly to a projector or external display, users are able to cut the cables and remove the need for laptops and other networking equipment.”
For photos or to interview the focalCast team, please contact Christopher Stolarski or Andy Brodzeller in the Office of Marketing and Communication at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.