A startup using autonomous flying robots to better track inventory in warehouses won the top prize at Northwestern University’s student pitch competition, VentureCat, on Wednesday.
IFM (short for Intelligent Flying Machines) won the first place $30,000 prize. The startup, founded by Northwestern senior Marc Gyongyosi, uses robotics, computer vison and machine learning to automate indoor data capture, with a focus on warehouse inventory tracking. IFM’s autonomous robots fly up and down warehouse aisles scanning barcodes, tracking inventory 400 times faster than current methods, according to the startup.
Gyongyosi told us last fall that the tech could eventually be used to capture spatial data that could be integrated with augmented reality, virtual reality and Internet of Things technology as indoor spaces become more connected.
IFM is starting with automotive industry, and already has paid product rollouts with two of the top five automobile OEMs on the market, and have tested with an industrial supplies warehouse and Bigelow Tea. They’ll use the funding to “build more robots,” Gyongyosi said, as well as hire interns for the summer.
IFM previously won $15,000 at the 2016 Northwestern Venture Challenge, and worked out of the Garage, Northwestern’s hub for student startups, last summer. In September they presented at TechCrunch Disrupt.
The second place $15,000 prize went to Tiltas, a technology platform that connects the formerly incarcerated to mentors to help in the transition out of prison. The third place $10,000 prize went to Quickpulse, a WeChat-integrated tool that allows Chinese millennials to give feedback to employers in order to improve retention.
Three additional finalists pitched at the competition, and each received $5,000 for winning their industry track: Welltended, a houseplant selection and delivery service; Aerospec Technologies, a startup using drones to bring safer monitoring and analytics to solar and wind power maintenance; and Actualize Therapy, a startup offering a suite of apps and coaches that help patients suffering from anxiety and depression.
VentureCat is the rebranded version of the Northwestern University Venture Competition, which has run for the past decade. The competition is split into six industry tracks, and the winner of each track competes in a final pitch competition for the grand prize. This year Northwestern gave out $100,000 in funding.
The first place prize for each track won $5,000 and second place won $3,000. Here’s a look at all the winners, based on track:
1st place ($30,000) IFM Technologies
2nd place ($15,000) Tiltas
3rd place ($10,000) Quickpulse
Business Products and Services
1st place: Quickpulse
2nd place: Zcruit, a startup bringing predictive analytics to college sports recruiters.
Consumer Products and Services
1st place: Welltended
2nd place: RE-Bucha, a kombucha startup that re-harvests imperfect produce.
Energy and Sustainability
1st place: Aerospec Technologies
2nd place: PedalCell, a startup turning a bike wheel’s rotational energy into electricity.
Life Science and Medical Innovations
1st place: Actualize Therapy
2nd place: ActiWit, a wearable biofeedback device that offers personalized behavioral treatment plan for kids.
Social Impact and Nonprofit
1st place: Tiltas
2nd place: Sidekick, a digital assistant that connects company problems to high school class projects.
Transportation and Mobility
1st place: IFM
2nd place: SHURPA, a startup focused on the last mile of parcel delivery.