AWS Startups Blog

Meet the Winners of the 2020 AWS U.S. University Startup Competition

In a new initiative to support founders attending universities, AWS launched the U.S. University Startup Competition in October 2020, giving startups a chance to showcase their ventures to investors, mentors, and the startup community and win prizes.

Over 600 U.S. university startups from 185 different universities submitted applications for the competition. Judges from the AWS Startup Business Development team reviewed, scored, and narrowed the pool down to 10 finalists and then paired each with an AWS mentor and industry expert to help them with business guidance, feedback, and preparation for the final pitch event on December 15, 2020.

On the day of the event, which was streamed to Twitch, the 10 finalists took turns presenting to a panel of judges, including Molly Fowler, CEO of Dorm Room Fund, Saba Karim, Global Startup Pipeline Manager at Techstars, and Josh Aviv, CEO and co-founder of SparkCharge. After compelling and impressive presentations, the panel chose first, second, and third place winners – Big & Mini in first, Stratodyne in second, and SKOOP and SwiftSku in a tie for third. These winners received up to $20,000 in cash, up to $100,000 in AWS credits, an interview with a Techstars Accelerator of their choice, and an interview with Dorm Room Fund. Big & Mini also received a free branding consultation from PitchPages.

To encourage and enable further innovation in the university startup environment, all startup applicants got access to $1,000 in AWS Activate Founders credits, and all ten finalists received an opportunity for mentorship from Amazon experts, an invitation to the Techstars Empower Collective, and a chance to meet with a Techstars accelerator of their choice.

Meet the Winners

Big & Mini, from University of Texas – Austin, creates meaningful one-on-one connections between youth and senior citizens with the intention of spreading wisdom, combating social isolation, and making the world a little better— one generation-bridging connection at a time. While Big & Mini was born in response to the increased loneliness and separation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, their goal of developing connections across generations and creating a more convenient way to volunteer is everlasting. They will use their $20,000 prize to support product and marketing efforts by building their software and sales & marketing teams, collecting data for insurance, and creating an ambassador program to reach those who need them the most.

Stratodyne, from the University of Missouri, builds balloons to monitor crop fields. They help farmers make decisions with predictive insights generated by real-time imagery. Their high-resolution multispectral aerial imagery from controllable, balloon-borne imaging sensors help growers increase revenue by unlocking the full yield potential of every acre. Since Stratodyne’s platform can monitor fields for the entire growing season, growers never worry about obsolete aerial imagery again. They will use their $10,000 prize to fulfill their commercial pilot, scale their analytics platform, and cover their initial batch of users.

SKOOP, from Michigan State University, enables high traffic venues to generate ad revenue from their digital signage. They provide everything digital signage owners need to start, manage, and grow their custom online billboard store. Owners can manage their ad business through one simple portal and control the content remotely. Industries taking advantage of SKOOP span airports to golf courses to pedicabs. They will use their $2,500 prize to help offset IaaS costs, freeing up capital for essential areas such as product development.

SwiftSku, from Auburn University, helps independent convenience store owners onboard their stores with the latest technology to leverage promotional discounts and increase revenue with business intelligence. SwiftSku’s mobile app automates away manual tasks and pricebook management, allowing convenience store owners to view live transactions, update fuel prices, and access real-time dashboards. Set up is less than three minutes. They will use their $2,500 prize to expand their current inbound marketing efforts and expedite customer requested features.

Meet the Finalists

blip energy (Northwestern University): Residential energy storage to democratize energy storage and accelerate the adoption of renewable resources.

Early Intervention Systems (George Washington University): Technologies that predict agitation and improve well-being of residents in Long-Term Care Communities.

Invictus BCI (Massachusetts Institute of Technology): Non-invasive & affordable neuroprosthetic brain-control interface so that amputees can control their prosthetic hand just like their real hand.

PrestoSi (California College of the Arts): Platform of financial services for the cash-based economies.

Remmie (University of Washington): First connected family ears, nose, throat (ENT) monitor with built in telemedicine service.

SimpL (Carnegie Mellon / University of Pittsburgh / Georgia Tech): AI personal trainer that analyzes your form when you exercise and gives you real time audio-feedback.

Congratulations again to the winners and finalists of the 2020 AWS U.S. University Startup Competition. Also thank you and congratulations to all of the applicants who have embarked on the incredible journey of building a company. Have fun, and build on!