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VidFall wins Rochester Start-Up 2014

Union Leader Correspondent

May 11. 2014 4:08PM

Joel Robinson of Manchester explains the concept of VidFall, a new online auction site that uses crowdsourcing to create discounts for shoppers, before winning the Start-Up 2014 competition in Rochester on Thursday. (JOHN QUINN PHOTO)

ROCHESTER — A new auction site that allows online shoppers to buy discounted items in exchange for their time was selected as the winner of the Start-Up 2104 competition on Thursday.

Joel Robinson of Manchester won $31,000 in assistance to help expand VidFall, which merges entertainment, sponsored online videos and shopping. He plans to increase the pool of users, expand the marketing campaign and reward early supporters.

“I’m humbled. This is really exciting,” Robinson said, adding he hopes to expand to 1,000 viewers when the site launches May 20.

With the popularity of using the Internet to shop and watch videos online, Robinson, 22, who graduated from Lehigh University, created VidFall after he decided to try and link the two activities in a way to provide a service to the customer in exchange for their time.

Robinson said individual shoppers could use the combined buying power of a group — a type of crowdsourcing — by watching sponsored videos.

“Upon completion of the video, the prices fall,” Robinson said, adding the price drops until someone decides they want to buy an item in the auction.

The competition, now in its second year, is organized by the Rochester Office of Community and Economic Development and the abi HUB based in Manchester.

Michael Provost, director of Rochester Main Street, said he was impressed by how many young people, especially those still in college or recent graduates, participated in the event. He said this is a good sign for the future.

“It’s even better than last year,” Provost said.

Mary Ellen Humphrey, economic development specialist for the city, said 25 projects were submitted this year.

As a result, Humphrey said it was difficult to narrow down the seven finalists, who made their pitch to about 100 officials and area residents at the event Thursday.

Heath Smith, of HRS Technology in Rochester, said the winner was chosen by a two-part process. All contestants needed to submit a written business plan, which was worth 75 percent, and the judges determined the final 25 percent during the four-minute presentations Thursday.

“They’ve gotten their name and their product out there,” Smith said, adding these are the innovators who “make something out of nothing.”

Participants and audience members were impressed by the success of Austin Long, 17, of Dover, who was named Rising Star last year, after he was able to sell an app that helps online gamers for $1 million.

“We’re sort of a mix between a record label and a talent agency,” Long said.

After graduating from Dover High this year, Long said he plans to head out to Los Angeles to work for his new company. He joked maybe he’d attend college afterward.

The other finalists include: Coded Fittings — Keith Newton of Nottingham; Tap Tender — Corey MacKoul of Rochester; EZAppSolutions — Tim Brown of Farmington; Car Compass — Caleigh MacPherson, Matthew Standley and David Chadwick of Lee; Econ Impact — Anthony Comito of Manchester; and Leaf Labs — Curtis Lush, Caemen Wheiland, Andrew Albin and Bob Esposito of Durham.

Coded Fittings, which supplies pretreated pipes for propane and natural gas connections, and Tap-Tender, which monitors flow on beer kegs, both received the People’s Choice Award due to a tie in votes.

Newton said he started Coded Fittings after propane and gas requirements changed and companies had to start painting pipes between tanks and homes. He said it’s more efficient to pre-paint the pipes.

“Right now, we’re the only game in town,” Newton said, adding his product is already being distributed by F.W. Webb in Dover, which also operates in Connecticut.

While the trio behind the Car Compass hoped to use the prize money to develop a working prototype that combines the electronics with their design, MacPherson said they gained quite a bit from the competition.

“We’ve been getting a lot of feedback,” MacPherson said, adding many people can see the use of a device with an LED display that provides direction and distance to a misplaced vehicle, especially in a crowded parking lot.

This year’s winner received a cash prize of $10,000, an interest-free loan of $10,000 from Strafford Economic Development Corp. of New Hampshire and a variety of services, including $2,500 in legal assistance, $2,500 for accounting, a $1,000 promotion package from the Tri-City Chamber of Commerce and $5,000 in free rent at the Gonic mill, according to Humphrey.

For more information, visit http://www.thinkrochester.bizor call the Rochester Office of Economic Development at 335-7522.

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