Crossroads Fall 2022 Pitch Competition is a wrap! On October 12, South Bend company heARsight won the pre-seed competition for its augmented reality smart-glasses that provide real-time subtitles during in-person conversations. Nashville-based Wave Therapeutics won the seed competition for its therapeutic devices and software that prevent bendsores and blood clots for mobility impaired patients. HeARsight will receive a $10,000 investment from Flywheel Fund. Wave Therapeutics will receive a $20,000 investment. The two winning startups also receive priority to pitch at Elevate Ventures’ Nexus Regional Pitch Competition, where they could win an additional $20,000 or $80,000 investment.
It was a fantastic day at The Mill. You could feel the energy! We held the seed finals downstairs in the Event Hall and the pre-seed finals upstairs in the Classroom. Finalists pitched to a good crowd, and we’re already hearing about some great follow-up interest and investment. Read on!
Danny Fritz and Riley Ellingsen of heARsight, winners of the pre-seed competition
Jessica Bussert of Wave Therapeutics (left) reacts to winning the seed competition. Shown with pre-seed judge and past Crossroads winner Ellie Symes.
heARsight Wins Pre-Seed
“We’re proud to have been selected as the winners of the Crossroads pre-seed track, amongst an impressive and diverse group of startups,” heARsight co-founder and CEO Riley Ellingsen told us. “The feedback we received from each round of the competition was invaluable, and the cash award gets us closer to our target for unlocking our next product development milestone. This recognition inspires confidence in our team that our recent efforts have demonstrated sufficient validation and traction to move forward with our pre-seed raise. We’re excited to be one step closer to creating a more accessible world for people who are hard of hearing and/or d/Deaf and incredibly grateful for Crossroads’ support of this mission.”
HeARsight’s glasses use an embedded microphone and speech-to-text and AR technology to create real-time subtitles. Danny Fritz and Riely Ellingsen founded heARsight while students in Notre Dame’s Master of Science in Engineering, Science, & Technology Entrepreneurship Excellences program. Danny saw his girlfriend struggling with speech comprehension, exacerbated by the prevalence of masks during the pandemic. That inspired him to explore how assistive tech could improve her quality of life. Globally, WHO reports that 430 million people have hearing difficulties, and as populations age and unsafe listening practices rise, that number is expected to grow to 2.5 billion by 2050. Earlier in 2022, heARsight was a semifinalist in the McCloskey New Venture Competition. They also won the third annual Recognition for Innovative Startup Excellence (RISE) Award.
Since winning Crossroads, Riley recently told us, heARsight has experience “a noticeable uptick in traction. We’ve had increased interest from angels (some of whom we met at Crossroads) and are receiving inbound leads and opportunities from the Crossroads PR.”
Hank Nick, Eva Rivera, and Guillermo Rivera from Dynamic Framer, pre-seed finalists
Pre-seed finalist Parker Busick’s pitch for Soloist included a live demonstration
Ange Agasaro and Teayanna Leytham from BeautyAround, pre-seed finalists
Shout out to our pre-seed judges Jennie Moser, Ellie Symes, and Geoff Zentz!
A panel of over 50 entrepreneurs, investors, and business experts selected four finalists for each of the two tracks. The other pre-seed finalists were BeautyAround (out of South Bend, pitched by Ange Agasaro and Teayanna Leytham); Dynamic House (Dyer, Eva Rivera); and Soloist (Bloomington, Parker Busick).
Dynamic House makes the Dynamic Framer product, a tool that makes it easy to build straight, level walls. It saves time, money, and a whole lot of frustration. Soloist’s app lets musicians practicing alone get a dynamic band experience (check out the demo video above!).
Ange and Teayanna of BeautyAround made it to the semi-finals in the spring 2022 competition and got one step further to the finals in fall. Their app provides one-stop shopping for hairstylists specializing in Black hair. We’re thrilled to report that they received a $5,000 investment from an angel who saw their pitch at Crossroads! We keep saying… you don’t have to win to benefit.
The pre-seed finals were judged by Geoff Zentz, Senior Director of Innovation at AgriNovus Indiana, and two past Crossroads winners, Jennie Moser, CEO of Stagetime, and Ellie Symes, CEO of The Bee Corp.
Wave Wins Seed
Seed winner Wave Therapeutics, a Techstars Future of Longevity company, has been on a winning streak this year. CEO Jessica Bussert won the Women’s Fast Pitch Finals and was selected as the judges’ and audience favorite pitch at the Revolutionize 2022 conference in Boston.
Jessica’s startup journey is a testament to entrepreneurial grit. She’s a four-time Crossroads competitor, and she’s frankly unstoppable.
Wave’s product is the culmination of Jessica’s diverse background in programming, nursing, entrepreneurship, and business consulting. As a nurse, she saw the horrific wounds caused by bedsores firsthand. She then drew on her tech experience to design the first smart active cushioning product for wheelchairs to prevent pressure injuries and report data automatically to physicians. Wave has already secured one patent and a contracted research agreement with the VHA, which has 85,000 wheelchair-bound clients. At an affordable reimbursement price of $450, Wave’s initial serviceable obtainable market is over $38 million. Jessica has a plan to expand beyond that to a nearly $2.5 billion US market.
“The Crossroads competition brings in great companies from across the state, and I’m honored to be selected as the winner,” she told us. “We’re working on a life-saving technology to prevent bedsores, and it’s gratifying to know that the judges understand and support the work we’re doing. We’ve been a part of The Mill for several years, and we appreciate the support we get there and from the Indiana business community. Americans are 50% more likely to die of a bedsore than in an automobile accident, so the fact is we’re working on a product that impacts almost every family at some point in their lifetime.”
The other seed finalists were Juke (South Bend, Griffin Eaton); and Plantennas (Chesterton, Alexandra Moran); and Quiptu (Bloomington, Josh Roche).
Juke’s app allows audiences to interact with bands at live music events, increasing engagement (and upping the odds that the band will play that one song everyone wishes they would!). Plantennas provides an automated solution for plant propagation, life cycle inventory, and data management. It uses cyber-physical system compatible sensor technology, and you don’t have know what that is to know Plantennas is seriously scientific and cool. Quiptu was the winner of the 2021 Crossroads Idea Competition last December. Today the Quiptu app is live and enabling people in two states to share their outdoor equipment, a la AirBnB.
The seed finals were judged by Julie Heath, Vice President of Entrepreneurial Ecosystems at the IEDC; Jillian Ivers, Senior Manager of Global Research at Cook Medical; and John Wechsler, CEO of Spokenote.
Seed finalist Griffin Eaton pitching Juke
Huge thanks to our seed finals judges Julie Heath, Jillian Ivers, and John Wechsler!
Seed finalist Josh Roche from Quiptu
Seed finalist Alexandra Moran from Plantennas
It was pretty special having two former Crossroads winners, Jennie Moser of Stagetime and Ellie Symes of The Bee Corp, come home to The Mill to serve as judges for the pre-seed finals. Yes, they are wearing the same jacket and earrings. No, it wasn’t planned. But yes, they got a good laugh out of it!
“We were thrilled to so many great startups and such diverse founders from across Indiana,” said Andy Lehman, Head of Accelerator Programming. “We fully expect to see great things from the winners and finalists, and from many semifinalists as well. It’s especially gratifying to see our two winners using technology to create innovative products that have not just outstanding market potential, but also profound impact on human lives.”
Visit the Crossroads site to learn more about the competition or to download the Fall 2022 Crossroads Lookbook of all startup competitors. Crossroads Pitch Competition is open to any Indiana-based startup with less than $250,000 in annual recurring revenue. Applications for the spring 2023 competition will open in February.