Thirty-eight startups gave their very best elevator pitches at the D.C. Challenge Cup last week. Four emerged victorious to claim their prize: An all-expense-paid trip to the Global Finals next year in lovely Washington, D.C., where they’ll face off against 60 other fledgling companies in the categories of education, energy, health and cities. “It’s a great way for them to make connections with potential customers,” says Evan Burfield, co-founder of 1776, the McPherson Square incubator that runs the competition. So mark your calendar for “sometime in May,” Burfield says, and cheer on the teams that won the D.C. event. (Even though one of them isn’t local.)
Based in: D.C.
Full-time employees: Three
Product: A fundraising platform for schools and parent associations.
Can I buy it? Yes. “We’re being used by 140-plus schools and we’ve helped PTAs raise more than $300,000,” says founder Gary Hensley, a former teacher and father of two.
Elevator pitch: “The people running these PTAs, they are volunteers, and they work very, very hard,” Hensley says. “One guy told me it was interfering with his marriage. We want to make the job easier for them and also help raise money for schools.”
Based in: Research Triangle Park, N.C.
Full-time employees: Two
Product: Synthetic DNA. Sprinkle a little into your hydraulic fracking well, and you’ll be able to tell if the fluid is leaking into local rivers or aquifers. It’s also useful for finding leaks of slightly radioactive water at nuclear power plants.
Can I buy it? Not yet, but one nuclear power plant is currently testing it.
Elevator pitch: “This is just a faster, easier way to figure out where a leak is coming from, instead of taking days to do visual diagnosis,” says co-founder Justine Kmiecik.
Based in: D.C.
Full-time employees: Eight
Product: BabyScripts, an app for OB-GYNs and pregnant women that comes with a blood pressure cuff and a scale. When patients weigh in or check their blood pressure, that data is beamed to their doctors.
Can I buy it? Locally, if your OB-GYN is at George Washington University or the Reiter, Hill, Johnson & Nevin practice, then yes.
Elevator pitch: “People are already connected with their cellphones and other devices. Let’s use them in a way that can actually improve our health,” says co-founder Juan Pablo Segura.
Local Roots Farms
Based in: D.C. and Los Angeles
Full-time employees: Four
Product: Organic, hydroponic farms in shipping containers that can be plopped down in the middle of cities.
Can I buy it? No. Lettuce from a shipping-container farm in Los Angeles will hit a few southern California grocery stores in January. Local Roots hopes to bring the concept to the East Coast soon.
Elevator pitch: “What we want to do is create a new system of farming where you buy produce that is grown down the street, even if you live in a food desert in a city,” says co-founder Dan Kuenzi.
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