Ethnic-minority businesses owners from across the country competed in a speed pitching event in St. Paul on Wednesday night (Oct. 11) as part of Twin Cities Startup Week.

Ten companies were selected to advance to the final round and two were singled out to receive a total of $30,000 in cash prizes. The challenge is being held by the Metropolitan Economic Development Association (Meda). Chase is the presenting event sponsor.

Wednesday’s top scoring entrant, HabitAware received a $15,000 cash prize. The top woman-owned entrant, also HabitAware, received an additional $10,000 in cash and $5,000 was awarded to runner up, Cytilife Inc. A panel of 16 judges evaluated each company on its potential for growth and success.

In all, more than 200 businesses applied to participate, and 19 semi-finalists competed. Ten companies were named as finalists. They are Cytilife, Minneapolis, which provides the Smart Campus platform to help students and college administrators make data-driven decisions to help reduce college dropouts. Also HabitAware, St. Louis Park, a wearable technology that helps people with body-focused repetitive behaviors, such as compulsive hair pulling or nail biting, take control of their condition, Ilerasoft, Chicago, a software solution that aids hospitals in optimizing their medical equipment utilization by improving their capital planning and budgeting, LegacyArmour, Minneapolis, a secure online asset protection platform to organize important information in encrypted vaults that is automatically delivered to designated recipients on a scheduled date or life event, Mobility 4 All, St. Paul, a ride hailing service for seniors and people with disabilities, PopCom, Columbus, Ohio, who makes vending machines and kiosks "smart" with software and artificial intelligence capabilities at the point-of-sale, SquarePac, Austell, Ga., who uses design and metal fabrication expertise to create solutions that help clients maximize space, reduce freight, save money and promote safety, Thor Companies, Minneapolis, is a turnkey real estate management company, Vemos, Minneapolis, who enables hospitality venues to manage, understand, and grow their business from a single dashboard and Virtue Analytics Inc., Woodbury, who provides an electronic enrollment management platform that allows educational institutions to leverage machine learning and predictive modeling to make better decisions across the admissions process.

The finalists will now participate in a “boot camp” offering investor and industry feedback, mentorship, exposure and professional connections. These finalists will return to St. Paul in January for the final round, which will award up to $1 million dollars in financing. 

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