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Student startup contest set for Feb. 20 will send winner to state competition

Innovate UNG 2018-19 final
The winner of the innovateUNG Pitch Challenge on Feb. 20 will advance to the statewide Georgia InVenture Prize competition in April.

Six teams featuring a total of 12 University of North Georgia (UNG) students will compete in the innovateUNG Pitch Challenge on Feb. 20 for a cash prize and to advance to the statewide Georgia InVenture Prize competition in April.

Full-time degree-seeking undergraduate students will present their inventions before a group of experienced and successful entrepreneurs, financiers and business professionals. InnovateUNG will be at 6 p.m. Feb. 20 in the UNG Dining Hall Banquet Room. The winner will advance to the Georgia InVenture Prize event set for April 3-4, when it will compete against teams from other colleges and universities in Georgia.

Cash prizes will be awarded for first place ($2,000), second place ($1,000) and people's choice ($500) for those watching in person and through Facebook Live. The top two finishers are also eligible for the people's choice prize.

"It really is going to bring to light the progress that we've made in the entrepreneurship program at UNG and how it has grown and how the excitement has begun to pick up," said Dr. Ruben Boling, director of UNG's Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

UNG President Bonita Jacobs echoed that excitement.

"UNG has encouraged entrepreneurship for years, among our students and in the region, and the new Georgia InVenture Prize competition is an opportunity to showcase how innovative and resourceful our students are," Jacobs said. "I am very pleased with our students' enthusiasm for this competition, and I look forward to seeing their creations."

"I would love to see as many people there as possible to cheer on these students who have worked really hard to put together their idea, to develop it into a true business opportunity and to let them know what they're doing is exciting and a good thing," Boling said.

Samuel Herrera, a senior from Cumming, Georgia, pursuing a business management degree, is on a two-person team with Caleb Hearn taking part in innovateUNG. He looks forward to competing for the $2,000 prize.

"To get the exposure and to have the chance to do that at UNG is exciting," Herrera said.

The quality of the competing students' ideas impressed Boling.

"These are ideas that students are making into businesses," Boling said. "That's the quality that we're looking for all our entrepreneurship students. We want them to get to that point where they understand they can create not just their own job, but a valuable business."

This manner of job creation supports economic development in the communities surrounding UNG's five campuses.

"When you have the ability to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem that enables entrepreneurs to create new businesses on a regular basis, it has a major impact on the economic condition of the community and region," Boling said. "These student startups add value and help create jobs."

Boling expressed gratitude to Jacobs and the Mike Cottrell College of Business for their support, as well as the business leaders in the community who have provided aid to UNG's entrepreneurship students.

The inaugural statewide competition is modeled off the Emmy-winning InVenture Prize at Georgia Tech, which has spawned Atlantic Coast Conference and K-12 competitions of the same name. The invention competition that began in 2009 at Georgia Tech has been dubbed "American Idol for nerds." The state competition will be televised.

Prizes for the state competition will include $25,000 for first place; $15,000 for second place; $10,000 for People's Choice Award; and in-kind professional services such as legal assistance for U.S. patent filings, professional accounting services or acceptance into business accelerator programs.

The teams and innovations for the UNG contest are as follows:


Founders: Jacob Mahaffey, Nicholas Blake Morgan, Justin Maxwell

The musical instrument and accessory industry have not experienced much innovation over the past years. PopStand provides a unique and innovative response to protecting, carrying and displaying your guitar.


Founders: Preston Kell, Anna Meriwether, Shane McMahon, Wesley Hardesty

Dog owners are constantly concerned about their dogs running away and finding themselves in dangerous situations. ProLeash is an app that provides dog owners peace of mind without the use of a leash or fence.

Opus Affinity

Founders: Caleb Hearn, Samuel Herrera

In modern times' constantly evolving technology and trends, businesses constantly look for the ability to communicate their unique story to their community. By using progressive and engaging technology, Opus Affinity is innovating a way for businesses to acquire immense customer growth and involvement.

Brother Outdoors

Founder: Madison Turner

The turkey hunting industry is not very innovative and sometimes relies on cumbersome and outdated hunting aids. Brother Outdoors is introducing an innovative hunting aid that will forever change the way individuals hunt turkey by making the process easier and much more successful.

Made in Brazil

Founder: Gabriel Garcia

Culturally speaking, Brazil is very diverse. Therefore, different flavors can be found in restaurants across the entire Brazilian nation. Made in Brazil offers an immersion into the Brazilian culture through a culinary experience that combines culture, flavor, and service.


Founder: Hevander Da Costa

People want to connect, especially when they are sharing an experience at a football game or other gathering. Auger is an app that allows users to create custom, limited-time social networks on the fly within a designated range, providing an efficient way for a group of people to share without the need for personal information.

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