Austin Hall

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Student entrepreneurs pursuing companies involving kombucha, shoes, mental health safety and fraud-resistant electronic ledgers will vie for $70,000 in cash and prizes Feb. 27 in the finals of the second annual Next Great Startup competition.

Four teams will make their final business pitches beginning at 5:30 p.m. in Stirek Auditorium at Austin Hall on Oregon State University’s Corvallis campus. The event is free and open to the public.

Sponsored by the OSU Advantage Accelerator, the Next Great Startup is a five-week, multistage contest open to any student-led team at the university.

Competitors submit written briefs and pitch to judges over successive elimination rounds while receiving coaching and mentoring from venture capitalists.

This year, teams applied and auditioned in January and 16 were selected for the “draft.”

Those 16 pitched to four venture capital coaches, and 10 of the teams were chosen to compete in the Feb. 13 semifinal round, which yielded the four finalists:

INTEA Kombucha, which is focused on making a well-balanced, flavorful drink using high-quality ingredients for the rapidly growing kombucha market. The team includes Kaylyn Kirkpatrick and Maria Del Pilar Alessandri, both graduate students with the Department of Food Science and Technology in the College of Agricultural Sciences, and Rodrigo Valley, a graduate student in industrial engineering from the College of Engineering.

SFB Technologies, which is developing a blockchain-based platform to help manufacturers and consumers store warranty and ownership data on a permanent, decentralized ledger. The team is comprised of Ferdinand Pongratz, an undergraduate in the College of Business, and Brock Smedley and Sam Hudson, computer science majors in the College of Engineering.

Shoe Bio, a website that helps shoppers find the availability of and best price for shoes from more than 150 retail websites. The Shoe Bio team is Benjamin Steinhorn and Mitchell Stebner, both undergraduate students in the College of Business.

Wellio, which helps people living with mental illness take control of their health by providing crisis management resources, predictive logging to track triggers, and a cloud-sourced library of coping skills. The team is led by Alison Bowden, an undergraduate majoring in electrical and computer engineering in the College of Engineering.

Each team has been paired with a coach who works in venture capital. Coaches are Julianne Brands from the Oregon Angel Fund, Caroline Lewis from Rogue Venture Partners, Diane Fraiman from Voyager Capital, and Eric Booth from Elevate Capital.

In addition to the OSU Advantage Accelerator, other sponsors of the Next Great Startup are the National Science Foundation; the OSU Foundation; the College of Business; Klarquist; Amazon Web Services; Lane Powell; Ater Wynne LLP, Stover, Neyhart & Yee & Co.; Perkins Coie LLP; Rogue Venture Partners; and Christensen Law.

The Accelerator, directed by Mark Lieberman and Karl Mundorff, helps nascent startups develop and commercialize high-growth, innovative technologies. It works with OSU faculty, students, staff and the broader community to advance ideas and conduct research into products and services, guiding entrepreneurs through all phases of the commercialization process. 

The Accelerator is part of Oregon State University Advantage, which connects business people to university resources.

General OSU

About Oregon State University: As one of only two universities in the nation designated as a land, sea, space and sun grant, Oregon State serves Oregon and the world by working on today’s most pressing issues. Our more than 31,000 students come from across the globe, and our programs operate in every Oregon county. Oregon State receives more research funding than all of the state’s comprehensive public universities combined. At our campuses in Corvallis and Bend, marine research center in Newport and award-winning Ecampus, we excel at shaping today’s students into tomorrow’s leaders.


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Story By: 

Steve Lundeberg, 541-737-4039


Sanjai Tripathi, 541-368-5206