State innovators take home $10,000 entrepreneur awards

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New London — More than 100 people crammed into the Oasis Room at the Garde Arts Center Wednesday to crown the latest $10,000 winners of the state's Entrepreneur Innovation Awards in what organizers said was the first standing-room-only crowd in the event's two-year history.

"In Connecticut, we have some really amazing talent," said Jessica Dodge, senior program associate for the statewide startup organization CTNext and host of the "Shark Tank"-like competition. "And they've turned out some really amazing work."

Winners were OBVIA of West Hartford, a company prototyping a new type of wind turbine blade; URISE of Hartford, which is developing a digital career coach; Olie Robotics of Manchester, which is creating a robotic cleaning system for restaurants; Thrivio, an online platform to help connect the disability community to innovative solutions; and SnapSeat of Hartford, which is creating a quick and easy way to print photographs posted to Instagram.

OBVIA also was named Judge's Favorite, picking up an additional $2,000 in funding, while Thrivio won the same amount as Crowd Favorite.

Pitches were made for a wide range of companies, from social-media platforms to a vaccine developer.

In all, five of the 10 companies chosen to make pitches Thursday won at least $10,000.

Companies can win up to $30,000 in awards from the pitch competitions held quarterly in Connecticut.  The next competition will be the state's 10th.

No local companies presented during the two-hour competition, which is the first ever held in southeastern Connecticut. 

Two of the four judges, Jean Schaefer and Leland Loose, had connections to Pfizer Inc.

Ripi Singh, another of the judges, praised the entrepreneurs who gave five-minute overviews of their companies, saying that the quality of presentation has risen dramatically in the state over the past two years. He added that some presenters obviously had taken to heart previous feedback to improve their pitches.

"That is what makes an entrepreneur successful — listening," he said.

l.howard@theday.com

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