May 13. 2012 6:29PM

Manchester Young Professionals Network sets semifinals for $55,000 start-up prize

New Hampshire Union Leader

MANCHESTER — Eight semi-finalists will vie for the $55,000 grand prize in the fourth annual Manchester Young Professionals Network's NH Start-Up Challenge on Thursday.

MYPN members and the public are invited to hear a live pitch and meet the semifinalists from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at abi Innovation Hub, 33 South Commercial St., in Manchester. Register at

MYPN said it expanded the semifinalist pool this year from five to eight because of the high quality of submissions,

“It speaks to the level of the applicants, the quality of their business plans, the strength of their ideas and overall strength of the applicant pool,” said E.J. Powers, co-chairman of the MYPN NH Start Up Challenge, and vice president of strategic communications for Montagne Communications.

“I think that says something about the business environment here in the state,” Powers said. “It's inspiring to see so many good ideas come forward.”

Jamie Coughlin, CEO of abi, is co-chairman. He and Powers are board members of MYPN.

Semi-finalists are:

GroupTrip – A web application that allows friends to share research, plan trips and track group expenses.

Founded by Bryan Marble of Manchester,.

Big Foodie – A mobile application that provides users a means to find a dining experience tailored to their defined preferences. Co-founded by Michael Thompson and Keza Media in Manchester.

Gear Freedom – Outdoor sports equipment rental company for kayaks, bikes, or skis.

Founded by Mike Veilleux of Manchester.

Ustabilize – An Apple iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad interactive “game” which challenges your ability to balance or stabilize in different positions Founded by Michael T. Muldoon, a practicing physical therapist from Hampton, with more than 10 years experience in outpatient orthopedics.

ThemeGeeks – Online service to provide premium products for mobile devices, tablets, and desktop computers based on the Omega theme using Drupal open source software.

Led by Jake Strawn and Michelle Lauer of Manchester.

Ohm Universe – A egg-shaped meditation and relaxation device that invites the user to focus breathing on vibrating patterns in the palm of the hand. Founded by Matthew Barker of Gilmanton Ironworks, NH.

MyBridalDream – A website with proprietary software allowing brides to search vendors on their specific criteria requests. Founded by Tia Lori Bergeron and Allison DeCesere of Manchester.

Trendslide – A mobile application to pull a company's sales data together into a single graphic display. Co-founded by Benjamin Petrin and Jeffrey Vocell in Manchester.

Contestants will also submit a completed business plan on Thursday, and in the days following, two finalists will be chosen to present their business plan to the challenge judges.

The winner will be revealed at a reception on June 20 at New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.