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UNH students vie for $10k in entrepreneurship competition

By KIMBERLEY HAAS
Union Leader Correspondent

May 09. 2017 10:53PM
Tristan Evarts of Londonderry talks about NextStep, a recovery app designed for addicts, during the Paul J. Holloway Innovation to Market Competition at UNH Tuesday. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)

DURHAM — Students at the University of New Hampshire competed for first prize and $10,000 in the Paul J. Holloway Innovation to Market Competition Tuesday.

In its 29th year, the competition is the oldest of its kind in New Hampshire and one of the first in the nation. Participants present their business concepts to a panel of industry leaders who judge their commercialization potential.

This year, the first group on stage presented a web and mobile solution to the state and nation’s growing opioid crisis. Sam Warach of Durham and Tristan Evarts of Londonderry explained there is a need for the recovery model to change.

Those in the throes of addiction want to be able to navigate their options for medical treatment from the convenience of their phone, the team said. When they leave sober facilities, those same individuals demand mobile sponsorship programs, Warach and Evarts said.

“The cool thing is people can use this from their dorm room, or their bedroom,” Warach said of NextStep. Warach lost his own brother to addiction when he was 12.

Evarts said of the 21,000 recovery centers in the United States, 30 percent run under capacity, and the relapse rate for those who try to achieve sobriety is staggering. Almost 500 people in New Hampshire died in 2016 due to heroin, fentanyl and other opioid overdoses, he said.

Evarts said they want to start their work by connecting with the recovery centers in the state, and create a price and information guide for those considering recovery, similar to Hotels.com.

The second group of presenters said they want to change the way people think about their dog’s dental hygiene. They have developed a 100 percent natural coconut coir rope that acts as a natural toothbrush and chew toy.

By taking care of a dog’s teeth, owners can add four to six years to their lives, Chip Linton of Hingham, Mass., told the panel of judges. The group tested its product on 50 dogs and spoke to five vets during product development.

To make the CocoChews, the team imports materials from India. They can get 500 feet of coconut rope for $20, and that makes 15 ropes. Ryan Kelly, of Wrentham, Mass., explained that materials cost $1.75 per unit, labor is $2 per unit and their direct sale price is $14.99.

Team Pawm members said they would cater to all dog owners, but see the most opportunity in the millennial market.

“Millennials own more dogs than baby boomers,” Edward Hoogasian, of Worcester, Mass., said.

At the end of the day, a social messaging platform called Droppit, which uses location services and augmented reality for users to drop posts, won the $10,000. Warach was also part of that team. Max Miller, of Exeter, served as the team’s spokesman.

Other competing teams included my.local, an app that connects travelers to local businesses that support their interests and values; Noomie, an app that connects people to new roommates and services when moving; and Sol Solution, which produces clear thermochromic adhesive-backed films that adhere directly to solar panels, allowing them to operate at increased efficiencies.

Paul Holloway, after whom the competition is named, built one of the largest car dealerships in the state during his career. He served as the president of the 19,500-member National Automobile Dealers Association from 1998 to 1999.

Holloway has been very active in UNH affairs, and Holloway Commons dining hall is named after him. Holloway serves as chair of the Community College System of New Hampshire. He and his wife, Anna Grace, were in the audience as students made their sales pitches.

During the awards ceremony, Holloway made note of how difficult the competition is. There are 73 entries which are whittled down to just six teams.

“I want to congratulate all the teams who participated because it takes a lot of courage to get up in front of your fellow students and faculty members to present an idea,” Holloway said.

Teams won at least $1,250 in prize money.


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