Do you have a $100,000 to throw at an invention? That’s how much the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development and the Nevada Institute for Renewable Energy Commercialization plan to award a lucky business through Project Vesto.
Project Vesto looks at new companies with creative ideas and sees which ones have a good shot at success. They are whittled down to finalists, with the winner to be decided by online voting.
Visit http://ves.to to learn about each team and to vote. Voting is scheduled to end at 11:59 p.m. June 21.
Dan Herr is project manager for the new competition. He said having the winner decided by the Internet spoke to more than just how many people the inventor knows.
“One way to look at is as a popularity contest,” he said, “but another way to look at it is to say it’s an example of their ability to execute their marketing. It’s a way to say, ‘OK, sure, I might think that without acting on anything that you have a good idea and the ability to do it but prove it to me. Prove to me that you can go get customers, not just get your immediate family and friends.’ ”
In a recent NIREC survey, less than half of Nevada’s entrepreneurs cited obtaining sufficient funding as their greatest challenge.
A dozen startup companies, pared from 232, are in the final running for the top prize. Five of them are Las Vegas-based. One of those businesses, Fitronix, is based in Summerlin. It’s the brainchild of siblings LaNelda and David Rolley.
Their business is Fitronix. When it comes to body response, treadmills and elliptical machines usually monitor only heart rate. David Rolley’s invention takes things a step beyond by using a motion capture system and sensors to determine the effectiveness of one’s workout.
“Whenever you touch any free weight or stack weight system, this product provides sensors, so you’re monitoring your movement and can track your progress,” LaNelda Rolley said. “You can see how you’re doing from repetition to repetition, set to set.”
They expect to branch into franchise gyms, physical rehabilitation facilities and personal fitness studios. LaNelda Rolley said it’s possible Fitronix will employ as many as 100 people.
Another finalist is Arsilica Inc. in Anthem, which makes a drinking glass that dissipates alcohol so one’s drink will not burn or numb one’s nose. Named the NEAT glass (Naturally Engineered Aroma Technology), it began with a mistake in a glass-blowing class.
“We applied scientific principles to glass design to dissipate the alcohol so it will not burn then numb your nose while drinking alcohol spirits,” said Christine Crnek, Arsilica CEO, via email. “Our process is form follows function.”
To garner online votes, the companies have created websites and/or blog sites and make daily posts to their Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts.
A former bodybuilder, David Rolley said the idea for Fitronix was born of his own experience.
“The way I trained was detrimental to my health as I got older,” he said. “The way I was training was wrong, though I thought it was right, and it caused an onset of surgeries.”
Project Vesto required the business model to be submitted by December. To get to the final 12, each company made a verbal pitch before a panel of judges/investors in March. David Rolley made Fitronix’s five-minute presentation.
“David said, ‘If they don’t get it within the first minute, then they’re not going to get it,’ ” LaNelda Rolley recalled. “I was in the back, so I could see (their faces) and that they got excited about it.”
He had a presentation board — no PowerPoint presentation allowed — with samples attached and a diagram showing how the product worked. It was followed by five minutes of questions from the three judges.
The other three Las Vegas companies vying for the prize are: Jadon Foods, a North Las Vegas-based gluten-free bakery; ListSanity, a social media tool to create lists to share with friends; and Sport-Social, 7055 Windy St., Suite B, a program to help those with autism learn sports and social skills.
If Arsilica Inc. wins, the $100,000 will go toward purchasing molding equipment and setting up a distribution center in Southern Nevada.
“Let me add this,” said Crnek. “In spite of how the voting goes, or whether we win or lose the grant, Project Vesto has provided an invaluable experience for Arsilica. The very beginnings of the project, the business canvas, actually organized our thoughts into a viable plan that we would not have seen so easily otherwise. ... Everyone who put themselves through the Project Vesto discipline comes out a winner.”
Herr said the contest is on track to be repeated next year, with some tweaking from the learning curve of setting up this year’s contest. He said next year’s might include more than one cash prize.
A winner is expected to be announced in late June.
Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2949.