Top entrepreneurs pitch latest ideas

Jordan Monroe of Owlet speaks during the Utah Valley Entrepreneurial Forum's event at Zions Bank in Provo on Thursday, May 9, 2013. Several start up companies were invited to present their business models to Pedersen and fellow businesspeople. JAMES ROH/Daily Herald

PROVO -- The entrepreneurial spirit was alive Thursday afternoon as 10 Utah County-based startup companies competed to win $4,500 in cash and a chance to sit down with one of the top business minds in the state of Utah.

The 10 companies were set in a pitch environment where they presented four-minute business ideas to Todd Pedersen, founder of Vivint. Pedersen, in his black T-shirt and trademark Vivint baseball cap, asked questions and gave advice on what he would look to do to make their business succeed, but he didn't pick the winner of the contest.

Each of the contestants were to market themselves to the public and encourage their supporters to vote for them online to win the contest. After gaining more than 1,000 votes the Lunch Box Company walked away with the cash prize, the title of Top Gun Entrepreneurs in Utah Valley and the chance to have a sit-down with Pedersen.

"It was interesting hearing the feedback that he gave, not just to our team but to all the teams," said Chase Roberts, one of the cofounders of Lunch Box.

Roberts' product is a phone app that informs BYU students where they can find free food on campus. Students download the app and they can then access a calendar that informs them locations of events where free food is handed out. The app makes money by charging businesses to advertise their free food events. School clubs like BYU's Disney History club used the app successfully to increase attendance at their meetings.

Throughout the presentations Pedersen hit home with the presenters that they needed to protect their product from being duplicated by competitors. He consistently asked the budding businessmen if they had patents on their products and if they had their product developed in such a way that it would be hard to replicate. He also told the participants that they should look at their own products and see what their potential is.

"I think all of these have... nice potential for growth," he said. "Some maybe need to think through how can you build the technology that is hard to replicate and easier to use."

Other products pitched at the competition included a baby monitor that tracks the vital signs of infants and sends the information to a person's smartphone, a product that will increase the decomposition of plastic in landfills, superstrength tape and a water-based dental drill that could lessen the pain caused when someone has a cavity filled.

Roberts and his business partner, David Hepworth, said they weren't quite sure what they will do with the prize money from the competition. They joked that they may finally purchase iPads but said they'll probably hang to their cash.

"We are very scrappy," Roberts said.

-- Billy Hesterman covers the Utah State Legislature and local politics for the Daily Herald. You can follow him on Twitter at: @billyhesterman
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