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Tech Start-up phyre Takes $20K Top Prize at
2013 Boston College Venture Competition

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. (April 2013) – Three Boston College undergraduates and their business plan for the tech start-up phyre took the top $20,000-prize at the seventh annual Boston College Venture Competition at the University's Carroll School of Management.

BCVC 2013 winners

The team of Matt Ricketson, Patrick Allen and Joshua Jackson, all seniors majoring in computer science, plans to use the prize money to launch phyre, a company that will manufacture and market a portable data device the team designed to deliver sales and conference presentations seamlessly to televisions and display screens.

For two members of the phyre team, this was their third BCVC competition. They drew on their earlier experiences to craft a business plan to market their portable device – about the size of a deck of cards – to sales personnel and others who struggle to connect to incompatible presentation hardware and software. Eventually, phyre plans to incorporate the technology into a line of display screens.

“We think BCVC has been an invaluable experience,” said Ricketson. “It imposes a structure on your work and it gives you a timeline and deadlines to complete these ideas that you have. It is a lot of work and it’s time consuming, but BCVC really pushes you.”

(Video highlights of the 2013 Boston College Venture Competition.)

Now in its seventh year, BCVC prize money has more than doubled from $15,000 to $35,000. Winners and finalists from past competitions have gone on to earn places in some of the country’s top start-up incubators, launched tech start-ups locally and in the Silicon Valley, and snared approximately $25 million in seed funding.

BCVC faculty advisor and Associate Professor of Information Systems John Gallaugher said this year’s group of finalists represented a broad range of ventures and benefitted from prior experience, be it through BCVC or similar competitions at institutions such as MIT and Yale.

“We just had a great mix this year,” said Gallaugher. “But it was most thrilling to see students who have essentially grown up in BCVC. They are not only making their mark here and making this an elite program for student entrepreneurs, but they are taking part in some of the leading business competitions around.”

The $10,000 second-place prize went to BC undergraduates Tommy Christmas ’13 and Kevin McGovern ’14 and their high school classmates Tyler Kennedy and Wes Schroll, who both study at the University of Wisconsin. All four grew up in Acton and attended Acton-Boxborough Regional High School.

They impressed the judges with Fetch Rewards, the most ambitious proposal of the five finalists. A mobile app for grocery shoppers, Fetch Rewards would offer a range of services and discounts to shoppers in real time, while collecting volumes of cutting-edge data about shoppers, products and service. The team is seeking financing to launch a beta version through a mid-west grocery chain within the next 9-12 months.

“We are nowhere near done,” said McGovern. “This has been a great experience. We all grew up together and we love hanging out together. It’s always a lot of fun. We love doing this.”

Finishing in third place, with an award of $2,500 was KnowledgeArena, a web-based platform for competitive test-takers that would allow users to place bets based on their knowledge and test-taking skills. The team consisted of freshmen Andy Lee and Tommy Tan and their partner Sean Nam.

KnowledgeArena was a dark horse candidate throughout the competition, Lee said. But he won the $500 prize in the BCVC Elevator Pitch competition, as well as $1,000 in the competition’s accelerator phase. Lee said he will continue to develop the business plan.

“I’m just a freshman. I think it’s nice just to get this far,” he said of the finals.

Other finalists included Campus Calories, a mobile app that connects users to campus dining hall menu nutritional information and helps them track calories consumed. Senior Jimmy Campbell leads the team, which offers its product through the App Store and connects to dining services information at universities including Boston College and UMass Amherst.

Rounding out the finalists were Streak Media, an email marketing company that already boasts thousands of loyal daily readers connected to the campus communities of Boston College and New York University. The team, which plans to expand the fledgling company into college markets across the country, includes seniors David Casinghino, Andrew Flynn, Chris Marciniack, Michael Nardella and sophomore William Chamberlain.

The 10-minute presentations were judged by Hugh Crean ’93, of General Catalyst Partners, Greg Dracon, principal, .406 Ventures, Dan Nova ’83, of Highland Capital Partners, Peter Osbourne, senior associate, WilmerHale, and Bilal Zuberi, a partner at General Catalyst.

"To me, this was the best competition we've had in some time,” said Karn Khunger ’14, chair of the BCVC student leadership team. “Presentations were on point, and the judges were incredibly impressed. A big thanks goes out to the teams who participated, the rest of the BCVC Executive Committee, and Professor Gallaugher."