Texas Tech University

Innovation Hub at Research Park Announces Winners of Spark Conference Competitions

David Gay

April 27, 2018

Startups earned funding through pitching ideas to members of the Innovation Hub and other industry experts.

After the 2018 Spark Conference, the Innovation Hub at Research Park announced its winners for the iLaunch competition.

Embryotics, a startup company that is creating a product that improves pregnancy rates from assisted reproductive technologies in livestock species and human fertility, received first place in the competition. The company also received the People's Choice award in the competition, increasing its total winnings to $11,000.

TK Quant, a health science technology company transforming clinical care through precision diagnostics, received second place and $3,000. Hangio, a company that offers wardrobe solutions through flexible, all-in-one hangers that revolutionize the way clothes are stored, received third place and $1,000.

“The Spark Conference is an excellent way for innovators, inventors and investors to come together in one event in West Texas to celebrate great ideas and startups,” said Kimberly Gramm, senior managing director of the Innovation Hub. “We had more than 400 participants, 10 panels and 10 finalists competing for $10,000 in the iLaunch competition. Texas Tech is a driver to support our community with an educated workforce as well as advanced innovations and startups.”

Cara Wessels, one of the co-founders of Embryotics, said participating in this year's Spark Conference was a great way to share the company's story and mission. Members of the company got the chance to connect with judges and potential investors as well as meet other entrepreneurs.

“We were thrilled and honored to have won the competition,” Wessels said. “We have worked hard on our business plan, model and pitch through participation in the National Science Foundation I-Corps Program and other startup competitions. We know the competition was tough, so it was an honor to stand on the stage with TKQuant and Hangio.”

Embryotics is currently in negotiations with animal health companies for investment opportunities, Wessels said. The company plans to launch the product this fall and will use the prize money to fund development and create inventory.

The Innovation Hub has helped Embryotics through its development, Wessels said.

“They always make time to support us and make us aware of opportunities that will set our company up for success,” Wessels said. “They have helped with grant writing, business negotiations and helped us work through our business model canvas. In addition to mentoring us on entrepreneurship, they are kind and genuine people who want us to succeed as individuals and professionals.”

Two other companies received $1,000 by winning the Innovation Poster Showcase: Deep Self: Endoscopy and a New Body Image won the Arts in Medicine portion, and The Exposome Project won the NSF Cloud Computing Center portion.

Selected companies that participated in the Spark Conference will be named accelerator companies through the Innovation Hub. These companies will be assigned a team of mentor advisers to conduct monthly meetings, receive startup office space for one year and a $25,000 seed grant.