Startups compete in New York City Challenge Cup

Marita Vlachou, Deputy News Editor

Cognotion, Sealed, OpenBeds and Bandwagon were the four startup companies to win the New York City Challenge Cup competition hosted by Incubator 1776 and the Polytechnic School of Engineering on Nov. 20.

The competition featured 38 companies in four different categories — education, energy, health and cities. The four winning companies were selected after two rounds of elimination based on their pitches. The winners will take part in 1776’s annual Challenge Festival in Washington, D.C. in May for the chance to win $650,000 in prizes and the opportunity to connect with others in their fields.

Nishi Rawat, developer of OpenBeds and winner of the health category of the competition, said she was surprised she won.

“I think perhaps the insider’s perspective, someone who’s within health care industry, that’s what I provided,” Rawat said. “I believe that the other products were truly impressive and I really don’t know what it was that made me win.”

Judge and associate director of the Incubator and Entrepreneurial Initiatives program at Poly Steven Kuyan said the selection process was tough because most companies had interesting visions.

“We were given one very specific criterion, who would we invest $100,000 into,” Kuyan said. “While a lot of the ideas were really good, it was about what company we would invest our own money in and where we would see return on that investment.”

Kuyan added that holding events that feature startup companies is beneficial for both the contestants and the audience members.

“There are two reasons for which such events are important, one: celebration of the people that are doing the hard work putting together the companies and pitching in front of a big audience, and two: [encouraging] the people in the audience who thinking about starting a company to pursue their ideas,” Kuyan said.

Brittany Heyd, general counsel and director of strategy for Incubator 1776, said the purpose of the competition was to shine the spotlight on companies that are leading the way in industries where innovation is a challenge.

“Healthcare, education, energy, transportation — these are all really important challenges that are global and these types of competitions help not only to investors to know about them, but also industry players and corporations and other types of partners to get to know them and help them scale,” Heyd said.

Kruthika Murali Dhar, a Poly graduate student studying biotechnology and engineering, said the competition gave her insight on how to pitch the startup company she is developing.

“Trust me this is really the place for us to be right now, because we have our own startup company and we could use as much information as we can get,” Murali Dhar said.

Email Marita Vlachou at [email protected].