Alibaba Brings Entrepreneur Competition to Seattle; Contenders To Vie for $100K in Prizes

9/22/09Follow @gthuang

‘Tis the season for startup-pitching events. Last week, it was the Zino Society’s investment forum in Seattle. Today it’s the DEMOfall09 conference in San Diego, where four Northwest companies are presenting. And tonight there is nPost’s networking and demo event for tech startups at the Columbia City Theater in South Seattle.

But there is also a notable newcomer to the scene. Alibaba, the Hangzhou, China-based Internet commerce firm, and Inc. magazine announced today the semifinalists in their U.S. entrepreneur competition, called “Newpreneur of the Year.” Thirty entrepreneurs will compete in six cities across the country, including Seattle, for 12 spots in the next round of competition, where the public will vote for the businesses they think have the most potential to revive the economy. (The other cities are New York, Chicago, Miami, Dallas, and Los Angeles.) The final round will take place on Nov. 18 in San Francisco, where one winner will take home $50,000, and four others will split another $50,000.

The Seattle semifinalist event is on Oct. 20 at the Edgewater Hotel. Five local entrepreneurs will pitch their companies and ideas, ranging widely from alternative energy, medical devices, and retail, to the decidedly low-tech world of kitchen and fashion accessories. The winners will move on to the final 12 in the nation. Here’s a snippet on each of the Seattle contenders:

—Jessica Aceti will be pitching Cap-sac, a modern line of convertible accessories, including a fanny pack for your head. The product folds into itself and can also be used as a purse. (This I have to see, though it’s safe to say I’m not the target audience.)

—Steven Bohannon from Bainbridge Island, WA, will pitch Feed Your Mind, a vending machine company focused on providing healthy, nutritious, and entertaining alternatives to traditional vending offerings. Its product mix includes crossword puzzles, games, new and used books, playing cards, maps, and nutritious snacks. Machines will be placed strategically where consumers get stuck waiting—at hospitals, airports, bus and ferry terminals, and so forth.

—Burt Hamner of Seattle will pitch Hydrovolts, the renewable energy company we’ve profiled before in Xconomy. Its key technology is a hydrokinetic turbine that can be placed in a water current (like a canal or stream) to provide electricity for up to a dozen homes. Hamner is no stranger to pitch competitions; Hydrovolts won the “audience favorite” prize at the Northwest Entrepreneur Network’s First Look Forum last March, and took home the $50,000 prize in the Zino Society Green Investment forum in May.

—Cindy Sawyer of Bothell, WA, is pitching ToweLocs, a locking device that keeps kitchen and hand towels secured, and prevents them from falling to the floor. It may sound mundane, but it’s the kind of simple, stylish home accessory that might just take off if it solves a real problem for people.

—Joel Smith of Edmonds, WA, will pitch Forward Mobility, a line of medical mobility products to help disabled customers maintain their independence. The company is looking for funding to finish the production tooling of its new walking leg brace, the Freedom Leg, which allows a person to walk on an injured leg with zero weight put on the knee and below.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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